The Battered Butterfly

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Jake Jacobs is an American writer whose previous two books have been on backgammon. This one is his first thriller. He is American but has lived in eight countries and has had 14 different jobs, ranging from pizza delivery to professional blackjack player. With that varied background he has launched himself into the whirlpool that is book sales.

“The Battered Butterfly” (ISBN 978-1-5008-5103-3, self published, 2014) has an attractive and colorful cover and is set in 1989 in Manila. The central character is Lefty Markowitz, an overweight (280 pounds) ex-New York policeman turned professional gambler.

Lefty is the narrator and has a droll sense of humor. I enjoyed the very original turns of phrase such as “Let yourself be pigeonholed, and you wind up covered with bird shit.” Describing a man sweating where “Mommy Luz stared in fascination at the big clear drops, as though they were crystal balls. Peer in them and see the future.” And you straight away get the picture of a Japanese stand-over merchant “with a nose that looked as if it had been flattened by repeated blows with a shovel: Lefty guessed it had taken the first five blows just to get his attention, and at least another five to hurt him.”

Lefty also states the well known truism of opening a bar as “… a spectacularly bad idea, but fresh idiots are never in short supply, so there are always plenty of bad restaurants and poorly run bars to choose from.” The setting for that was Manila 1989, but it has a mirror image in Pattaya still today.

A bar girl is violently murdered and Lefty finds himself in the middle of the intrigue, much of it caused by his own pig-headedness. The intrigue involves several different groups, all of which are definitely not on Lefty’s side.

The action bowls along at a good pace, using short chapters which have you turning pages frequently.

Another of the other main characters is well known to any SE Asia ex-pat. The guy who owes everyone money, and yet manages, somehow, with a plausible reason to avoid being forced at gunpoint to find the money. However, eventually they all get found out and they have to leave, to go to another ex-pat area in SE Asia where they ingratiate themselves, and borrow money.

As the action rolls on, Lefty finds himself in the drug scene, something he did not want at all.

You also get a potted history of the political scene in the Philippines post Marcos, as the action hots up to a very busy ending, believe me!

I am sure the book is available through Asia Books/Bookazine or through Amazon dot com, but I was given no RRP. Similar books of that genre are generally around THB 450. It is a good read and one warms to the central character Lefty Markowitz whose smart ass nature gets him into more strife than Flash Gordon. However, he is a thinking smart ass and applies logic to the situation, just as he does with his card playing. I enjoyed the book, and Lefty Markowitz.