Mark Smith is one of America’s finest writers, and SMOKE STREET is his most daring novel to date. Set in a revolution-torn Central American capital, it follows the trail of McQuade, a young sailor from the Midwest frantically searching for his hometown sweetheart, who has been teaching in a mountain village. Along the way he confronts mysterious and desperate characters at the American Embassy, a suspicious commercial organization known as “The Seafarers,” a cargo ship in the harbor and a city jail. During a guerrilla attack, McQuade is wounded and starts to lose his grip on an already tenuous reality. He begins to doubt not only his surroundings but also his own hopes and desires.
Using the madness and chaos of war as a background for the illogicality and fragility of the human mind, SMOKE STREET is a tale that is alternately dream-like and sobering, lyrical and horrifying. The world it describes is one in which hallucinations and fears become indistinguishable from actual corruption and violence. It is a provocative foray into a surrealistic arena of Central American revolution and universal human longing.
Yet beneath its surrealism, the novel belongs to a classic American vein of storytelling in which innocence encounters evil and youth becomes tainted by experience. A variation on the romantic adventure story, SMOKE STREET is filled with escapes, chases and near-executions. The characters include a virtuous beauty, a weak-kneed bureaucrat, and a mercenary with a good heart. And there is our hero, the young McQuade, although the novel brings into question the very ideas of heroes and heroism, romance and adventure.