The Hemingway Thief
by Shaun Harris
Cover Artist: rackishnewzealand / Dreamtime
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Seventh Street Books Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781633881754
Date: 19 July 2016 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Toulouse Velour is a romance novel writer whose lead character is a Scottish Vampire Detective named Alasdair MacMerkin. Despite his successful series of thirty-seven novels, Toulouse is depressed and wants to kill himself. Well, not exactly. Toulouse Velour is a pen name for Henry Cooper, and yes Cooper--or Coop--has grown tired of Alasdair MacMerken and wants to kill off Toulouse and publish a real book under his real name. Not to mention, the value of an author's work goes up after the author dies.
In The Hemingway Thief, Coop is taking a break and is on a month-long vacation in a small town in Mexico trying to decide what to do next. He is staying at a cheap hotel, and has made friends with the proprietor Grady Doyle, an expatriate American. Not much happens in the small town until one day a young man checks in under the name of Richard Kimball--an obvious alias.
Kimball is passed out and drunk in the bar of the hotel, and two men show up, drag him outside and start to beat him up. Grady is a hero and intervenes to save Kimball, because Kimball is a customer and Grady owes him because he paid for safe lodging. This is the first instance of the "unwritten rules of Mexico" that Coop is learning, and the rules show up throughout the rest of the novel.
It turns out the Kimball's real name is Ebenezer Milch, and he has a valuable manuscript of a Ernest Hemingway novel. Milch is a drifter and a con man, and his latest caper is to sell the manuscript to a rare book dealer in Mexico. As we are reading, we think that Milch is our title character of The Hemingway Thief.
Since Milch is unable to travel after the beating, Grady and Coop start out to deliver the manuscript. They end up getting ambushed along the way, but manage to escape. During the trip, Grady and Coop discover that Milch is the grand-nephew of a friend of the real Ernest Hemingway. Milch's great uncle knew Hemingway during his time in Europe, and stole a much more valuable item from Hemingway that is hidden somewhere in Mexico. Coop, Grady and the hotel's handyman head out in search of this stolen prize, in order to make a fortune.
The people who ambushed Coop and Grady are also trying to find the prize, and Coop, with Grady's help, learns a whole lot more about the unwritten rules of Mexico as the two groups race each other to find the prize.
One particular quote stuck with me from The Hemingway Thief. During the chase for the prize, Coop and his friends consider stopping more than once, but they keep searching. In the process Coop understands what motivates a writer like him and like Hemingway:
Hemingway was not an ordinary man. He was a writer.... The need to be published, to be validated, churns in the writer's breast like a non-stop manic engine.... I thought back to first time I tried to get a novel published, the one that eventually failed. My work was my raison d'etre, a mooring line to myself as a person.The Hemingway Thief references many movies and fiction throughout the story. Richard Kimball and The Fugitive is just the first one. The whole plot of novel reminds me of the movie, Romancing the Stone, and they even reference that movie in the book. It is fun to read all the references as comparisons to the actual plotline.
I loved The Hemingway Thief. I realize that the story is a bit trite--the novelist looking for his next story, but I still loved it. I highly recommend it.