November 13, 2006

Podcast of Preston Allen's "Full Metal Sonrisa"

Preston AllenThe story, "Full Metal Sonrisa," is from a collection entitled "Full Metal Jitney." I am also toying with the idea of calling it "Terror Gang," but I am afraid of what the word "terror" might imply these days to the American reader. My Terror Gang is not a foreign threat appearing suddenly on homeland soil, but a home-grown throwback to the wild and roaring desperados of the late 20s--in fact, the Dillinger Gang called itself the Terror Gang, and that is my model. My guys, the protagonists of the various pieces, become this neo-Terror Gang, and they are within the plot, actual blood descendents of the original desperados of the 20s and 30s. For example, the group recruits the protagonist of “Full Metal Sonrisa,” Clyde Saxony, (later to be called Killer Clyde Saxony, great-grand nephew of Clyde Barrow) when he has nowhere else to turn. It works like that. Despite the implication, the Terror Gang, however, is not a mere repository for outcasts, but a gathering of those whom the violence of North American culture (Miami, to be specific) has transformed, and Clyde Saxony represents a truly atavistic American kind of hero: the self-made man, the rugged individualist, the anti-hero, the badman--the kind of hero that inspires in us equal doses of admiration and fear.

Schoolteacher Clyde Saxony is important because he begins the "plot" of the collection (if a collection of variously themed stories can be said to have a plot) with his crime and he ends it with his death. Note also, that he is African American, though of the Barrow (white) bloodline. While there is no story in the collection that focuses on race, blacks and whites in the book seem always to be appearing "related" to each other, by actual blood or through thematic action; and well they should, since this is subtlety a book about history and the history of America is certainly written in black and white blood. So, although the un-named white protagonist in "Strong," (another story from the collection) makes it clear that he is not black, he speaks in Ebonics, walks with a swagger that originates in the black community, and has religious southern-born parents who sing black gospel hymns. I think that I'm trying to say that for good or ill, we're all in this together, or something like that.

Preston L. Allen is the author of the novels Hoochie Mama, Bounce, Come with Me, Sheba, and the short story collection Churchboys and Other Sinners. His stories have also appeared in several of the Brown Sugar series. Preston is the winner of the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Literature and a recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Fiction. He lives in Miami, Florida.

Pictures from “An Evening with Preston Allen.”
In order to protect myself, this story comes with a parental advisory because it contains realistic depictions of adult life that may be disturbing to some people.


Fiction, books, African American writers, South Florida writers, Authors

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