House of Jaguar Book Club

Mike Bond’s House of Jaguar  is a thriller which revolves around the protagonist Murphy, a Vietnam veteran who now makes his living flying drugs deep in the jungle.  True to Bond’s writing style as read in The Last Savanna and Saving Paradise, his novels comprise  descriptions not for the faint of heart as well as steadfast political commentary:

The priest lay with his cheekbone crushed, his nose ripped open and bent to one side.  His collarbone looked broken, too, one arm dislocated at the elbow and shoulder.  The wrist was bent, too, clearly broken.  Lucky for him, Lyman thought, that I was there to save him.  (59)

For me, the difficulties lie in the seemingly invincible characteristics of the male in this novel:  able to release himself  from the confines of rope, overtake four men in a weakened state, and then commandeer a falling helicopter in order to fly off into the sunset with his life force after being beaten, chased, starved, etc.  Really?

In addition, Bond’s stream of consciousness placement of words on the page resulted in a disjointed storyline which distracted along with the numerous grammatical errors.  The potential is there, but this piece of work needs a good cleansing from an editor.

For the purposes of book club, monkey stew complete with short, coarse hairs could be an option, but Andrew Zimmern I am not.  Instead, a spread with various tortilla dishes sounds more appetizing for the masses.

The Last Savanna Book Club

Having just finished Mike Bond’s The Last Savanna, I find I now have an unquenchable thirst and am downing glass of ice water after glass of ice water as I type due to Bond’s vivid descriptions of the African sun:

All this was nothing to the sun which bore down like a molten weight dropped from a great height, always, every millisecond, crushing her, flaying her shoulders through the white cotton shirt, as if the fabric were not even there, or worse, as if it magnified the heat.  Sun lacerated her neck and the inside of her throat with each intaken breath;  it was an oven from which she could not withdraw her face, her hair so hot it burned her skull.  (89)

Besides the vivid descriptions, Bond tells of elephant poaching in Africa, and the desire of protagonist MacAdam, a rancher, and his longtime friend Nehemiah to put an end to it.  While part of  a special unit, MacAdam learns of the kidnapping of a former lover, Rebecca.  Thus, a complex journey through the desert ensues with danger from both the landscape and man lurking around every corner.

In addition, Bond, true to his writing, makes political and social commentary throughout:

Too much Coca Cola and motor vehicles have slowed even the Maasai.  Every strength sows the seeds of future weakness:  material advances destroy our defenses against the primitive.  (52)

Although a gourd full of camel’s blood and milk rinsed with urine (97) may be needed for survival in the desert, this may not be the ideal choice for book club.  Even cold ugali (58) probably would not tempt discussion.  Instead, a vast array of flavored waters:  cucumber, lemon, strawberry/lime, seems ideal to prompt discussion of Bond’s The Last Savanna.

Saving Paradise Book Club

Mike Bond’s fictional work, Saving Paradise certainly holds true to its title.  Bond’s deep-seeded love affair with Hawaii is prevalent throughout:

To tourists Hawaii is an air-conditioned tanning booth with shopping, booze, bikinis, and lots of smiling low-paid help.  The real Hawaii is something else- the greatest mariners the world has ever known, brave warriors and wise healers, a deep-hearted family connection reaching hundreds of people and across whole islands, love of the ancestors, a magical way of life.  (6) 

Having been to the Big Island once myself, I long to return and see it as Pono, the ex- U.S. Army Special Forces protagonist in Saving Paradise, views it:

It was another magnificent dawn on Oahu, the sea soft and rumpled and the sun blazing up from the horizon, an offshore breeze scattering plumeria fragrance across the frothy waves  Flying fish darting over the crests, dolphins chasing them, a mother whale and calf spouting as they rolled northwards.  A morning when you already know the waves will be good and it will be a day to remember.  (1)

Pono, a self-described hapa haole, part white and part Hawaiian, has done time in not only Afghanistan, but also the Inside as he refers to prison.  Attempting to now live the life of a writer and teacher of surfing, he becomes embroiled in a homicide investigation.  A likeable character with definitive views regarding politics, “The wrong politicians commit is pretending that they’re not.  And while a whore actually gives you something for your money, a politicial just takes your money and screws you in a different way”  (10), the reader ends up rooting for his escape from one predicament after another.

From an English teacher’s perspective, though, I had no choice but to highlight grammatical errors such as “1930’s” (73) and “‘farms’.”  (47).  No apostrophe needed in the first example, and the period should be inside the quotations for the second example.  In addition, the protagonist’s switch from a Hawaiian dialect in dialogue to standard English in thought caused confusion when considering these differing sentence structures were originating from the same man.  Yet, perhaps this was intentional on Bond’s part considering Pono was of mixed heritage.

If a meeting on the beach in Hawaii is not in the cards for your book club, Tangueray martinis in honor of Pono and half-pound burgers similar to those served at Wipe Out, a downtown bar which Pono frequents, would serve as an adequate substitute.