Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Book Review: 'The Pinochet Plot' by David Myles Robinson
‘Did you know that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States?’
New Mexico author David Myles Robinson earned his degrees from San Francisco State College, University of Hawaii, and Cal State Los Angeles working as a free-lance writer for several magazines and was a staff writer for a weekly minority newspaper in Pasadena, California, called The Pasadena Eagle. He altered his direction and earned his JD from the University of San Francisco School of Law and became a trial lawyer specializing in personal injury and workers' compensation law. Upon retiring he returned to his passion for writing novels, and successfully published legal thrillers. He now lives in Taos, New Mexico.
David’s experiences in journalism and law combine to create THE PINOCHET PLOT – one of the finest books about the Chilean dictator. On his website he states, ‘THE PINOCHET PLOT is somewhat political in that it involves some interesting and disturbing times in US history, and the plot of the novel, by necessity, had to be political in order for the fictional conspiracy to make sense. It was a fun and sometimes unsettling novel to research in the way that crazy reality can sometimes overshadow even the most off-the-wall fictional scenarios. My research into the CIA sponsored drug experimentation program, MKULTRA, and then into the CIA’s involvement with the brutal Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, disclosed such outrageous behavior that I decided to try to make the fictional part of my story even more outrageous than reality, although frankly, I’m not sure that was possible. I also played around with various layers to the storyline in PINOCHET. There is Will’s quest for the truth about his father’s murder; the sad realization of his mother’s life of fear and anger; the horrifying discovery of a national political conspiracy; and the love story between Will and Cheryl. Interspersed throughout, I employed a device I remember Kurt Vonnegut (one of my favorite authors) sometimes using, which was for the author to step away from the story at certain moments to speak directly to the reader, generally to educate or remind the reader about real facts, such as suicide rates, welfare fraud, and our own depressing history of oppression and even genocide of our Native Americans. What I’ve thought about, given the fact that I completed the novel well before Trump was elected, was how I would have handled some of the political diatribes by the murdered liberals had I had current events to play with. As I write this, I’m thinking about an article I read just this morning in which certain journalists are actually afraid for their lives, and the lives of their families, as they have been getting death threats and other forms of scary harassment from angry Trump supporters. One wonders how outrageous my fictional conspiracy will turn out to be.’
The eloquent prose that David uses to guide us through his mesmerizing novel is of the highest order – rich in atmosphere, raw, and real –‘ My state of mind had been less morose than usual since I’d left the courthouse, but the rare smile I was sporting faded the moment I entered our reception area. Something was terribly wrong. Tina, our young and usually exuberant receptionist, had obviously been crying, and when she saw me walk through the door, her tears let loose with a vengeance. “What’s wrong?” I asked. She grabbed a Kleenex from the stack on her desk, patted at her swollen red eyes, and motioned for me to go back to the offices. I’d never heard our law office so silent. The place was like a morgue. I didn’t bother asking any of the secretaries what was going on and walked straight into my partner’s office. Cheryl was sitting at her desk, staring down at some file. But she didn’t look as if she was really reading it. She, too, had been crying. “What’s going on?” I asked. Cheryl hadn’t heard me enter and jerked her head up in surprise. Her face softened when she saw it was me. She stood and rushed to me. “Oh, Will,” she said as she threw her arms around me, “I’m so sorry.” Two-second pause. “It’s your mother . . . .” My stomach instantly tightened, and I could feel my throat constrict. Does it say something about me that I knew in that moment that my mother was dead? “What about her?” I said, barely able to choke out a response. But I knew. I knew with absolute certainty. Yet the words hadn’t been spoken. It wouldn’t be real until the words were uttered. I didn’t want Cheryl to answer my question—to say aloud the words that would confirm the horrible truth I already knew. But she did. Cheryl was still hugging me, and when she spoke, it was into my neck. Her words were warm against my skin. I could smell the subtle vanilla fragrance she favored. “She’s dead, Will.” Cheryl paused but still held me tightly. I could tell there was more to come. “The police say she committed suicide.”
With a jump start such as this the plot unfolds rapidly and creatively as David outlines in his synopsis: – ‘Successful San Francisco attorney Will Muñoz has heard of the brutal former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, of course, but it's not until he receives his mother's suicide letter that he has any inkling Pinochet may have had his father, Chilean writer Ricardo Muñoz, assassinated thirty years earlier. Her suspicions spur Will on to a quest to discover the truth about his father's death–and about the psychological forces that have driven his mother to her fatal decision. His journey takes him deep into unexpected darkness linking his current stepfather, the CIA, drug-experimentation programs, and a conspiracy of domestic terrorism. The Pinochet Plot is not just a story of a man seeking inner peace; it is also a story of sinister history doomed to repeat itself.’
Some books grow with a fine patina with age: THE PINOCHET PLOT is one of those thrillers too true to be discarded as fiction – a warning sign about where we ma be headed. Brilliant book – Highly Recommended.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.