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Moondogs

Cover of Moondogs

Moondogs

A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow
A singularly effervescent novel pivoting around the disappearance of an American businessman in the Philippines and the long-suffering son, jilted lover, slick police commissioner, misguided villain, and supernatural saviors who all want a piece of him.
Mourning the recent loss of his mother, twentysome­thing Benicio—aka Benny—travels to Manila to reconnect with his estranged father, Howard. But when he arrives his father is nowhere to be found—leaving an irri­tated son to conclude that Howard has let him down for the umpteenth time. However, his father has actually been kid­napped by a meth-addled cabdriver, with grand plans to sell him to local terrorists as bait in the country's never-ending power struggle between insurgents, separatists, and "demo­cratic" muscle.
Benicio's search for Howard reveals more about his father's womanizing ways and suspicious business deals, reopening the old hurts that he'd hoped to mend. Interspersed with the son's inquiry and the father's calamitous life in captivity are the high-octane interconnecting narratives of Reynato Ocampo, the local celebrity-hero policeman charged with rescuing Howard; Ocampo's ragtag team of wizardry-infused soldiers; and Monique, a novice officer at the American embassy whose family still feels feverishly unmoored in the Philippines.
With blistering forward momentum, crackling dialogue, wonderfully bizarre turns, and glimpses into both Filipino and expat culture, the novel marches toward a stunning cli­max, which ultimately challenges our conventional ideas of family and identity and introduces Yates as a powerful new voice in contemporary literature.
A singularly effervescent novel pivoting around the disappearance of an American businessman in the Philippines and the long-suffering son, jilted lover, slick police commissioner, misguided villain, and supernatural saviors who all want a piece of him.
Mourning the recent loss of his mother, twentysome­thing Benicio—aka Benny—travels to Manila to reconnect with his estranged father, Howard. But when he arrives his father is nowhere to be found—leaving an irri­tated son to conclude that Howard has let him down for the umpteenth time. However, his father has actually been kid­napped by a meth-addled cabdriver, with grand plans to sell him to local terrorists as bait in the country's never-ending power struggle between insurgents, separatists, and "demo­cratic" muscle.
Benicio's search for Howard reveals more about his father's womanizing ways and suspicious business deals, reopening the old hurts that he'd hoped to mend. Interspersed with the son's inquiry and the father's calamitous life in captivity are the high-octane interconnecting narratives of Reynato Ocampo, the local celebrity-hero policeman charged with rescuing Howard; Ocampo's ragtag team of wizardry-infused soldiers; and Monique, a novice officer at the American embassy whose family still feels feverishly unmoored in the Philippines.
With blistering forward momentum, crackling dialogue, wonderfully bizarre turns, and glimpses into both Filipino and expat culture, the novel marches toward a stunning cli­max, which ultimately challenges our conventional ideas of family and identity and introduces Yates as a powerful new voice in contemporary literature.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1

    mr. orange

    A man and a rooster exit a taxi idling on a crowded street. The man is short and thin, and the rooster is green, and the rooster belongs to him. The taxi belongs to him as well. He's wearing a fresh shirt, the blood all washed out, and his polyester slacks shine a little in the afternoon light. He's too young to be balding, but is. His mouth is a rotten mess, owing to bad hygiene and a shabu habit. His name is Ignacio. He and the rooster are villains.

    Ignacio grips the open taxi door and stretches his legs. It feels good to be standing. The drive south from Manila should have taken only an hour, but he demanded that Littleboy--his idiot brother--make wrong turns so they'd be harder to follow. He'd barked instructions from the backseat, where he and Kelog pored over a soggy map and planned intricate double-backs. Kelog is the rooster. He's named Kelog because he's green, with red and orange in his tail, and a blood-red comb, like the rooster on the cereal. He used to be a fighting cock. He still would be, if not for the onset of blindness. He's retired now.

    Littleboy stays in the family taxi, drumming his fingers on the wheel and singing along to the SexBomb Girls on the radio. Littleboy loves the family taxi. He never minds picking up Ignacio's shifts, and people tip him better, because he's a safer driver and doesn't look so scary. He looks big and soft. When the song ends he leans out the window and calls over to his brother.

    "Is this it, Iggy? Are we there yet?"

    "Not so loud, dummy!" Ignacio shouts. "What did I tell you?"

    Littleboy looks embarrassed and squints. He hadn't been loud at all.

    Ignacio holds Kelog tight and releases the open taxi door like a mother's hand. He steps into the after-lunch foot traffic, searches out a number above the shops and checks it with the address he'd written on his palm the night before. They're in the right spot--or close to it at least. They'll walk the final distance on side streets, just to be safe.

    "Go park the car," Ignacio says. "I'll make sure we're alone."

