Hemingway Deadlights Review
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Key West, Florida—May, 1956: The world’s most famous author, Ernest Hemingway, embarks on a crusade to solve the murder of one of his drinking buddies, Peter Cuthbert, who was found with a harpoon in his back. Cuthbert, a smuggler and water colorist, was a “nobody,” and Key West police don’t investigate murders of people no one cares about. Though he and Cuthbert weren’t close, Hemingway’s sense of justice can’t allow this horrendous act to get swept under the rug.

Countless smugglers sail the ocean off the Keys and Cuba, and with the civil unrest in Cuba, you never know who’s on whose side. Cuthbert could have been working for Batista’s corrupt government or for the rebels led by Castro and Guevara. Maybe he was playing them both, or maybe he just angered the organized crime bosses.

  
 
Hemingway continues his search for the killer between his homes in Key West and Cuba. Not only does he meet up with powerful and unsavory individuals, but he’s constantly being followed by Feds and gangsters. The more he sticks his nose in it, the more people get hurt. Yet, surprisingly, Hemingway’s curt manner and constant state of inebriation don’t seem to hinder his progress.

Meanwhile, in between all of this, he’s also fighting writer’s block and accepting the advances of young women, who offer sexual favors to this aging literary giant who walks with a cane and is rarely sober.

Hemingway Deadlights is pure fiction, but Michael Atkinson delivers a rich account of how he thinks Ernest Hemingway would try to solve a crime. In fact, on every page, he asked himself “What would Hemingway do?” Though, of course, he couldn’t really know the answer, he paints the character with colorful detail—insecure, comical, and quick tempered.

The ensuing events are vivid and hilarious—from the droll humor to the slapstick scuffles. However, this is also a major problem with the book. Adding so much detail detracts from the story and slows the pace. It actually waters down the clever humor and graphic violence. Numerous characters and events crop up, adding more opportunities to explore Hemingway’s reactions, but there are just too many of them to keep track of.

If you’re looking for a quick read that you just can’t put down, this is not the book for you. If you’re one who could care less about Ernest Hemingway, the shortcomings will probably outweigh the merits. However, if you’re like me and are fascinated by the Hemingway persona (or maybe even just a little curious), I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of Hemingway Deadlights.

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