The Hemingway Thief. Shaun Harris. Prometheus Books. July 2016. 240 pp. ISBN#: 9781633881754.
Henry “Coop” Cooper despaired of ever writing a best-selling novel until he turned to writing torrid romance novels under a pseudonym. They instantly become best sellers, yet Coop is disgraced by this popularity.
Taking a break, he travels to Mexico where he meets a calculating drunk, Ebbie Milch, who is running from enemies because he possesses a stolen manuscript and other papers of Ernest Hemingway. Years ago, Hemingway’s wife, Pauline, was supposed to bring a suitcase of all Papa Hemingway’s writings to him when the suitcase holding these gems was stolen. Hemingway, we know from history, never got over that loss, especially because it occurred before he became famous. Now, the papers are worth thousands of dollars, if the manuscripts and papers Milch has are the “real deal.”
However, that simple plot isn’t really the essence of Harris’ novel. To Milch, who manages to drag Coop everywhere in his mad schemes, these papers have a familial connection. Now, joined with an ex-DEA agent, this trio travels across Mexico, coming close to being killed several times but escaping from those hair-raising moments with a type of slap-stick comedic routine at each disastrous challenge. It’s even suggested that Hemingway may have been involved in the “theft,” maybe.
Harris offers the reader a window in which to see Hemingway’s brief disastrous participation in WWI and his desire ever-afterward to be a part of war. The Hemingway novels are clearly a series of dramas of the writer’s observations but really acting out of vicarious battles, romances and dramas.
The Hemingway Thief is a compelling read where the reader must deduce what is real and what is comedic fraud. High drama mixed with comedic satire makes for a genuinely intriguing read! Nicely envisioned historical fiction!