From Charlie Smith, critically acclaimed poet, author of Three Delays, and novelist of “appalling brilliance” (New York Times Book Review) comes the thrilling, moving, and violent story of Cotland Sims, a Miami gangster hellbent on helping his mother—when he steals a trove of emeralds to cover costs, he risks losing everyone he loves
In Men in Miami Hotels, Smith tells the story of Cot Sims, a listing Miami gangster who returns to Key West aiming to—among other things—save his fool-proof mother from homelessness after a recent hurricane. For love, for cash, and for the hell of it, he snatches a trove of emeralds that his boss, the relentlessly vicious Albertson, keeps hidden on a small island. And then trouble, which has been coiling around him for years like a snake, bites.
Cot has forty-eight hours to return the emeralds before items of equal or greater value—namely, the lives of everyone he loves—are repossessed by Albertson and his army of hired gunmen. Fleeing across the Caribbean, Cot blazes a trail of survival, skeltering between the narrowing walls of fate.
The hero of Smith's latest venture into poeticized genre fiction is Cot Sims, a Miami gangster with a fondness for Virgil's Georgics who returns to Key West to visit his estranged mother. Hoping to help her out of financial difficulties, Cot makes the fatal misstep of stealing precious emeralds from his ruthless boss, Albertson. His recklessness unleashes a torrent of reprisals that send him along with his mother, brother, and married sometimes-lover, Marcella on a desperate flight for survival. Dodging bullets and outwitting assassins, Cot struggles with his tempestuous love life and family relationships, all while fighting off a sense of existential homelessness. A poet as well as a novelist, Smith (Three Delays) writes in a curious blend of registers that has the narrative drive of an airplane read and the mystical resonance of verse, juxtaposing lyrical musings on memory and evocative descriptions of the Florida landscape with obligatory twists and betrayals. While the cartoonish violence sometimes seems at odds with the novel's metaphysical depths, Smith nonetheless deserves credit for demonstrating that clich d grindhouse plots are not incompatible with ravishing sentences. The result is a haunting and starkly grim fantasia on love, mourning, and the alienation inflicted by time.