one screenplay and four novels

MF previews an erotic movie thriller based on Sophocles’ enduring Oedipus the King. Restaged in contemporary South Florida, Williams’ clever “screamplay” showcases the local lingo-ethnic mix: Cuban, Native American, Haitian, Russian, New Yorker.

Abandoned in the Everglades as a babe, Swollen Paw becomes heir to the Miccosukee Tribe and its lucrative Casino. Spooked by prophecy, he flees, only to collide headlong with Destiny. He slays father Lapidus Bauhaus and marries mother Jojo Casta, rescuing their real-estate empire from a plague of shaky investments.

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Leon, aka Leon Noel, the wistful protagonist of Memoirs of a Thin Man, envisions a world without fixed identities. Not black not white, not queer not straight. Our scholar would replace such static notions with concomitance and fluidity and loops.

He meets a dashing African American couple in Montevideo and sees a chance for Emo-topia. But can the quixotic hero survive his (un)requited passions? The answer lies in this candid confession/manifesto, with scenes set in South Florida, Uruguay and West Africa!

The novel follows a palindromic orbit, the last word of each page engendering the first word of the next. Thus, the reading is seamless: form mimicking content.

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Imagine that Abraham Lincoln never makes it to his inauguration. The tracks get blown up by seditionists at Thomas Viaduct near Baltimore in a sort of premature snuff job. Veep Hannibal Hamlin of Maine goes on to become the 16th U.S. President. Is civil war averted? Does slavery get abolished anyway? What about Reconstruction? And Jim Crow? Lincoln’s Train takes up such tantalizing hypotheticals in a rollicking rewrite of the national narrative. In these pages, a modern-day acting troupe “improvises” the iconic events we’ve dutifully studied in grade school, exploiting their inherent theatricality. The novel’s alternative account reads far less quirky than the original. A gleeful, uncouth homage to Maryland – the in-between state – and some of its most (in)famous personalities, including John Waters, Frederick Douglass, the Surratts, John Wilkes Booth, Dr. Samuel Mudd and Louis Weichmann. Lincoln’s Train delivers a timely meditation on History as a sort of privileged yarn while debunking facile stereotypes of race and gender.

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The Lifeguard Murders: A South Beach Story is all about streaks and repetition, about unstoppable routines, especially the curious habit of killing. Five lifeguards meet their deaths along these shores. As a consequence of the murders, once-thriving South Beach quickly sheds its glitz and glamour. Panicky tourists flee, reducing the trendy setting to its quintessential components of surf, sand and sun. A jogging club, led by streak runner The Winged Mercury (Merc), suddenly dominates the beachscape. The members of the running club relate the novel’s events in a collective voice, drawing on their many eyes and ears. In the telling, they confess a myriad of obsessive-compulsive disorders: hoarding, tapping, repeating, hair-swallowing, counting, kleptomania, pyromania, Tourette’s syndrome, cleanliness mania, blame mongering, anorexia, bulimia and addiction. The runners replace these disorders with the healthier habit of a daily 8-mile slog through the sand. The Lifeguard Murders also portrays the men and women who bravely safeguard the waters of South Beach. The reader gets an inside glimpse of rescue procedures, training sessions, and daily responsibilities. Despite the heroic portrait, the lifeguards have enemies, as becomes more apparent with each fiendish murder.

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Author of Destiny is essentially a brawl for authorship rights among five participant/ narrators. Among them is the book’s dead namesake Arnaldo Ochoa Sánchez, a real-life Cuban general executed for drug-trafficking in 1989. The melee of voices offers differing versions of events. It soon becomes clear that each spinner has a great stake in the final history of the general.

The principals are: (1) Rool, the brother of Cuba’s then head of state. He seeks to rewin the hearts of the people through General Ochoa’s ‘rehabilitation.’ His disingenuous flattery betrays him as a vituperative backbiter forever caught in the umbra of his older brother; (2) Dell, an academic ghost writer (term papers, theses) sees Author of Destiny as the perfect vehicle for her own suppressed literary musings. A shy type, she is madly in love with the next narrator; (3) Viviana dances in a Miami strip club called the Yalta Agreement. Her father Tarzanovitch was Ochoa’s comrade-in-arms during the African campaigns but now languishes in a Florida prison on a sub-for-drugs charge. A reconfigured history could serve as a get-out-of-jail card for the Russian; (4) Zorn is a sculptor in crisis who hopes to redeem himself through a life-size papier-mâché monument to Ochoa. Its layers of print are the book, a literary ‘embodiment’ of the general; and (5) Ochoa himself relates a chapter from the Beyond. He suggests that he’s made everything up – not just the participants and events of Author of Destiny, but also its audience and the world at large.

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Let’s build something together.


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