Introducing Pearl Lagoon, the latest novel by Eric Timar.
On the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua in 1926, U.S. expatriates manage fruit plantations, timber companies, and gold mines. When a stunning local woman named Dorette Fox entangles herself with two Americans, the desultory love triangle combined with an escalating civil war results in murder. Cordell Fletcher, a young U.S. consular officer sent north from Bluefields to investigate the death, finds that the shooting is not over.
The first five people who email Eric Timar with “Pearl Lagoon” in the subject line will receive a copy of the Kindle version, free!
Update! The author’s promotion was a success and has now ended. But don’t worry, copies are still available through Amazon.com.
From the book:
“I’m worried,” Stoddard said as he ate, “that this is starting to sound familiar. Beanford gets someone mad enough to kill him, somehow, and now he may be involved with this mess. He’s going to end up causing as much trouble as Dockery.”
“Don’t say that.”
James Dockery was an entrepreneur from Maine who had alighted on the Bluefields dock at the beginning of a dry season two years before with an envelope—a small envelope—full of money and, alarmingly, a carpet bag. He had been working for several years around the Caribbean and came to Bluefields from Corn Island, where he had put together some sort of deal selling a boatload of lobster traps from Colombia. Once in the city he shook hands, asked questions, and talked his way into half a dozen business ventures. He imported bullets from Panama, four pianos from New Orleans, coffee from Managua, and motor oil from Veracruz. He exported dried shrimp and black coral to Granada. He sent oranges to Corn Island and brought back lobster to Bluefields.
“And a quarter of those lobsters were probably caught in my traps!” he had gushed to me. “I’ve got them coming and going!”
I had to give him credit for outworking and outbargaining the Nicaraguans, but I had to criticize him for it as well because he was arrogant. He boasted about his successes. His gloating made him enemies in Bluefields among both Nicaraguans and outsiders.
Dockery made serious money, but his successes came in cycles. It was during a low tide of solvency that he got himself thrown out of the country. After dealing with thousands of dollars of trade, it was an unpaid bill of twelve dollars at a restaurant that began the end. Dockery had found a small place that he liked in the center of the city where the owner, a mestizo man named Baltodano, called him “boss” and señor. Baltodano kept Dockery’s lemonade glass full and listened attentively to all of his stories. He even extended him credit for a while. After a month or two of broken promises and an unpaid tab, however, Baltodano posted a sign about the debt in the restaurant. It hung on a wall right over the tables, and was written in both Spanish and English:
JAMES DOCKERY LE DEBE
AL ESTE ESTABLECIMIENTO
LA CANTIDAD $12 US.
JAMES DOCKERY OWES
THE AMOUNT OF $12 US.
Dockery tried to rip the sign off the wall and scuffled with Baltodano when he intervened. His scandal spread. All sorts of Americans—sailors, entrepreneurs, and others—caused problems in Bluefields, but at least they paid their bills. Dockery was embarrassing Stoddard, me, and everyone else who held any authority within the U.S. colony.
Complicating the problem was a modest philanthropy that Dockery had been trying to start from his house and office in the center neighborhood of the city. It was to be a program for orphans, funded by American and other foreign businesses.
“I’m going to build these kids a home!” he had declared to me. “I’ve taken enough out of this place, haven’t I? But I’m going to leave a hell of a lot of it here. There’s no reason any kid should spend a night out on the street when his parents get hit by some cannon in one of these civil wars, or whatever it is that happens to them. It’s a disgrace, with all the money this place is sitting on.”
I supported the philanthropy at first, but soon I began to notice that Dockery seemed to attract strictly orphan boys rather than girls. The boys spent hours in the office with Dockery as he drew up plans for his orphanage.
“So what?” Stoddard had asked. He had arrived after Dockery had established himself in Bluefields, and he never saw the carpet bag, and he was half ready to just lend him the money to pay off the restaurant tab. “So what? Maybe he needs to diversify his clientele, but why does that concern us?”
“It’s not the preponderance of boys; it could be all girls instead and it would still worry me. It’s that these children spend a lot of time alone with the man and people are starting to talk.”
“They spend time alone with him.”
I did not answer right away and Stoddard suddenly deflated.
“Oh, God. God help us with this fool.”
Stoddard and I solved the problem by recruiting Sandy Kilwer, the same sailor we had seen brawling on the dock, to speak to Dockery. Kilwer happened to be friendly with Baltodano, the restaurant owner. He always paid his bills there, and he was happy to confront the broke entrepreneur. (We had merely encouraged Kilwer to go ahead and discuss the matter with Dockery if he saw him, of course.) Kilwer started the fight in the middle of the day on the busy front street and made sure to knock over tables on the sidewalk and accidentally slug innocent bystanders. The violence was enough of a pretext for the local police to deport Dockery, with our support of course. This was another of my duties; the British consular staff called this process “repatriating distressed subjects.”
Stoddard had helped me oversee Dockery as he gathered up his few belongings and the carpetbag. We placed him on a steamer bound for Baltimore. Dockery had fought the process, shouting and protesting:
“What about that boy that started it? Why isn’t he on this boat?” Dockery struggled as he said this. The marines who were in the boat with him put their hands on his shoulders to keep him from standing up.
“Colonel Woods vouched for Kilwer,” Stoddard said. “No one vouched for you.”
“You can’t deport me! I’m an American—you can’t deport me from a foreign country!” He was turning red and veins stood out on his forehead.
“We’re not deporting you. We’re ordering you to leave,” Stoddard had told him. “Here’s your bag.”