One of the greatest literary treasures in the United States, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s hand-written manuscripts are stolen from the Firestone Library on Princeton University’s campus by a gang of five: Denny, a former Army ranger kicked out of the military; Mark, a professional thief with a history of “smash-and-grab” jobs involving art and artifacts ransomed back to the original owners; Jerry and Trey, petty thieves who met in prison; and Ahmed, a computer hacker.
The heist happens quickly in John Grisham’s latest novel, Camino Island, and serves as a backdrop for the real intrigue: where have the manuscripts gone after some of the thieves are caught; and how can Princeton get them back.
Enter Elaine Shelby, an insurance investigator. Mercer Mann, young, broke, aspiring writer with a past that includes time in Camino Island, Florida. Bruce Cable, owner of Bay Books, acquirer of valuable books, Southern dandy, and book (and author) lover. In his own mind he is “a well-read playboy” and an ambitious businessman.
“He owned a dozen different seersucker suits, each with a different shader color, and he wore one every day, along with a starched white shirt with a spread collar, and a loud bow tie, usually either red or yellow. His ensemble was completed with a pair of dirty buckskins, no socks. He never wore socks, not even in January when the temperatures dipped into the forties. His hair was thick and wavy, and he wore it long, almost to his shoulders. He shaved once a week on Sunday morning. By the time he was thirty, some gray was working itself into the picture, a few whiskers and a few strands of the long hair, and it was quite becoming.”
Elaine, the insurance investigator, believes Bruce Cable has the manuscripts. She wants Mercer to return to Camino Island, the home of Mercer’s grandmother, and infiltrate the community’s cabal of eccentric authors as a means of getting close to Cable, who has quite the reputation for his way with the lady authors.
The New York Times said Camino Island reads like it was written while John Grisham took a vacation from writing John Grisham novels. Grisham has a lot of fun with books, authors, and characterizations. The romance writer who “you won’t believe has ever had sex with anybody,” the literary writer who pens “really impenetrable stuff the stores can’t give away,” the alcoholic novelist whose been in and out of rehab so often everyone’s lost count, the “vampire girl” young adult novelist, the poet “snob,” etc.
My favorite depiction is that of Bay Books, Cable’s island store.
. . . the smells of new books, and coffee, and, from somewhere, the hint of pipe smoke. She adored the saggy shelves, the piles of books on the floors, the ancient rugs, the racks of paperbacks, the colorful section for bestsellers at 25 percent off! From across the store she took in the First Editions Room, a handsome paneled area with open windows and hundreds of the more expensive books.
Camino Island is a fun place to visit and talk about books. Learn a little, live a little. Pass it on.
Food from the book
Shrimp Risotto with bread and wine
This recipe from epicurious.com for Shrimp Risotto looks good: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/shrimp-risotto-4970
Champagne and pizza
Margaritas with grouper tacos
I would serve the Margaritas and grouper tacos. Yum.
- Combined all and enjoy!
Of course, you could go all Jimmy Buffett. Or add a little variety with some of these:
Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, Otis Redding
Island Girl, Elton John
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot
Don’t Bring Me Down (Bruce!), ELO
Sharp Dressed Man, ZZ Top
The Spy Who Loved Me, Carly Simon
Undercover Lover, .38 Special
This is a fun one to think about casting, especially Bruce Cable. But the troupe of writers would be a great casting assignment too.
Elaine Shelby — Cate Blanchett is the obvious choice but Elizabeth Banks would be fun for this part
Mercer Mann — Emma Roberts
Noel — Margot Robbie
Bruce Cable — Simon Baker