The Hot Country

The Hot Country

by Robert Olen Butler
     
 

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In The Hot Country, Christopher Marlowe Cobb (“Kit”), the swashbuckling early 20th century American newspaper war correspondent travels to Mexico in April and May of 1914, during that country’s civil war, the American invasion of Vera Cruz and the controversial presidency of Victoriano Huerta, El Chacal (The Jackal). Covering the war in

Overview


In The Hot Country, Christopher Marlowe Cobb (“Kit”), the swashbuckling early 20th century American newspaper war correspondent travels to Mexico in April and May of 1914, during that country’s civil war, the American invasion of Vera Cruz and the controversial presidency of Victoriano Huerta, El Chacal (The Jackal). Covering the war in enemy territory and sweltering heat, Cobb falls in love with Luisa, a young Mexican laundress, who is not as innocent as she seems.

The intrepid war reporter soon witnesses a priest being shot. The bullet rebounds on the cross the holly man wears around his neck and leaves him unharmed. Cobb employs a young pickpocket to help him find out the identity of the sniper and, more importantly, why important German officials are coming into the city in the middle of the night from ammunition ships docked in the port.

An exciting tale of intrigue and espionage, Butler’s powerful crime-fiction debut is a thriller not to be missed.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
It's an exciting story, much of it based on fact, and Butler has a good time with it. His writing is both crisp and thoughtful, his people ring true and he offers an amusing portrait of a golden age in journalism…The Hot Country is a thinking person's thriller, the kind of exotic adventure that, in better days, would have been filmed by Sam Peckinpah.
—Patrick Anderson
The New York Times Book Review
This high-spirited adventure by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler is an antic concoction of genre clichés, literary sendups, personal homages, fanciful history and passages of great writing.
—Marilyn Stasio
Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer Prize–winner Butler's ambitious first crime novel introduces Christopher Marlowe "Kit" Cobb, an American war correspondent who has come to Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1914 to cover the country's civil war. A passionate believer in the power of a free press and the moral superiority of the United States, Kit is no mere observer. He assumes a false identity to pursue German diplomat Friedrich von Mensinger en route to a meeting with revolutionary leader Pancho Villa, and the correspondent soon finds himself up to his neck in political intrigue. The large cast includes laundress Luisa Morales, a pretty señorita with whom Kit becomes romantically involved; Gerhard Vogel, an American-born German soldier; and a resourceful pickpocket, Diego, who acts as Kit's eyes and ears. A fine stylist, Butler (A Small Hotel) renders the time and place in perfect detail, though readers should be prepared for a sluggish plot that lingers over the minutiae of the political machinations. Agent: Warren Frazier, John Hawkins & Associates. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Pulitzer Prize-winner Butler is a restless, questing writer whose topics and style vary widely from book to book. His 13th novel (after A Small Hotel) is his first spy thriller, and it's good. When crack reporter Christopher Marlowe Cobb lands in Vera Cruz, Mexico, in April 1914, he finds no war to report on. American troops are on the ground, but President Woodrow Wilson seems reluctant to move them. The Germans, sensing an advantage in the Mexican resentment of Americans, dispatch a secret emissary to woo Pancho Villa to their side. Can Kit stop him? VERDICT The plot clips along, and Kit is an attractive hero. But Butler writes action scenes almost too well: the stream-of-consciousness tone doesn't mesh with the novel's punchy prose style and Kit's ironic asides. But this is a minor criticism in an otherwise enjoyable novel that should attract devotees of espionage and historical fiction. Let's hope we see more of Kit Cobb, reluctant hero. [See Prepub Alert, 4/30/12.]—David Keymer, Modesto CA
Kirkus Reviews
Prolific Pulitzer Prize winner Butler (A Small Hotel, 2011, etc.) casts his net in distinctly shallower waters when he follows the adventures of a brash American journalist in 1914 Mexico. Revolution is raging, as usual, when Christopher "Kit" Marlowe Cobb arrives in Mexico to interview Gen. Victoriano Huerta. Preoccupied with the rebels Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza, el Presidente declines to speak with the press after all. By that time, however, an international incident is brewing between Mexico and the U.S., and Kit figures there'll be plenty of work of one sort or another for him and his Underwood. So he's already on the alert when oompah band musician Gerhard Vogel suddenly reveals himself as an American spy who shares Kit's interest in the question of why the German ship Ypiranga has disgorged sinister "businessman" Friedrich von Mensinger and a number of his countrymen and loosed them on Vera Cruz. Tearing himself from his abortive pursuit of Luisa Morales, who washes his clothes but refuses to provide other services, Kit joins Vogel in his investigation of Mensinger only to find himself working alone when Vogel's throat is cut. Acting with more decisiveness than prudence, Kit pinches the passport from Vogel's corpse and prepares to follow Mensinger to Coahuila, where strongman Pancho Villa reigns supreme. There'll be more subdiplomatic shenanigans, more violence (Kit ends up killing four men), and, yes, more romance before Kit, home again in Chicago, receives a letter from President Wilson that sends him back to Mexico for a coda that seems oddly tacked on. Kit is such an ingratiating narrator that you almost forget how unthrilling his larky debut is. Maybe the planned series can provide him with adventures more worthy of his steel.
Wisconsin Bookwatch
“A fine stylist, Butler renders the time and place in perfect detail.”
Publishers Weekly

From the Publisher
“Ray Chase’s characterization of journalist Christopher Marlowe Cobb sublimely captures his transition from war correspondent . . . to undercover operative.”
AudioFile

“Excitement and intrigue abound in this choice pick for public library audiobook collections and enthusiasts of mystery and suspense.”
Wisconsin Bookwatch

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802120465
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Pages:
440
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.18(d)

Meet the Author


Robert Olen Butler is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of twelve novels, six story collections, and a book on the creative process, From Where You Dream. A recipient of both a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts grant, he also won the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He has twice won a National Magazine Award in Fiction and has received two Pushcart Prizes. He teaches creative writing at Florida State University.

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