Friday, January 4, 2008

When I landed in Managua

I'm going to take you through my book via some extracts. Pull up a daiquiri. It opens in Nicaragua. Ahem...

Extract from chapter 1:

"His Peugeot taxi was functional, French and clean; the horn was perky and the motor seemed good for another few thousand miles at least. I asked him about anything: geography, weather, history, alcohol, women. As he grew confident in our bond, he tried to steer me towards certain types of clubs and hotels. ‘That’s not what I’m here for,’ I assured him, although it was not impossible that the after-midnight hours would find me somewhere similar, breasts on the stage, elbow on the bar and me a few rums to the wind.

‘Then what?’

He seemed surprised that anyone would come to Nicaragua for something other than exploitation of the poor. That’s the only visible industry, apart from commodities (tobacco, shrimp, lobster, beef, sugar, bananas, cotton, gold) that are mostly sold to two countries – the US and El Salvador. The country owes ten times what it brings in. There were very few lights by the main road and absolutely none in the streets beyond. We were headed for the Barrio Martha Quezada, one of several faceless centres in a town with no specific shape, but more of that later.

‘I’m writing a kind of Domesday Book,’ I told Carlos, but then I stumbled over the details. The original was list, property register, basis for the law, social snapshot: this would be more of a philosophy register. He nodded sharply, like he had just cottoned onto my real game. Of course, si claro, I was a religious nut! I carried on soberly, ‘A book about how global we need to become.’

‘Global,’ he nodded, playing air congas with his sawn-off thumb, moving it like lightning. ‘The business of the world?’

‘Business and culture…’ I mumbled, too engrossed by his thumb to sharpen my thoughts. He was not desperate to share my culture, but my business was another story.

‘I see,’ he said dryly.

Outside I saw beer ads up on the hoardings and old fading logos stencilled onto corrugated iron roofs. ‘What happened to your thumb?’

He answered, ‘War,’ in the same offhand way his US equivalent might say “home improvements accident” and his serious look dissolved into a goofy smile. Carlos jerked his head back behind him, towards the airport, towards the past. ‘Many years ago.’

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