The Last of Nico Sombra
Set principally in contemporary Buenos Aires, this novel tells of Nico Sombra, a gangster who has lifted himself from the poorest of beginnings to become one of the richest men in Argentina, and his love for the aristocratic Natalia Faustino. Nico was born in the great Villa 31 slum city that takes up the very center of Buenos Aires. The basis for his fortune has been crime…prostitution, drugs, money laundering and many other activities. His rival, Facundo Dominguez, is an Argentine oligarch whose businesses are the stuff of South American entrepreneurial legend. He has kind, aristocratic manners and a vivid presence, but we learn as the novel unfolds that Facundo is a dark, manipulative figure, once criminally influential to the military junta that ruled Argentina in the nineteen-seventies and eighties.
Argentina is a society that has always struggled with great class differences between the poor and the rich. Throughout The Last of Nico Sombra, the characters negotiate these differences, with often terrifying results. Natalia, in love with Nico and victimized by Facundo, is the figure that foments the ultimate disastrous rivalry between these men.
The Splendid City
Pablo Neruda, lost in the Andes. From the prologue…
Pablo fidgeted nervously about his words. He would speak of his poetry, of course, his cherished verse. And the politics, to be sure, his troublesome Communism. But now in 1971 (so late in life) and here in Stockholm (so far away), he wished really to speak about something else, of which these people knew nothing, and of which he knew…well, everything. I’ll tell them what they’ve come to hear, he thought. But now…now—“My speech will be a long journey.”
He touched the lapel of his coat, glancing down at the boutonniere and smoothing the lapel a moment as he rehearsed one last time the story he wished to give to them.
“A voyage I once took through faraway, antipodean regions, which for that reason are not much different from the landscape and solitudes here of the North.”
The rhythms were coming to him. Yes. The escape.
“I speak of the extreme south of my country.” The far south, he thought. Yes. But even more, the nearer east, the Andes cordillera with its terrifying mountains…loving, ghostly mountains…so brutal…splendid but beyond difficult…merciless.
“We who live in Chile must go so far to touch the South Pole with our boundaries, that it seems to us very like the geography here of Sweden, whose head brushes against the snowy north of the planet.” Pablo smiled, enjoying the silly metaphor he had just made. His breathing began to hurry, though. Suddenly he was in danger again…the memory of it. “Down there, in those far reaches of my country….” He felt his voice grasping for the occasion, his wish to tell the story. “Where events—that are now themselves quite forgotten—once took me, one must cross…” He laid a hand on his chest. “And I had to cross…” He took in a breath. “The Andes mountains.”
An Arena of Truth: Human Conflict in Black and White
By 1972, the racial situation in Jacksonville, Florida was just beginning to be affected by the changes brought about with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and others, and the general effectiveness of the civil rights movement. Jim Crow was in retreat, although segregation and its attendant effects nonetheless remained in Jacksonville as a distinct reality.
In that same year, Dr. Peter Kranz, a young white psychologist/scholar from New York City, proposed to the administration of the University of North Florida, located in Jacksonville, a course that would be titled “Human Conflict: Black and White.” Each class ideally would be composed of a dozen people, balanced between Blacks and Whites, and gender-balanced as well. The purpose of the class would be to allow the students to confront one another with their honest, open feelings about the racial situation in the U.S. It would be a no-holds-barred confrontation on a weekly basis. The course would also require that all the students make a weekend visit, together, to an all-Black college, as well as a weeklong stay, individually, in the home of people from the opposite race. The UNF administration okayed the idea, and in the Fall semester of 1972, Pete Kranz began the project.
The class was offered every semester for six years. It was the only such class ever to be offered in an institution of higher learning in this country. The idea and, especially, its methods remain unprecedented in American education.
This is a book based on close personal experience. The students were required to keep an individual journal of the class, and those journals still exist. Also, I have interviewed extensively many of the still-living students from the classes, as well as people who hosted several of the students in their homes. The book is at times emotionally trying, explosive, loving, in-your-face, and controversial…as the classes themselves were. In the end, the purpose of the book is to argue that such racial confrontation groups are essential to the resolution of current racial discord in the United States.
The preface for the book is written by Dr. Price M. Cobbs. He is the co-author, with Dr. William H. Grier, of Black Rage. A New York Times best seller, it was the first book ever written about the issues of being black in this country from a trained psychiatric point of view. It was also one of the required texts for Pete Kranz’s classes. Originally published in 1969, it is still in print and remains a ruggedly powerful vehicle for understanding the black experience.
The truth was told in these classes, and should be told again.
Note: The full manuscript for this book has been completed. The book proposal and manuscript are available for perusal by legitimate literary agents and publishers.