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The Stars Above Veracruz Hardcover – December 13, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gifford saw his novel Wild at Heart become the David Lynch film, and he co-wrote the screenplay for Lost Highway; this series of snappy vignettes has a cinematic quality, more like a treatment for an episodic film (à la Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth) than a collection of stories. Gifford repeatedly conjures the hard-luck story and the noirish setting as he points his lens from South America to New Zealand. "After Hours at La Chinita," set in a tacky Spanish-style motel in Los Angeles circa 1963, stages the shooting of a prostitute's abusive customer by God-fearing proprietress Vermillion Chaney; 20 years later, each of the players in the drama tells a version of the sad, late slide of the rest of their lives. "Almost Oriental" involves tortuous travel and romance inside a still-shuttered, deeply suspicious Romania by a Stanford University academic on the trail of Bukovina-born Jewish writer Rudolph "Buddy" Traum. Another long piece, "Murder at the Swordfish Club," concerns an elaborate murder mystery surrounding the death of a fisherman in the New Zealand coastal town of Russell. The prolific Gifford has produced multiple fully realized novels (such as 2004's Wyoming); this book, while vivid, feels like a break. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

The prolific Gifford, whose novel Wild at Heart was adapted into the award-winning 1990 David Lynch film, here renders visceral vignettes that often seem better suited to the big screen than to print. A tightrope walker introduces the collection, whose diverse locales include New Zealand, Honduras, and France. There's a one-legged man who hangs himself over an unrequited, albeit incestuous, love: "Even had he the use of both legs, they would not have saved him. Instead of walking across the rope he finished by dancing at the end of it." In the masterful "After Hours at La Chinita," a prostitute, a celebrated supper--club singer, and a Bible-thumping motel clerk recount details of a deadly shootout. In the title tale, a man sips beer in a Mexico City cantina once frequented by bullfighters as he reminisces about a Eurasian girlfriend with "dove-shaped" hands and heady perfume. Although Gifford's short stories are endlessly nervy (there's a brash, bearded lady and a lingerie salesman who seduces women with his wares), his avid fans may find themselves longing for more substantive fare. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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