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Hemingway Deadlights: A Mystery Hardcover – August 18, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 1956, Atkinson's rollicking, if at times improbable debut neatly captures the personality and uproarious lifestyle of an American literary icon. When Key West fisherman Peter Cuthbert, a friend of Ernest Papa Hemingway, gets harpooned to death and the local police don't seem to care, Hemingway, who's suffering from writer's block and feeling like a big, fake water buffalo con artist, decides to find Cuthbert's killer. The Nobel Prize winner's daring quest takes him to Batista's impoverished Cuba, where he meets such luminaries as high-living mobster Meyer Lansky and even Fidel Castro in the revolutionary's mountain hideaway. From Che Guevara he learns Cuthbert was anything but an ordinary fisherman. Back in Key West, Hemingway finds himself caught in a spat between the FBI and the CIA, who are both funding Batista's corrupt government. Atkinson, a former film critic, deftly mixes fact and fiction with graphic sex and violence in a mystery sure to please Hemingway aficionados. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

It’s odd that Ernest Hemingway is only now starring in a mystery novel. If Edna Ferber can become a fictional sleuth (in Edward Ifkovic’s Lone Star, 2009), shouldn’t he-man Papa have been solving crimes long ago? Making up for lost time, Hemingway takes a page out of Sam Spade’s book when he learns that a drinking buddy has turned up in Key West’s harbor impaled by an antique harpoon. (Spade felt that when your partner was killed, you had to do something; Hemingway feels the same about derelict fellow boozers.) By setting his story in Key West and Havana in 1956, first-novelist Atkinson gives us Hemingway on the verge of serious decline: the booze taking its toll, the writing stalled, the paranoia that would eventually lead to his suicide beginning to assert itself. All that gives the tale a nice psychodramatic edge, but the mystery itself is perfectly satisfying, too, as Hemingway jumps from Key West to Havana, dodging CIA stooges and assorted gangsters and even spending a drunken evening chugging rum with a couple of revolutionaries named Fidel and Che. --Bill Ott

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (August 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312379714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312379711
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,143,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Son of Sayville, New York, Michael Atkinson is the author of seven books, including a debut novel, HEMINGWAY DEADLIGHTS (St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books, 2009), and the second in its series, HEMINGWAY CUTTHROAT, coming in 2010.

He is a longtime film and culture critic, Googleable at Sight & Sound, The Boston Phoenix, The Guardian, The Believer, Moving Image Source, Modern Painters, IFC.com, TCM.com, Film Comment, The Village Voice, The Forward, Chicago Reader, The Progressive, In These Times, The Stranger, The American Prospect, Movieline (Hollywood Life), poetryfoundation.org, GOOD, Maxim, Details, Detour, Hollywood Life, Greencine.com, The Criterion Collection, Philadelphia City Paper, etc.

Other books include FLICKIPEDIA: Perfect Movies for Every Occasion, Holiday, Season, Mood, Ordeal and Whim (Chicago Review Press), EXILE CINEMA: Filmmakers At Work Beyond Hollywood (SUNY Press), GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE: Speculating on the Dark Heart of Pop Cinema (Limelight Eds.) and BLUE VELVET (British Film Institute).

He is also a widely published poet, with the debut collection ONE HUNDRED CHILDREN WAITING FOR A TRAIN (Word Works), and poems recently Michigan Quarterly Review, Zone 3, Mudfish, Phoebe, Passages North, Cimarron Review, Rhino, Carolina Quarterly and New Letters.

He is a professor of film at C.W. Post/Long Island University, a father of three, a (dormant) member of the New York Film Critics Circle, and a screenwriter, of among other things, a notorious TV pilot, BABYLON FIELDS (CBS), starring Amber Tamblyn, Ray Stevenson, Jamey Sheridan and Kathy Baker, unaired but easily found online.

