Panama is not for the weak or timid souls. This is a beautiful country but it’s also a dangerous place. All manners of peril exist just beyond the ‘next turn in the road.’ Since making Panama my adopted country, I’ve experienced pirates attempting to board my boat, a fistfight with a drunk in the public market, my home was looted – twice in the same year, I was attacked by two knife wielding robbers, and just a year ago I was in a fistfight with a couple of drunks at the local beach.
Being a gringo in a Latin American country is dangerous. Within the last three months, three North Americans have been murdered just in the province of Chiriquí. On a weekly basis, two or three of the narco-gang members in Panama City are found murdered.
All of these murders, the incidents that make the news plus the antics of some of my friends here and in other locals in Latin America, keep me constantly supplied with ideas and inspiration. A few years ago two couples (volunteers in the Peace Corp) fell in love while posted here in Chiriquí. I observed and was pleased as their romance blossomed. Both couple are now married and living in the states. Their romances were also an inspiration for my story
The Diethelene Glycol poisoning deaths were still in the headlines so I decided to include that tragic truth into the story. (Actually they are still in the headlines – 2013)
This novel is a work of fiction but there are some truths included in this story. The two-hundred-thirty-seven deaths in Panama due to medicine manufactured with Diethylene Glycol is the truth. The spread of KPC (Klebsiella Pneumoniae Carbapenemases) in Panamanian Hospitals has killed one-hundred-seventeen folks -- at this writing (September, 2011) – that’s true! Just reporting the facts pertaining to the above atrocities justifies the title of my novel.
About a year before I began the novel, I learned of a gringo in Boquete who had cultivated a field of marijuana and was selling the illegal pot to not only other gringos but some Panamanians as well. Surprise – surprise! He was murdered. That was another point of inspiration for the story of Jimmy Hart and his crew of misfits.
Sue nodded, walked through the rancho, and entered the laundry room. Jimmy took his position in his hammock. “Okay, what’s happening, sport?” Jimmy asked.
Lowdown took the last sip of his beer, crunched the can and pitched into the garbage receptacle.
“Remember the pot growing gringo that was murdered up near Boquete last year?”
Jimmy tried to recall the name of the man but couldn’t. “Yeah, he received the ultimate cure for stupidity. They caught the killers, right?”
“His name was Bart Bartholomew. I was hired by his family to handle their affairs down here. His sister finally came down after the arrests were made. She took over and I was out of the loop. But being the curious sort, I kept up with the case. There were four teenagers involved; they admitted to being his dope distributors, but they denied killing Bart. None of them tested positive for gunshot residue, and the weapon was never found. The slug came from a .357.”
“That caliber is as common as white on rice,” Jimmy quipped.
“Not if it was fired from a Sig Sauer, model P229,” Lowdown stated.
Jimmy chuckled. “They found the weapon?”
“Yep, it was being brandished about by a thirteen year old kid trying to rob a tienda near the marina in Pedregal. The cops caught him in the act,” Lowell chuckled.
Jimmy held out his hand. Lowdown reached into his pocket and handed over a slip of paper in a zip top baggie. Jimmy stuffed the baggie in his shirt pocket. “I’ll run the numbers after the ladies go to bed,” Jimmy stated.
“Yeah, mate, let’s keep the seamier side of my life from the girls,” Lowdown suggested. “The less people know the better.”
Jimmy considered Lowdown’s new evidence. A Sig Sauer weapon was very unusual in Panama. The Panama National police were recently issued Glocks. Prior to that it was mostly a hodgepodge of hand-me-down weapons. No serious effort was made to regulate their weaponry. The Sig had to have been stolen from a gringo. It was a very expensive pistol.
MURDER IN PANAMA is the first of the series. (My Jimmy Hart series). REVOLUTION OF FOOLS is the second, and HART RULES is the third novel that rounds out this trilogy. I’ve truly enjoyed writing these novels because the mirror a lot of people and events I know firsthand.
Jimmy Hart, the main character in this series is an amalgamation of two warriors I’ve known plus my dad-- up close and personal. One was a Marine, stationed at the Naval Communication Station on Guam. Glenn was a member (team leader) of their Overland-Sea-Rescue-Recon team. (Or something like that – 1961 was a long time ago, folks). The other warrior was a Navy SEAL I met while I was on assignment in Vietnam back in the mid-sixties. Both guys were WAY beyond Special Forces. They were super calm, very intelligent, and very polite. They were also extremely lethal.
Barry and I bumped into each other at the airport in San Francisco in 1977; we were on the same plane to Seattle. We stayed in touch over the years. I started the story just before Barry passed away four years ago at the age of 75.