A book review of Cadillac Fin Suitcase by Michael Walsh
Cadillac Fin Suitcase is a collection of 18 short stories written by an American author and photographer Michael Walsh about life in Taiwan and much more in the 90s. Some of the stories are very short and others not so, but the writing is descriptive where you can imagine the atmosphere and the everyday life of the Taiwanese. I found several of the stories engrossing, especially as the writer has developed the characters and the location to such extent that you end up reading until you have finished that story.
My favourite short story is the ‘The Pigeon Races’ which Mr Big Guava the lead character is drawn into. I didn’t realise how pigeon racing would involve so many nasty characters, but because of the nature of Taiwanese to gamble it becomes obvious why so much money is involved. The story begins with Guava being asked to visit a pigeon racer who has had some birds stolen. There are several twists and turns in the story, you cannot help but want to follow him in his quest to find out why and who has stolen the birds. The rich texture of the language used to describe the scenes gave me a sense of being there. In one way Guava is like Marlowe in ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler who is a character that you can identify with you want to be him, speak the same language because you as the reader believe in the story and then your mind does the rest. Throughout the story Guava is faced with people being murdered around him with the narrative expressive such as "I shuffled around chain smoking until it felt like I'd swallowed a comet." The Pigeon Racers I felt could have easily been developed into a novel, but I still enjoyed it as a short story.
Another story which makes you think is about the relationship between young and old. The story is called ‘Mango Road’ which is a tale about a young boy, an old man, and a Japanese officer. Curtis the young boy soon learns the harsh reality of hard work when he is left with his grandfather to make a man of him. At first Curtis dislikes the regime his grandfather demands, but he soon learns and begins to enjoy his grandfather’s company and the induction into caring and growing mangos on his farm. Curtis is curious why people refer to his grandfather as a ‘boy hero’ and eventually his grandfather tells him what happened to him back in 1944 as a 12 year old boy when Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese. This turn in the story is an interesting aspect which bonds the characters together and is a satisfying conclusion to this story.
Cadillac Fin Suitcase is a story where the writer recalls his first experience of Taiwan as a photographer that is a pastiche of street life. The language is engaging to the reader like "...Threw my bag on a chair, set the Cadillac fin suitcase on the bed, and opened it...the bourbon sleeping comfortably between my camera, the gars, and thirty rolls of film in Ziploc baggies...grabbed one of the plastic cups in the bathroom and poured three fingers of the paint, drank half of it in one gulp, then walked across the street to a 7-Eleven." This story is the first in the collection of stories which helps to set the scene for the rest of the book. Some of the stories are true and some not, either way this book of short stories gives you a remarkable insight and experience of Taiwan.
There are many more stories which the writer has spun a tale around the life of the island of Taiwan. The characters and the storylines that have been developed easily transport your imagination to the place and time. I would recommend this collection of stories for your Kindle which is also available in paperback.
Are you listening, what are you dreaming?
As Jesus said, “belief is everything.”
In my latest book “It’s Never Too Late” read how dreams do come true, but be careful what you wish for. Understand the secret of greed and you will attain one of the secrets of prosperity. The book will also take you on a journey and explores love, money, luck, and much more.
Hey, Chuck. Did you bring any spending money? Viva la vida loca.
Conducting Survey into Precognitive Choices