    "Be careful," Littleboy says, thumbing the scented Virgin Mother statuette on the dashboard. Ignacio watches him courteously reenter the slow moving traffic and then signal--who signals?--at the intersection ahead. He again thinks that maybe his brother isn't up to today's challenge. On a whole bunch of levels. Like maybe he's too softhearted. Or maybe he doesn't have sense enough to know he should be scared. Ignacio sure has sense enough. He's terrified. He appreciates the seriousness of the shit he's starting.

    Ignacio shifts Kelog to his other arm, leans against the concrete wall of a store selling toilets and bathtubs and tries his utmost to look nonchalant. He scans the noisy street, all bathed in sweat from an unusually hot mid-May, even for the Philippines. Power lines sag dangerously low over speeding buses and jeepneys. Women hawk cool juice and duck eggs from tin kiosks, while men in a repair shop fold up their shirts to air out their guts. Two children chase a scalded cat down the sidewalk, but they get distracted by Kelog, and the cat escapes. "Is that a fighting cock, mister?" they ask. Kelog eyes the general area of the children with hungry disdain, and Ignacio tells them to beat it.

    "Who are you talking to, pussy?" the smaller one says in a high, lovely voice. "This isn't your neighborhood, Manileño!"

    The boys goose their crotches, spit near his shoes and run down the gravel sidewalk laughing. Ignacio presses himself into the shop wall and watches them go. He knows he looks out of place. But he's on the lookout for people even more out of place--scanning the...

About the Author-
  • ALEXANDER YATES grew up in Haiti, Mexico, Bolivia, and the Philippines. He holds an MFA from Syracuse University, and his short story "Everything, Clearly" will appear in the 2010 American Fiction: Best Short Stories by Emerging Writers.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 15, 2010
    Yates's flamboyantly overstuffed debut brings a colorful panoply of characters to the Philippines, where corruption, hedonism, culture clashes, and a touch of magic lead to massive misadventure. Reeling from the death of his mom, Benicio ditches a burgeoning romance to head to Manila, where his long-estranged dad, Howard, is ostensibly living the high life. But when Benicio arrives, Howard is nowhere to be found, and Benicio eventually learns that Howard has been kidnapped by a gang that hopes to exploit the war on terror to make bank with their American hostage. Meanwhile, American embassy worker Monique is carrying on an affair and letting her family life deteriorate until the Howard situation upends her life. Rounding out the cast of those involved, in one way or another, with the kidnapping are an elite group of soldiers with rough manners and superpowers; Howard's local associates; a vengeful prostitute; Reynato Ocampo, a badass cop who's inspired a series of hit films; and the star of the Ocampo movies, who sees politics in his future. The explosive array of personalities and coincidences moves at a breakneck pace, but the massive cast and jumble of (sometimes brutally violent) plots threaten to smother the heart of this unruly adventure: a surprisingly touching story of a son and his parents.

  • Wall Street Journal

    "Dazzling....engaging....Mr. Yate's most impressive feat is to synchronize a sort of gradual reconciliation between the father and son without the two even meeting. But that is only half of the action....[and] Mr. Yates attacks this twist with shoot-'em-up verve.....readers will be gratified by the ambition and raw energy on the display in this particularly promising debut"

  • The Boston Globe
    "Weird and weirdly affecting Philippines-set novel. The multiple story lines -- involving an American businessman, his bumbling kidnappers, his estranged son, an embassy worker having an affair with a Filipino national hero, and an A-Team of supernaturally enhanced soldiers -- languorously intertwine, thankfully without the soulless Swiss-watch efficiency that often governs books with such large casts. Yates, who spent part of his youth on the archipelago, caulks the cracks with local detail, but leaves enough room for Moondogs' narrative to breathe." --Entertainment Weekly

    "[A] debut novel that combines magical realism, geopolitics, and comic book-style superheroics with shoot-'em-up action, domestic drama, and daddy issues..... fizzy, funny, and tone-perfect....highly entertaining.... Yates achieves an extraordinary synthesis of tenderness and brutality, making us question our own sympathies"
  • Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child and Angels of Destruction "MOONDOGS is the thrilla' in Manila, a rollicking mash-up of magic and mayhem that grabs you by the collar and won't let go. Alexander Yates sizzles."
  • Arthur Flowers, author of Another Good Loving Blues "Yates is the real thing; a unique literary voice and natural storyteller with indelible characters, thrill-ride geopolitics and narrative mastery"
  • Roy Kesey, author of All Over and the upcoming Pacazo "The greatest of Yates' many talents is his ability to make us feel like insiders in so many different worlds and minds. He has Elmore Leonard's logistical chops and Charles Portis' sense of humor but the juggling act of MOONDOGS is entirely his own--and nothing ever touches the ground."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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A Novel
Alexander Yates
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