When it comes to humor, there’s dry and there’s Sahara dry. A writer can craft a piece so tongue-in-cheek it flies over readers’ heads. I plead—maybe—guilty. Several readers thought “An Affront to Humanity” (November 23) concerned a real woman’s real experience on a San Francisco Muni bus. Nope. As I wrote in a postscript last week, it was all about Israel and Hamas.
True, dry humor can be rewarding. The novelist Claudia Long wrote about my first novel, a geopolitical satire set in the Persian Gulf: “SLICK! is filled with action and atmosphere so deftly drawn that we don’t realize until a moment later that David Perlstein is pulling our leg.” (No cash changed hands.) Claudia must be right. Kirkus Reviews gave SLICK! a star as a “book of remarkable merit” and featured me in a column in their April 15 issue. (More big news in two weeks.)
So will readers “get” my new novel, SAN CAFÉ? Set—except for two scenes in the Bay Area—in the fictional Central American nation of San Cristo, SAN CAFÉ is anything but dry. When the novel begins, it’s raining like hell. Moreover, SAN CAFÉ has lots of dark moments. Kirkus—bless ‘em—cites “a no-holds-barred willingness to examine some considerably dark terrain.” (Let’s also not forget Kirkus’ comment about the “whip-smart prose.”) Yet the satire often is broader than in SLICK! To be on the safe side, I offer an author’s guide to understanding several of the main characters.
Jesús Garcia-Vega is an ardent leftist. His name combines the obvious with that of a brand of cigars my father smoked when I was a kid—Garcia y Vega (four for a quarter). Silly? Heck no. Garcia-Vega admires Fidel Castro. Fidel’s nickname? The Big Cigar.
Capitán Enrique Hauptmann-Hall is a Cristano but doesn’t have a Spanish name. No, his grandparents weren’t Nazis who fled the Allies’ wrath. Like many of the wealthy in Latin America, his family descended from powerful European colonialists who, in their Christian-mercantilist fervor, took the natives to the cleaners. No wonder he has an attitude. He also flips out. See chapter one.
Whitman Scharq is founder, chairman and CEO of Mobys Inc., the world’s largest coffee retailer. And yes, he’s left a lot of blood in the water. But what can you expect from the head of a company pioneering Yo Mobys! And ¡Mobys Aquí¡ pushcarts to keep people in America’s ghettos and barrios alert while generating extra corporate revenue?
Maria Skavronsky is an exotic beauty, half Cristano (mom) and half Russian (dad). An alumna of Stanford and of Harvard Law, she’s also a former modern dancer and a devoted single mom. No wonder she’s so damned dangerous.
Easy, right? Although we haven’t even discussed the Italian media diva Adella Rozen (what’s wrong with purple hair?) and Bobby Gatling, my hero—kind of—with nerves of steel, a heart of gold and a right knee resembling papier maché.
As a former hockey-mom vice-residential candidate from the state with the nation’s largest landmass likes to say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” Or am I being Sahara dry?
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