Leaving Panama’s Paradise: From the Canal Zone to California
I love a good story. What I love more is a good story that gives me a little something extra, a lagniappe, as the Louisiana French might say. That’s just what I got with Julie Bawden-Davis’s debut novel. Mystery, romance, suspense–and a little history lesson about the Panama Canal Zone in the 1970s.
About the Book
Raised in the Canal Zone, Panama, Jesse McMillan never planned on leaving the tropical paradise. But signing of the Torrijos–Carter Treaties in 1977 catapulted him from the American territory to California, where he became an investigative reporter. Exposing a Southern California crack cocaine epidemic in 1989, Jesse finds himself enmeshed with an elusive Mexican mafia drug cartel figure. Panama also makes news when the US upends the country hunting down its military dictator, Manuel Noriega, for drug trafficking.
Shaking up Jesse’s world in a welcome way and making sparks fly, he reunites with Clare, a girlfriend from the Canal Zone. As Jesse’s romance heats up and he continues his increasingly dangerous investigations, a disturbing and potentially deadly connection between his childhood home in Panama and the Mexican mafia emerges. Jesse races to expose truths, uncovering shocking secrets about Canal Zone friends. In the process, he makes peace with leaving Panama.
Information about the Series
The Discovered Truth Series consists of romantic suspense novels featuring complex, gutsy women and equally complicated, charismatic men who find themselves immersed in dangerous and intriguing modern-day challenges such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, national security threats and identity theft. When the heroine and hero meet, worlds collide and sparks fly, kindling unforgettable romance and intrigue. (The series progresses as minor characters introduced in each book become main characters in subsequent books.)
A Look Inside the Book
Panama Canal Zone, June 1977
The rain pelted the bohío’s thatched roof, and Jesse McMillan sighed as the humidity seeped into his pores. For a microsecond, the midday tropical storm stilled the aching in his gut, but the wrenching on his insides returned as he watched through the liquid curtain the tropical land he loved and would soon lose. How he wanted to stand here forever. At least until someone told him Carter wouldn’t sign the treaty that would take away his home.
Hearing a cough, Jesse turned to find Randy Strickland shaking himself off and wiping wisps of red hair out of his face.
“Earth to Jesse! I walked right by you. Where the hell were you?” Randy asked.
Jesse shrugged. “Nowhere.”
“Sometimes I worry.”
“You, worry? Yeah, right,” Jesse said and snorted.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Randy pulled a rumpled Marlboro pack out of his jeans pocket and extracted a joint. “I’m a serious individual.”
Jesse ignored Randy’s lame stab at humor. “Any word from Sam?”
“No. He’s probably hiding out with some buddies and won’t come out until the heat’s off.”
Jesse leaned on the edge of the picnic table that sat under the bohío, gazing out at the gauzy, green landscape. “It’s been three weeks, Randy. He’s probably hidden deep in a Panamanian jail, or maybe he’s tied to cement blocks in the canal.”
“Don’t talk that way, man. You can be a real downer.” Randy took two deep tokes of the joint and offered it to Jesse.
“No, thanks.” Jesse fanned the sweet smell of marijuana out of his face.
Randy raised his eyebrows. “Look, you worry too much. Everything’s under control. Sam will be back soon. I know it.”
“You don’t worry enough,” said Jesse. “You’re playing it way too close.”
Randy’s thin face puckered as he took another toke. Half-moons rimmed the underside of his eyes from late nights partying.
“Listen, as soon as Sam gets back, our operation will be back to normal.”
“Nothing is ever going to be back to normal,” said Jesse.
“You mean the treaty? Things won’t change that much. It’ll be business as usual. Once a Zonian, always a Zonian. Right?”
Jesse opened his mouth to answer, but shut it. Randy obviously didn’t feel the same fist in his heart. He wasn’t on the same brakeless, downhill ride Jesse had been on ever since they heard about the treaty signing.
“Your problem is that you’re just too stressed out, Jess. Stay mellow. Things will be cool. You’ll see,” Randy intoned as he blew a fat, clumsy smoke ring into the heavy air.
The sky rumbled, making conversation impossible. Just as well. Jesse watched transfixed as rain thrashed the leaves of a nearby palm tree, announcing that things would never be the same.
About the Author
Julie Bawden-Davis is a bestselling journalist and author of “Leaving Panama’s Paradise: From the Canal Zone to California”and “Avocado Flowers: From the Orchards of California to the Streets of Mexico”. During her youth as a “Navy brat,” she had the world-expanding experience of living in several states in the US, as well as overseas. Today, she makes her home in Southern California, where she enjoys the year-round gardening climate.
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