The Rum Diary
A LONG LOST NOVEL
The Rum Diary is a brilliantly tangled love story of jealousy, treachery & violent alcoholic lust in the Caribbean boomtown that was San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the late 1950s. "It was a gold rush," says the author. "There were naked people everywhere and we all had credit."
Puerto Rico was an unspoiled tropical paradise in those years -- before Castro, before JFK, before civil rights & moonwalks & flower power & Vietnam & protests & even before drugs -- but the San Juan Daily News was a vortex & a snakepit of all the corrupt new schemes & plots & greedmongers who swarmed in. Paul Kemp, The Rum Diary's narrator, speaks for the unfocused angst of those times: "In a sense I was one of them -- more competent than some and more stable than others -- and in the years that carried that ragged banner I was seldom unemployed. Sometimes I worked for three newspapers at once. I wrote ad copy for new casinos and bowling alleys, I was a consultant for the cockfighting syndicate, an utterly corrupt high-end restaurant critic, a yachting photographer and a routine victim of police brutality. It was a greedy life and I was good at it. I made some interesting friends, had enough money to get around, and learned a lot about the world that I could never have learned in any other way."
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My apartment in New York was on Perry Street, a five minute walk from the White Horse. I often drank there, but I was never accepted because I wore a tie. The real people wanted no part of me.
I did some drinking there on the night I left for San Juan. Phil Rollins, who'd worked with me, was paying for the ale, and I was swilling it down, trying to get drunk enough to sleep on the plane. Art Millick, the most vicious cab driver in New York, was there. So was Duke Peterson, who had just come back from the Virgin Islands. I recall Peterson giving me a list of people to look up when I got to St. Thomas, but I lost the list and... see more
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