I was living in Mexico a few years after Jimmy Hoffa’s famous disappearance. My life there and my background were not unlike my central character Keane’s. (A name I borrowed, though spelled differently, from the old radio detective Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons.)
I knew the Hoffa story, the stories of the characters I call Kayo Colone and Belinda Wolfe, plus many of the others, including Gloria Morris, and I wanted to bring them all together, if I could, in a novel. The distractions of a fiction writer have been keenly noted by many good and great practitioners of our craft, and to add to that theme here would be redundant and call up, for me, too much of the blur and whine of the supermarket press. Suffice to say, I found focus by writing short stories, borrowing details from my main project—and riffing on them—and playing a lot of tennis. “In El Hipo” is the story I like best, which is to say if it was all I got out of my time in Mexico I would be grateful. But, finally, I did finish the novel— The Man Who Saw Hoffa Go Off—which I hope will soon appear, unlike Jimmy.
Gary Gildner has received the National Magazine Award for Fiction, Pushcart Prizes in fiction and nonfiction, and the Iowa Poetry Prize. Among his two dozen books are a new and selected volume of stories, Somewhere Geese Are Flying (2004), and a new edition of The Warsaw Sparks (2008), his 1990 memoir about coaching baseball in communist Poland. Gary’s most recent work in North American Review, “In El Hipo,” appears in Winter 2014 issue 299.1.
Photograph by Stan Shebs.