His author site is www.mike-atkinson.com, and his blog resides at www.zeroforconduct.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What a great escape! This is a wonderful book to throw in your beach bag. Make sure you pack a cold cocktail (or three) and maybe a platter of shrimp. It was great to get out of day to day reality and jump into the past, with a great blend of a real time and place, wrapped around both true and fictional events and that enshroud the real, but fictionalized character of Ernest Hemingway. This bridged the gaps between summer escape novel, historical fiction and mystery. A sordid, sexy, steamy romp. Atkinson paints a rich tapestry to be savored. A page-turner, that keeps you glued till the end.
-Susan B.
New York
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Format: Hardcover
I once had a Hemingway Year. I started the year in Tanzania studying field biology and reading Hemingway out of the Arusha library. A couple months later I was in Europe reading more Hemingway out of another library. My timing was good and I hitchhiked to Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls (La Feria de San Fermin).

My interest in Ernest Hemingway led me to Michael Atkinson's first novel, Hemingway Deadlights. I enjoy books where the author fictionalizes the lives of writers whose work I know.

Atkinson picks up with Hemingway in 1956, years after the wars and Hemingway's life in Europe. The US is heavy into Cuba, Castro is an outlaw, and there are vestiges of the McCarthy-era paranoia. Hemingway is on his fourth wife, Mary, and staying at his home in Key West while Mary waits for him in Cuba. The wave he rode after winning of the Noble Prize in Literature for The Old Man and the Sea is waning and Hemingway is writing sporadically, drinking heavily, and breaks his leg when he falls of the roof while shooting at a gecko.

When a casual friend of Hemingway's is murdered, the local officials pay little attention. Hemingway, with his wariness towards authority, assumes clandestine issues are afoot. With this premise, Atkinson creates Ernest Hemingway; murder investigator.

Early in the book, I found Atkinson's portrayal of Hemingway to be overly bumbling and absurd. For example, Atkinson wrote, "Hemingway leapt. Too far, as it happens - like a flying squirrel, the man's khaki-dressed, potbellied frame soared narrowly over the top of the tree, immediately beyond which lay a rock garden, rose bushes, and more cement.
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Format: Hardcover
I like to think that I have a pretty good imagination, but I just couldn't stretch it enough to for this new mystery series. I loved the concept and got a few good laughs from some of the famous author's antics in this novel (in which he decides to track down the murderer of an acquaintance of his in Key West), but truth to be told, I just didn't buy into it. Throughout the book, it was difficult for me to believe that Ernest Hemingway would have actually have *done* any of this.

The writing is very good (a tad crass, but this *is* Hemingway we're talking about), the dialog is fun, but I never quite believed Hemingway's motives for tracking down a murderer. And once Federal agents, the Mafia and the Cuban heavies of Batista get involved, Hemingway's continued pursuit of the culprit became too unbelievable to get maximum enjoyment from the story.

On the plus side: I did enjoy how the author worked in the people in Hemingway's personal life, such as his wife at that time and his sons. That was an added bonus that was very much appreciated by this reader.

So do I recommend it? That depends. If you enjoy mysteries with famous authors as protagonists then you probably won't want to miss this one. But if you're looking for a cozy mystery, this isn't it. Neither is it a serious thriller. This is supposed to be the first in a series of mysteries starring the famous author, so if you like a series this might interest you, as well.

Happy reading.
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Format: Hardcover
Set in 1956, this first outing in a new series featuring Ernest Hemingway as sleuth finds the graying Nobel laureate with his leg in a plaster cast after getting plastered and falling off the roof of his Key West home where he's holed up for some creative drinking away from the sour, disapproving gaze of über-bitch wife, Mary (a wonderfully nasty characterization) back in Cuba. His quiet bender, alas, soon is rudely disrupted by the unusual murder of a fisherman/smuggler crony. Angered by the cops' shelving the case, Papa takes up the trail, leading him through a dizzying maze of Hungarian thugs, the CIA, FBI, Fidel and Che, horny coeds, amorous spies, and the mob (why not), during which he's threatened, chased, followed, kidnapped, and shot at--and that's nothing compared to what Mary wants to do to him! Atkinson knows his subject well but has come neither to praise nor bury Hemingway, who is fat, stubborn, violent, tough, crafty, and alcoholic (he sucks down enough booze to float navies), but has a sense of friendship and justice. With equal doses of mystery and espionage, the story also is presented with great humor. Hemingway Deadlights is a tasty cocktail of suspense, sex, laughs, and literature. Though Hemingway didn't do these things, he damn well should have. Mystery Readers will love it.--Mike Rogers, LJX/LJ
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