Review by Mike Dennis, 2010
“Nobody wants to come downtown anymore. They tell you it’s like coming to a foreign country.”
That’s the sentiment expressed by a Miami native in Street 8, a hot-blooded 1977 noir novel by Douglas Fairbairn.
The title street, an English translation of Calle Ocho, the main drag of Miami’s Little Havana, is the site of Bobby Mead’s used car lot. Out of habit, Bobby still calls it by its original name, Southwest 8th Street, and from the office window of his lot, he’s seen Miami transformed from a sleepy, one-season tourist town into a vibrant Latin city.
The Cubans are everywhere. They’re even buying cars from him, so for the first time, he hires a Cuban salesman, Oscar Pérez, to accommodate them. Oscar, however, soon becomes embroiled in the hornets’ nest of exile politics, and the trouble begins.
The problem with Miami’s exile community in 1977 is that, while they’re committed to eliminating Fidel Castro, they also want to wipe out his sympathizers and spies who have infiltrated their organizations. But exactly who is who?
Told entirely from Bobby Mead’s point of view, Street 8 allows him no letup. His world is contracting around him, threatening to choke him, and not even his ratty South Beach hotel room offers him any sanctuary. He has a teenage daughter, but his incredibly twisted relationship with her only serves to further cut him off from the city he once loved.
Fairbairn deftly ushers the reader through the dark fringes of the byzantine world of Miami Cubans. These were the pre-cocaine-cowboy and pre-Miami-Vice days, and we eventually learn that some of them are more interested in acquiring power in Miami itself than they are in retaking their homeland to the south.
This little-known novel is an excellent noir tale, highly recommended, as it offers an uncompromising look at one man caught up in a city’s convulsive transition.