By Robert Friedman
ULYSSES IN SAN JUAN
Book 3 of the Puerto Rico Trilogy
The third and final book in The Puerto Rico Trilogy, Ulysses in San Juan follows the relationship between Wolf, a concentration camp survivor who has come to Puerto Rico to try to build a new life, and Carmen, a drug addict. Set in 1980, the novel also tracks the path of a young Newyorican trying to find his way in the world.
Puerto Rico Expert
I was born and bred in and branded by the Bronx, lived my post-teenage years in, among other places, Fort Campbell, Kentucky (U.S. Army 2 years). Athens (in Ohio for college, in Greece a journalist for the Athens News); Sweden (as a student at the International Graduate School for English-speaking Students at the University of Stockholm); Paris (1 year on the Left Bank, of course), Puerto Rico (more than 20 years as a journalist for the San Juan Star and correspondent for the New York Daily News) and in and around the nation’s capital as Washington correspondent for the Star before the newspaper forever folded its pages in 2009.
So far, all the novels are set in Puerto Rico, where my head and my heart have remained for so many years. I’m currently living in Maryland.
The Puerto Rico Trilogy
Ulysses in San Juan, The concluding novel follows the relationship between Wolf, a concentration camp survivor who has come to Puerto Rico to try to build a new life, and Carmen, a drug addict. Set in 1980, the novel takes the reader on a trip into the San Juan underworld, as well as to other island sites, to meet crooked and upright and deeply human characters. The survival theme is extended to Stevie Diaz, a young Newyorican who has recently returned to the island and is searching, through his writing, to find out where he is truly at.
An editor’s note: The first two books in the Trilogy were published earlier, then rewritten somewhat and had its titles changed. The Odyssey of Pablo Camino was called Shadow of the Fathers, and The Definig Sea was titled The Surrounding Sea
“A wonderful novel that gives you an inside look at what life was like in Puerto Rico for people who were born there, who returned there or who tried to make it their home. . . A memorable story of the hard-won compassion that comes with being a survivor.”
Michele Orwin, Author of Waiting For Next Week
The Defining Sea, book two of the Puerto Rico Trilogy, is a coming-of-age novel that follows the misadventures of Richie Peréz, a 20-year-old University of Puerto Rico student. Richie’s girlfriend is killed by police during a campus protest against the Navy for its decades-long bombing exercises on the offshore Puerto Rico island of Vieques. In order to raise money for a scholarship in her name, Richie becomes a drug runner between the island and the states, learning hard truths along the way about life, love and loss.
“Grabs us on the very first page and takes us on an exciting journey. This is a gripping account of lost love, the temptation of the drug trade, the island’s complex relationship with the United States, the dual world of Puerto Ricans in the diaspora and the struggle to survive in a difficult world. A truly memorable, touching story.”
Kal Wagenheim, author, playwright, editor of The Puerto Ricans: A Documentary History
“A crackling tale of contemporary Caribbean colonialism that cuts like a switchblade between tragic political expose, tense crime thriller and rollicking epic quest.”
Hispanic Link News Service
In the first book, The Odyssey of Pablo Camino, a well-known Puerto Rican artist goes on a search for the truth of the possible murderous past of his dead father, Cornelius Rhodes, an Americano doctor sent to the island for research. The doctor claimed in a letter that he purposely killed eight of his patients because of his disdain for the “natives.” Personal obsessions and public events collide as the novel’s characters grapple with lies, false identities, puzzling connections, U.S. wars and colonialism.
“Robert Friedman has managed to blend the mystery tale and a politically charged event to create a masterful literary novel that addresses contemporary issues of global human significance.”
Edgardo Vega Yunqué, PEN award-winning Puerto Rican author
“Friedman meticulously and faithfully creates the Puerto Rican setting. . . . In this book, a Puerto Rican theme translates into a North American novel that recognizes Puerto Rico’s complex reality, both the internal struggles and those that come with colonial relations, and does so without the usual clichés.”
Carmen Dolores Hernández, El Nuevo Dia
“This is such an engrossing story that it’s easy to imagine it being made into an exciting and serious film.”
(Denver) Rocky Mountain News
Caribbean Dreams (British-American Publishing, Latham, NY) Set on the fictitious Caribbean island of Colón, a U.S. colony that strongly resembles Puerto Rico, the serio-satirical novel revolves around the “kidnapping” of Yanqui entrepreneur Barry Noble’s historic Packard—FDR rode in it—by anti-American supporters of the island’s independence. In a more serious vein, the plot also involves the investigation by newspaper reporter Mickey Melendez into the killing of two leaders of poor, homeless families who have squatted on land owned by foreign developers.
“A vastly entertaining work. . . . Humor and excitement blend superbly here.
Brad Hooper, Booklist
Island Wildlife: Exiles, Expats and Exotic Others (Savant Books and Publications, Honolulu, HI) The book is composed of interconnected stories about denizens of a beachfront guesthouse in Puerto Rico. The mostly off-beat characters are struggling to straighten out off-kilter lives that have become filled with fear, sadness and, for the reader, much dark humor.
Under a Dark Sun (Floricanto Press Mountain View, CA) The novel, also set in Colón, features New York-raised Sara Vazquez, a photographer, who returns to the island of her birth, looking for a place she can truly call home. Sara witnesses a murder and is soon caught up in the underside of life on the island. She turns to Nick Ortiz, a reporter, and together they go up against the conspiracies and deceit that increasingly menace Sara’s life.
“An excellent yarn. Friedman’s reporter’s eye and intimate knowledge of . . . Puerto Rican realities make Under a Dark Sun a very plausible and enjoyable book.”
Rafael Matos, San Juan Star
“A vastly entertaining work. . . . Humor and excitement blend superbly here.”
– Brad Hooper, Booklist
Robert will be visiting Miami in December. Stay tuned for upcoming dates and appearances in South Florida and other locations.
My Writing Blog
I suppose it behooves me, as a onetime journalist for the San Juan Star (20+ years on the island, 10+ years in Washington, D.C.), to say something about what recently went down in Puerto Rico. The demonstrations there were wonderful, the demonstrators put a new,...
Edgardo Vega Yunqué, who at his best was as inventive, piercing, poignant and hilarious as any writer going today.
Meet Robert at the Miami Book Fair.
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