Fun, fast and intelligent, this devilishly charming import gives pulp fiction a good name. Hailed as one of the best Latin writers, Uruguayan-born Chavarría is well known throughout Europe as well as in Latin America. He has won literary prizes around the world, including the 1992 Dashiell Hammett Award; this able translation by Carlos Lopez is the first to bring Chavarría to an English-speaking audience. The story, a madcap caper full of twisted sex, devious schemes and high-rolling hijinks, also showcases Chavarría's considerable scholarly research into prostitution. When Alicia, a crafty, bicycle-riding Havana hooker in present-day Cuba, meets Victor, a convicted bank robber masquerading as an upstanding businessman, they quickly realize each other's mutually nefarious motives and wind up in a business pact that leads to larceny, kidnapping and death. Despite the dark subject matter, the winking delivery provides comic surges as reliably as an amusement park ride. Readers are kept off balance by surprise twists and rolling punches but riveted by the sheer force of curiosity and entertainment. Linguistic and cultural tidbits illuminate the intelligence at work behind the bawdy and raw story, while the narrative reveals the exploitative nature of economic forces at work in Cuba. Lines blur between victim and victimizer as Chavarría reveals a symbiosis in which wealthy foreigners exploit the country's resources (from sunken galleons to beautiful women) and the Cubans in turn exploit foreigners' resources. But Chavarría never loses sight of his goal: to deliver an energetic hustle that will leave readers clamoring for more. (June)
Forecast: The campy, vintage-style cover painting—featuring Alicia posing provocatively on her bicycle—will catch the eye of fans of the pulp genre; a dip between the covers will do the rest.
Release date: 05/01/2001