RARA-AVIS: RED JUNGLE, Kent Harrington

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 05 Feb 2005

My other recent purchases is Kent Harrington's new novel RED JUNGLE (2005) is just out in the last couple of weeks from Dennis McMillan Publications. I finished it a couple of days ago, and wanted to say that it's damned good.

I dropped a note to McMillan about it and he replied saying how autobiographical and true the novel was (Harrington's uncle was president of Guatemala for a while in the 1980s) and that it was "A FUCKING GREAT NOVEL." I've been thinking about that the last couple of days. The book deserves a rereading when I can focus more before I'd say it's that good, but I will certainly say it's very goddamned fine and I recommend it.

It's extremely noir, with shades of THE MALTESE FALCON, but it's set in Guatemala a little bit in the future, I think, and the lead is a newspaper reporter who gets into a whole load of trouble. He's half American and half Guatemalan, related to much of the ruling class of the country, and ends up getting seriously involved in the country's politics. He also gets into a very dangerous relationship with a woman, and he's searching for lost treasure with an archaeologist. He's headed for trouble a dozen different ways, and knows it, but can't stop.

There are some really heartbreaking scenes and descriptions in the book, some in flashbacks about the lead's mother and others showing what life is like for the poor. Now, I don't know the first thing about Guatemala--or didn't, because now I feel like I know a bit--but Harrington sure does, and he brings it all alive, from the jungles to the cities to the corruption and the disastrous economy.

I especially recommend this as an example of what noir writing can be like when it's not about the same old stuff. This is a very political novel about Central America, not about lowlife hoods in California or waking up next to a dead blonde in a motel.

People on the list raved about DIA DE LOST MUERTOS (1997), and after I read it I did too. RED JUNGLE doesn't have that book's febrile insanity, because it's not that kind of story. It's more mature, bigger in scope and duration, sometimes quiet and intimate. It's good.


P.S. Someone on the list knows Harrington, I think--can you drop me a note off the list? Thanks.

William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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