Goodbye Mexico, Phillip Jennings

“Don’t you hate the missions where you have a bunch of people lined up to assassinate someone and then everything gets mixed up and no one knows who’s killing who?” – Gearhardt, Goodbye Mexico

Jack Armstrong has been appointed Chief of Station in Mexico City. His vanity overtakes his humility when he fails to recognize that the only reason he could have been appointed to such a post without knowing a lick of Spanish is not that his skills as a CIA agent are second-to-none, but rather must be in some way connected to the facts that (1) his old pal Gearhardt has pulled some strings to place him exactly there, in that position, in Mexico City, at precisely that time, (2) the near future will involve being instrumental in some sort of international conspiracy plot devised by Gearhardt, like, say, for instance, assassinating the president of Mexico and taking over Cuba (while blaming the whole thing on the “bad” Cubans to help out the “good” Cubans), and (3) there will be members of a litany of factions, organizations and countries involved in this plot, including, but not limited to, the good Cubans, the bad Cubans, the Russians, the CIA, the Mexicans, the Colombians, and an errant pygmy or two.

On the subject of The Pygmy, Jennings writes:

“The Pygmy was a legendary CIA agent. A three-foot bronze man who often wore small animal skins and when stressed spoke by making clicking sounds in this throat. The smell of his cooking fires permeated CIA headquarters at Langley. He alternately bounded and crept through the halls of the Agency. As he rose up through the ranks, he developed a small but loyal following, reportedly assembling his own army of dedicated Pygmy troops, whom he used for his own black operations. And they were also a softball team.” (p. 35)

Whether Jack will ever come face-to-face with the Pygmy remains a mystery throughout most of the novel; likewise, Jack’s ignorance of his present and future situation continues even after Gearhardt shows up and begins to give details of his, or, rather, their mission. This is because Gearhardt unravels the facts of the plan on a need-to-know basis, throwing in some occasional curve balls when the plan involves Gearhardt’s making Jack need-to-know something that isn’t true so that he will act in a certain way. As such, the plan unravels with clues and red herrings something like a mystery novel, to both Jack and the reader.

Gearhardt, the ex-marine turned renegade CIA operative who gets his information via teletype from an international network of bordellos and massage parlors, is a comic masterpiece as a character; something of a wisecracking, womanizing Hawkeye Pierce with his zero tolerance for authority, sprinkled with a touch of James Bond and his charms that enable him to cement international connections wherever he steps foot, topped off with a dab of Rambo's ability to handle himself and his need for a mission that involves overwhelming firepower, and covered finally with a Teflon-like layer of cartoonesque bulletproofness.

Phillip Jennings’ GoodBye Mexico, his sequel to the 2005 Vietnam farce Nam-A-Rama, is a terrifically funny romp through the world of international espionage, covert operations and nation building. Will the Sisterhood of Prostitutes make all of Cuba a red-light district? Will the “good” Cubans take over Mexico? Or will the Catholic Church take over Cuba? The answers may even surprise Gearhardt.

“Love makes you do strange things. I was once so in love I bought a trombone.” – Gearhardt, Goodbye Mexico


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