GTR Archives 2000-2020

 

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The Battered Butterfly

By Jake Jacobs  

Rev. by R. Pedreira



Jake Jacobs conducted extensive research to provide the concrete details that make The Battered Butterfly come alive. Roberto is personally familiar with most of the locations mentioned in the book, although not so much Manila, which he merely quickly passed through a few times. But Jake Jacob's expert command of the English language transports us mentally into the many go-go bars and other gin-joints and pleasure-palaces to be found in South East and at one time North East Asia. 

The hero of the story is a former tough New York City street cop named Lefty, turned itinerant gambler and appreciator of feminine charm, especially at the budget prices available in the Philippines. A girl with a butterfly tattoo turns up battered and dead. Who done it? And Why? As homicide detectives know, who and why are usually connected. Why provides clues as to who. Lefty knew the deceased and seems the logical suspect. He is accused, arrested, threatened, chased. He must find the murderer before he takes the fall himself. Can he do it? 

It is a cliff-hanger, but somehow we pull for lefty. After all, apart from being a former New York City cop, a man of many resources, and despite the dissolute life he leads, he is a man of honor and has a sense of humor (a New York street cop’s sense anyway). 

Jake Jacobs is a veteran Hollywood screen-writer with one or more Don "The Dragon" Wilson pictures to his credit, including the classic Ring of Fire. Movie rights are where the money is and sequels spell money. Why make one movie when you can make a never-ending money-spinning series? Orson Welles as Hank Quinlan in A Touch of Evil would be perfect for Lefty. But Orson is no longer with us, so he's out. Don Wilson might be ok if he put on some pounds. The movie version would benefit from some jumping spin kicks for the younger demographic. 

Jake Jacob’s appreciation for cinema is evident in some of his defter descriptive explorations. The Harvard educated yakuza is an obvious homage to Mike Mazurki in Billy Wilder's Some Like it Hot. Nice touch. There are others.

If you like complicated, confusing stories like Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamozov, Ulysses, and the novels of Franz Kafka (long paragraphs!), don’t read The Battered Butterfly. But if you like stories with short chapters, bar-ladies, pole-dancers, foreigner riff-raff and deadbeats, Harvard educated Japanese gangsters, and more, read it. It isn't that long and it isn't hard to understand. And you just might learn something.

Many years ago, somewhere near the edge of the earth, as it was then known by local foreign residents, Roberto met someone who could have been a character in The Battered Butterfly. He told Roberto that he was working on a novel. That someone was Jake Jacobs. The Battered Butterfly apparently is that novel.

An earlier version of this review appeared on amazon.co.jp

(c) R. Pedreira. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Ring of Fire, screen-play by Jake Jacobs

 

GTR Archives 2000-2020