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TROPICAL DOWNS A NEW NOVEL BY MARK CRAMER

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New from Mark Cramer TROPICAL DOWNS, a novel of peril and misadventure in search for the elusive automatic bet.

For horseplayer and jazz pianist Matt Bosch it looks easy. All he has to do is meet an entrepreneur in South America, secure a signature for a new off-shore race track, and collect a hundred grand. But when he gets there, he finds himself on an obstacle course of seemingly insurmountable traps. He becomes embroiled in a violent land conflict, is forced to do business with an unsavory underworld, and collides with the principled opposition of his own wife.  An exotic call girl supposedly comes to the rescue, but what ultimate sacrifice is she demanding in return?  Along the way, he continues his search for the elusive automatic bet, making discoveries that are only possible to envision from afar. He wonders whether he’ll ever be able to return to his favorite spot by the rail at Laurel.

Tropical Downs may be the first crime novel whose main character is a serious horse race handicapper and researcher, and probably the first to make the exquisite comparison between hitting a pick six and committing the perfect crime (“the ultimate exotic”).

Characters:

Panama Slim, a California real estate mogul and intimidating control freak who will stop at nothing to “outsource” an American race track in Bolivia.

Matt Bosch takes calculated risks when playing the horses but uncalculated risks by becoming Panama Slim’s salesman, in expectation that one single commission will give him enough bankroll to play the horses without depending on tips from his jazz piano gigs. But the contract that Slim wants signed is already agreed upon by Slim’s Bolivian partners. So what does Slim really want from Matt?

Vince was a SoCal bookie until multi-card simulcasting ruined his business. He then opened an eclectic book store that featured horse racing in the front and pornography in the back. Matt can depend on his friend Vince for putting in his action because he’s honest. In fact he’s the opposite of a pathological liar. He’s a compulsive truth teller. His bluntness had led to the breakup of three marriages, and could get Matt in trouble.

Manual Arce (arsay), a consummate gardener and authentic Bolivian aristocrat with a dark past from the days of the dictatorships, his race track plans (with Panama Slim) are temporarily on hold because the “Landless Peasants” are legal squatters on the unused land that had been set aside for the race track. The peasants don’t trust Arce and they don’t trust Slim, so enter Matt, who is expected to know how to improvise his way through cultural barriers and find a solution.

Sonia is Matt’s principled and Socratic wife, with a latent dream of becoming a Mother Teresa. She lands a volunteer accounting job with missionaries called the Marianela Sisters and becomes their spokesperson. The Marianelas are great supporters of the Landless Peasants. What will she think and do when she discovers her husband’s real job, as conceived by Panama Slim?

Muñeca is a dazzling call girl in search of revenge. She’s in a position to help Matt but what will she demand in return? Impulsive but calculating, she has a dangerous plan.

Rolando Katari, enigmatic peasant leader who stands in the way of the race track but takes a liking for Matt.

Marv, a friend of Matt, ethnologist, left-handed slugger playing first base in sandlot baseball games at 12,000 feet above sea level, also consul at the American embassy, and unwitting accomplice.

Mark says: “Midway through my rewrites of Tropical Downs, I submitted the manuscript to critical readers whom I could depend on for a frank and no-nonsense appraisal. Here are some of their comments: 

Alan K writes: “Scared Money was a fine starter but Tropical Downs is the main course.”

Ken W writes: “Has this ever gotten terrific! You have a tremendous vehicle here for “double marketing”. Those of us who LOVE to learn about faraway places are enthralled by all the insight you give us in Tropical Downs on South America. Your parallel market is the horse player, since you reveal all of your current, validated research.  So, I hope your publisher will find a way to tempt each category when it is separate, and absolutely persuade those (like me) who fall into both categories.”

Julian B read the book and contributed a blurb: “Tropical Downs is an amazing return to fiction from horse race handicapping's most creative thinker, Mark Cramer.  The crime novel is more than just a conduit to reveal his ground-breaking wagering insights -- it is a fast-paced, uncommon whodunit (and especially "who will do it") that never fails to surprise. Now we can learn more about winning at our game and enjoy Cramer's gifted storytelling.”

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