In 1938, two rival expeditions set off for a lost Mayan temple in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a screwball comedy on location there, the other intending to disassemble it and ship it back to New York. A seemingly endless stalemate ensues, and twenty years later, when a rogue CIA agent learns that both expeditions are still out in the wilderness, he embarks on a mission to exploit the temple as a geopolitical pawn. But the mission hurtles towards disaster when he discovers that the temple is the locus of grander conspiracies than anyone could have guessed.
In this rowdy, thoroughly satisfying literary adventure, Beauman (Glow) takes readers deep into the jungle of Honduras. An eclectic Hollywood film crew sets out to film on location at a mysterious Mayan temple, but they arrive to find that another group of Americans got there the day before and is disassembling the temple in order to take it back as a trophy for their wealthy benefactor. There is a standoff between the two groups: the days turn into weeks and the weeks into years. After 18 years, the two factions have turned into minisocieties acting out a sort of proxy war on behalf of their two backers. The extensive cast includes a relentless newspaper gossip columnist on one side and a burgeoning ethnologist on the other. Somehow, the film crew uses the silver they find to manufacture film stock from scratch and produce millions of feet of footage that ultimately end up in a secret government archive. Yet, the mystery that eludes both camps and the reason secret agents are circling the situation is what's inside the temple itself. Exquisitely comic and absurd, Beauman's imaginative novel brims with the snappy dialogue, vivid scenery, and converging story lines of an old Hollywood classic; it also says something essential about the nature of film and memory.