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Thomas McGuane: Panama

Chet Pomeroy – Chester Hunicutt Pomeroy – is back in Key West after his career as rock star has taken a downward turn, not helped by the fact that his mind has been severely damaged by the rock star lifestyle. He had been dining with Jean-Luc Godard but, ten minutes after the dinner, could not remember what he had eaten, so he went and had another meal. And then threw up all over the mayor. He claims to be related to Jesse James (his family hid Jesse in their barn). He really, really wants Catherine back, though, even when she produces their marriage certificate from Panama (in Spanish), he does not recall ever having married her. His aunt is engaged to Curtis Peavey, a nasty lawyer, who is after her money. He insists his father is dead, having died in a fire in Boston, though the father keeps calling him. His cheques bounce, particularly on the brand new Land Rover. In short, his life is chaotic. But he wants Catherine back, of that he is sure.

It is probably not his best novel but it is chaotic and it is fun. McGuane said it mirrored his own life to a certain degree, as he flirted with celebrity after his early books. Panama becomes a symbol for all that is good in the past for both Catherine and Chet but the question remains, can they get back there?

Publishing history

First published 1978 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux