“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” No, it is not a scene, with an accompanying historical line of de The Godfather, but one of the highlights of the novel Cry Macho written by Richard Nash and published by Full day bookshop, in these hours in the bookstore, and of which FQMagazine offers you a preview excerpt. A close dialogue between Howard Polk and Mike Milo where the former proposes to the latter to take, or even better to kidnap, his own son who lives in Mexico under the tutelage of a lascivious mother.
Emotional surprise, narrative turning point, quick showdown between Milo, an elderly rodeo star still forced to perform in increasingly heavy shows for his physique, and his hasty and arrogant ex boss. Milo will activate from Texas to Mexico City, and back, picking up that little boy so little loved by his parents who is harboring anger. The stormy relationship between the two will develop between character unknowns, pursuits, and finally a curious empathy because the two have something very deep in common. From this book dated 1975 it was taken a film directed by Clint Eastwood, who also plays the role of the protagonist Milo, a work that will have its Italian premiere at the Turin Film Festival on 1 December 2021.
Nash’s book had been adapted several times in the late seventies by some Hollywood studios with the interest of big stars for the character of Milo as Roy Scheider, Burt Lancaster, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Pierce Brosnan, and also Eastwood himself at the time not even fifty years old, but his realization on the big screen came posthumously. Nash died in 2000.
HERE IS AN EXCLUSIVE EXTRACT:
He did not hear the footsteps. He had no idea how long the man had stood outside the open door, indistinguishable in the dark. He was sure they were going to rob him.
“Who is it?” He asked.
The man stepped forward to the light. It was Howard Polk.
“May I come in?” He asked.
Mike just stared at him. Howard had never come to see him, but the riddle went beyond what the man was doing there. His presence was just a big mess in terms of timing, place, circumstances. Howard obviously noticed Mike’s perplexity, smiled and, without waiting to be invited, entered.
“What do you want?” Hissed Mike.
“Did you say something about alimony …” He broke off, as if hoping Mike would finish the sentence for him. Mike didn’t. Howard continued, “It made me think …” Another pause.
Polk filled it himself, with a movement. He reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a wallet, pulled out something.
“I’d like you to take a look at a photo,” Howard said.
She reached out, handing him the snapshot. Mike didn’t understand at first. Turning it towards the light, she saw that it was a close-up of a preschool-aged child, perhaps an older one. A handsome boy, Latin, with a winking face that could have concealed an evil soul, a handsome boy, well dressed, well fed.
“What you’re looking at is a photo of my son,” Howard said. “His name is Rafael. She was six when she was taken. Now he’s nearly eleven. ‘
Mike handed the photo back to him. “A beautiful baby.” Standard comment. Vague.
“Yes,” Howard replied. “I haven’t seen him for five years.”
“A lot of time”.
“I miss her”.
Mike couldn’t imagine Howard was missing anyone, not even for five minutes. Polk seemed to have guessed his thoughts. He sounded more amused than defensive. “A father may miss a child for five years.”
“If there is a reason.”
Howard nodded, appreciating Mike for his insight. “Exactly”.
“What’s the reason?”
“I want you to kidnap him.”
Without inflection. Calm. Traffic warden.
Mike tried to imitate Howard’s attitude. “Kidnap?” To his mother? ”
“You have all the money in the world … how much more do you want?”
“Only what’s mine,” Howard said. Mike wondered if it was resentment what he heard in the man’s voice, or if he was just imagining it. “He will pay the ransom… with my money. It just seems right. “
“I understand,” Mike said. He was right: resentment. A small telltale sign of Howard’s grudge. Maybe it said something about the money itself, or about the spite of divorce. “Well, not exactly,” he added.
