Transforming Puerto Rico Through Fiction by David R. Martin

Puerto Rico City a novel by David R. MartinEven with the extraordinary power of the internet, English language fiction set in contemporary Puerto Rico seems like a rare find. Hunter S. Thompson wrote The Rum Diary in the 1960s. This off-beat, character drama contains rich descriptions of Puerto Rico in the late 1950s. But The Rum Diary was not published until 1998. In 1985, Elmore Leonard published Glitz, where Puerto Rico serves as one of the locations of this murder thriller. In a similar genre, Steven Torres wrote the Precinct Puerto Rico series, taking place in the 1980s and 90s. In 2002, Garry Hoyt published Isla Verde, a romantic adventure novel, set between the 1950s and 70s, that serves in part as a vehicle for trenchant political commentary about the island.

Having lived in Puerto Rico during my adolescence and the early part of my career here as a lawyer, I, too, could not pass up the opportunity to comment on Puerto Rico politics. Yet my novel, Puerto Rico City, widens the scope in a world compressed by fiber optics and digitalization. The novel relies heavily on the vantage point of globalization from which no country is immune and to which everyone must adapt.

As a lawyer, writing has been an essential part of my livelihood. Yet, perhaps to the amazement of many, the legal profession requires that one adhere to facts. In many ways, facts are far easier to cope with than fiction. I learned this during college and as a recent graduate of Amherst when I tried (briefly) to write fiction as a full-time occupation. Short vignettes, character sketches, and isolated events came naturally to me. However, it seemed that I could never put together a complete story. Then, slowly, one dawned on me.

Released in February 2012, Puerto Rico City places the reader in the mid-2000s and extends into the future, beyond the 2012 island and U.S. elections. Lino Mendoza emerges from a diverse collection of characters, hailing from several continents, in a story that converges on Puerto Rico, the place of my heritage. (My father was born in Yauco, and my mother in Vega Alta.)

Educated by his travels and corporate dealmaking, Lino seizes upon an idea – the creation of a mega-entertainment city on the former U.S. naval base of Roosevelt Roads located on the east coast of Puerto Rico. In 2004, after protests against the practice bombings of the neighboring island of Vieques, the navy closed Roosevelt Roads. The base was evacuated, lay idle, and succumbed to inertia and political bickering. Lino has is own compelling view of what has to be done with the prime thirteen-square-mile landmass: build a new, world class entertainment city to compete with Las Vegas, Macau, Dubai and all the rest.

Yet there are many enterprising and creative minds in the world, who see opportunities or problems that need fixing from their own perspective. The threats and obstacles in Lino’s path include Aaron Getz, a corporate raider from New York; Daisy Youngluck, a dangerously gorgeous billionaire from Peru; Wen Kashing, a casino loan shark, turned private banker from Macau; Sergei Rubelkov, a cyber hacker with ties to the Russian oligarchy, and Reed Savage, the owner of a massive Native American casino resort in Connecticut. Then politicians from Puerto Rico and the U.S. enter the scene.

Will the prevailing forces be animal instincts, private financial ambitions, or higher principles? See what happens in Puerto Rico City.


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