by Sandra Murphy
& Shaun Harris
This week we have a review & giveaway of a book with a fun title, The Hemingway Thief. We also have an interesting guest post by the author Shaun Harris about how he came up with the idea for the book. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of The Hemingway Thief, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, as well as a link to purchase it from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris
Review by Sandra Murphy
Henry Cooper, aka Coop, is in an author mid-life crisis. His books are selling like crazy, which is good for the bank account. On the other hand, they’re written under the pen name of Toulouse Velour, so nobody knows they’re his. Another frustration, they’re Scottish vampire detective romance novels, and his fans think they’re written by a woman. As Coop’s dad says, “You’re no John Grisham.” Coop hates that. It’s time for his alter ego to bite the dust.
Nothing ever works out like you hope. The hotel is a rundown place, showers only available on days the water truck comes, and liquor so bad you want to bring your own in self-defense. Grady, a long-term resident, makes the ill-advised decision to buy the place. Seemed like a good idea at the time but that could have been the liquor talking.
Two men show up and forcibly try to take the hotel’s one occupant, Ebbie Milch. Coop’s never shot a gun before so even holding it is a shaky proposition—until the bad guy says, “A writer? You should write like that guy, John Grisham.” It’s easy, almost reflex, to pull the trigger then. Although the men leave, Grady and Coop know this isn’t the end of it. In fact, looking back, this was probably the easy part.
It seems Ernest Hemingway had his wife pack up all his writings to bring them to him. Enroute, the suitcase was stolen. No copies of the works were available—and the story became legend. Ebbie says he bought an old suitcase at an auction and wow, it was full of Hemingway’s papers. He has a buyer for them, if he can just meet up with the man. He’s willing to cut them in for part of the profits if they’ll help. Unfortunately, there’s another man interested in the papers and he doesn’t take no for an answer.
Ebbie, Grady, Coop, and Digby, who is the hotel’s employee, hit the road. Digby knows the area and has contacts in most places. Ebbie, he’s a con man, a grafter, so you never know what’s true and what’s a lie, but it’s safe to bet on a lie and be surprised rather than the other way around.
Grady is a pretty rough guy, Coop not so much, but he’s able to learn a lot about living while they’re on the run from bad guys, an assassin, and in search of Hemingway’s elusive papers. Digby is a great character, too, with a number of aliases and a surprising ability to get the group out of any dire situation.
By the end of the tale, Coop’s got a book worthy of John Grisham, a better understanding of Toulouse, and an appreciation for life. Where will he and Grady go next? Hard to say, but it will be a fun ride, no matter the destination.
How I Found the Hemingway Thief
By Shaun Harris
The idea for The Hemingway Thief did not strike me like a bolt of lightning on some balmy summer night. It was, like most of my ideas, built from a small spark that needed heaps of kindling piled on it until it burned bright enough to be a novel. I hope that is the last metaphor I use in this piece, and if I deign to use another one, I promise not to torture it quite so much. I first heard of Hemingway’s lost suitcase from the movie Wonder Boys starring Michael Douglas and a surprisingly tolerable Tobey Maguire. I had no idea what they were talking about, so I dashed off to Wikipedia to investigate. I thought it was an interesting story, but I was already working on another book, and so I put it in the back of my mind.
A few years later, I was at a bachelor party in Baja, Mexico. This was when the cartel wars were just starting to heat up, but things had not become as dangerous as they are now. We had to drive there as the hostel we were staying in was in the middle of nowhere. Along the way we were stopped several times by military check points, and we often felt we would fly off the road and tumble into the ocean. The hostel was nice, cheap, and full of interesting characters. One of these characters would go on to become Digby, the ex-assassin, in The Hemingway Thief, although in real life he was just a maintenance man who sold pot on the side. I knew I had found a great setting for a novel. On the way home we got lost (this was my fault, but I’ll never admit it to the other guys), and I found myself daydreaming about an adventure in the Mexican wilds and the search for…something. It was on the flight home from San Diego to Chicago that I remembered Hemingway’s suitcase. It seemed the ideal object and a great way to team up a main character at odds with his own masculinity in the twenty-first century and the legacy of a man who defined masculinity in the twentieth century. The only question I had to answer was how the hell did the suitcase get here?
Research is not my strong suit, and I knew that no matter what I came up with, there were going to be holes because I was making the whole thing up. I read a couple of Hemingway biographies, but my real focus was on A Moveable Feast, which I treated like a primary source. I decided my best bet was to approach the research the way a conspiracy nut would, that is, to go through some of Hemingway’s works looking for evidence or clues that would only support my hypothesis and ignore everything else. When I had what I needed, I stopped researching altogether. I realized the characters in the book were not Hemingway experts and that I shouldn’t be either. The main character, Coop, was trying to remember what he knew about Hemingway from a class he took in college. Two of the other characters were completely ignorant of his work and life, and the last one, Milch, was a con man trying to convince the others, and himself, that the story was true. The important thing was not that the story was true, or correct, or whatever, but that they ‘wanted’ it to be true. Of course, when I was done, and on subsequent drafts, I made sure that none of the errors the characters made were egregious and that, yes, maybe, just maybe, what I wrote did happen. Is it possible? Was the Hemingway Thief real? Someone stole the suitcase. Something happened to it.
By the end I almost convinced myself.
To enter to win a copy of The Hemingway Thief, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “hemingway,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 20, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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