December 8, 2009
Originally published in 1980, Port Tropique makes a welcome return, its political relevance even more acute and topical for its absence. Its themes of corruption (politically and morally) and identity are strong and powerful, and, in these uncertain times, Gifford’s sweaty noir reflects the angst we feel.
Written in a lean and Spartan style, Port Tropique is cut from the same cloth as Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness and The Secret Agent (quoted from at the beginning of the book), Graham Greene’s Our Man In Havana and John Le Carre’s The Tailor Of Panama … The thriller-styled plot is a patchwork of encounters and it’s easy to read this and feel disoriented by the lack of solid framework – that is pure Gifford. He bends chaos in an orderly fashion and produces a superb reading experience. Nearly thirty years on, the novel’s power is as relevant as ever, with its political upheavals and existential fumblings. Gifford paints corruption and seediness not as flaws but as colourful splashes of spice in the sweaty mix that is Port Tropique.
… This is an amazing book, gripping from the first chapter to the last, and is one of Gifford’s finest works. A true American contemporary classic.
If you haven’t read Barry Gifford before, now’s the time to get acquainted with him: check out Port Tropique, now back in print from Seven Stories Press.