“I met my wife here in Texas.” Howard spoke as if he were reading notes. “She’s Mexican… she was on a trip. Like me. We got married, had a son and lived in Dallas for a while, then in New York. At the time, I was making investments… big investments in Mexico City. Since we can’t own property in Mexico – we Yankees, I mean… it’s a convoluted law – I made it all out to my wife. There are hundreds of better ways to do this, but not when you are in love and think your marriage will last forever. ” He smiled without glee. “Well, the marriage contract didn’t last, but everyone else did. Real estate, a mining company, all of it. ” He was silent for a moment, looked away, then spoke in a studiously friendly voice. “I would like to reopen negotiations with you.”
“Why do not you do that?”
“I have nothing you want,” he said with perfect candor. “But if I took Rafo away from her, it would lift the veto at the negotiating table.”
“You tried without him, of course.”
“I’ve spent over two hundred thousand dollars on lawyers,” Polk said. And now she was turning the question to him. “If I had Rafo, it would cost me a lot less.”
“Would you do it for fifty thousand dollars?”
Howard studied it. “How many?”
“I’m not a kidnapper.”
Even though he had been the first to use that word, he now sounded indignant. “Don’t use that word … he’s my son.”
“It’s not a crime, Michael,” he said with quiet reasonableness.
It was too weird, Mike thought. “Why me?” He said. “If you think I would be able to do such a thing …!”
Howard misunderstood “I would be able”. “Oh, but you are perfectly capable,” he said quietly. “You don’t need any special skills … not the way I thought it was.” Then, with excessive affability: «If anything, you are too qualified. Now, if you have other objections … ”
“Yes, I have them.”
“You hate me to death.”
“It is worth bearing in mind.” Howard grinned. “Let’s not get distracted by the details, you’ve already worked for me.” Then, with a touch of mischief: “Besides, do you think I’d trust anyone who claims to like me?”
This was getting more and more bizarre: Polk had chosen him because Mike’s honesty made him fit for a dishonest job.
Howard seemed to sense that Mike was getting angry. He added hastily, “There’s nothing wrong with that, Michael. I’m not even sure it’s illegal. ‘
Mike blurted out, “What the hell are you telling me? … that I should just take a son back to his loving father? … Is that all? What would happen if I was stopped by the Mexican police? You would leave me to soak without thinking twice! ”
“Well,” Howard said, “I should stay out of it. Certainly until the boy gets here. ‘
“He won’t come here… not with me! Goodnight, Polk. ‘
Howard did not leave. Suddenly Mike was amazed at himself. What was he doing, arguing about that thing? Why hadn’t he simply said no, unambiguously, without replying? “Go away,” Mike said.
“Not yet, Michael,” he said calmly. “It really is a lot easier than you think. I’ve just…”
“Would you like to listen, please? I just bought a van, a delivery van. You will drive him there to go on vacation. ‘
Mike said in a low voice, “First I’ll punch you, then I’ll kick you down the stairs.”
‘Stupid son of a bitch! Do you know what will happen to you? You will come to a bad end. Just like the other rodeo cowboys – booze, whores – and you’ll find yourself at the bottom of the slope. You’ve been close to it once before, remember? And this time there will be nothing to stop the fall because you have nothing to hold on to. No money. This is a foothold, Michael. In all the years you’ve spent on a horse, you haven’t been able to piece together such a sum. A nest egg for difficult times. And I’m offering it to you: fifty thousand! It will give you time to change your life… look for a job… relocate yourself. Give yourself a chance! ”
Not a muscle moved on Mike’s face. The man left. Mike stood still.
He heard Howard come down the stairs. Even though he knew the footsteps were receding, he had the abhorrent feeling that if he didn’t close the door, they would approach again.
He had to keep himself busy. The apartment was in need of a cleaning. He began to clean. Then he stopped. It wasn’t housekeeping that he needed.
He had to do something. For someone. This was the secret; it was often the secret when it came to him: to do something for someone. It distracted him from himself, allowed him to identify with other people’s feelings. It made him feel generous, worthy, it made him feel like he had the right to ask for something from life. If only he had someone to do something for.
Courtesy of William Morris Endeavor and Libreria Pienogiorno. © 2021 FullDay srl, Milan / © N. Richard Nash