Bitter Drink


In 1963, beatnik P.I. Sunny Pascal is hired by a producer to keep Hollywood stars out of trouble during the filming of The Night of the Iguana. Pascal, who is half Mexican and speaks Spanish, travels to Puerto Vallarta, where the adulterous, sizzling romance between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (the star) has brought dozens of reporters to this small fishing village. When one of the movie staff is found murdered with a silver bullet, Pascal knows each actor was given a golden gun with silver bullets by eccentric director John Huston. Now Sunny must keep the actors out of jail. His investigation leads him to stolen jewelry, sex, land grabs, a mysterious roll of film, and the Mexican mafia.

Pascal is a laid-back character who can be overly sarcastic and throws ill-advised punches with his mouth as well as his fists. Each chapter starts with a cocktail recipe and the history of the drink, as Sunny indulges in too much liquor. The story is told in the style of Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective genre, which works most of the time. There is just enough tension, mystery, and interaction with Hollywood’s elite to keep the reader intrigued in this slim book. Seeing the movie—which I have—would be a great help in understanding the machinations of this cast in this era and setting.

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(US) 9781612183909