The young journalist Jack Kemp leaves New York to work at a reputable paper in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he becomes embroiled in a boozy love affair. In the summer of 1959, 22-year-old journalist Jack Kemp leaves his home town of New York to work for The Daily News in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While intoxicated on Rum, Kemp spots a beautiful girl on the plane ride to Puerto Rico. He tries to sit next to her, but is blocked by an older gentleman who takes the open seat.
When Kemp arrives at his first day of work he is introduced to Sala, the paper's staff photographer. Sala serves as a twisted mentor for Kemp and shows him all the important ex-pat spots, including a burger bar where they eat dinner. Kemp also meets an older American reporter at the paper named Yeamon. Yeamon demonstrates little interest in Kemp, and Sala warns the bright-eyed newbie that Yeamon is not a man to be trifled with. Kemp realizes that the newspaper is poorly run, with little to no supervision from the absentee editor & chief.
Despite Sala's warnings, Kemp accepts an invitation to visit Yeamon at his home. When he arrives, Yeamon is caught skinny dipping with his beautiful young wife, Chenault. Kemp realizes that Chenault is the woman he briefly encountered on the plane. Chenault and Yeamon prepare a meal for Kemp and Kemp observes Yeamon belittling and generally mistreating his wife. Still somewhat wary of Yeamon, Kemp keeps his mouth shut.
Back at the paper, the editor asks Kemp to rewrite an overlong article drafted by Yeamon. Yeamon refuses to cooperate and is promptly fired. Yeamon goes home and beats Chenault. Sala & Kemp, concerned for Yeamon's mental state, go to visit him and catch him in the act. They haul him off of his wife to go drinking. The three newsmen split a quart of rum at the bar, but when the bartender demands they pay the $10 tab, Yeamon refuses. A fight breaks out. All three men are severely injured and arrested by local police.
After his release, Kemp attends a yacht party with Chenault and Yeamon. Chenault flirts with a few of the locals on the dance floor and his surreptitiously whisked away by unknown Puerto Rican men. Yeamon and Kemp realize what has happened and they go to save Chenault from an imminent rape. The locals stand in their way and both men get kicked out of the party. Chenault's situation is left in doubt.
Days later Chenault turns up at Kemp's apartment, disheveled. She makes no explicit reference to what happened that night, though the implication is clear. She and Kemp have sex.
Soon after Yeamon and Chenault's marriage ends as a result of the rape and the newspaper Kemp is working for folds. When Kemp confronts the editor & chief, the man has a heart attack. Fearing he might be blamed for the death, Kemp escapes Puerto Rico and returns to New York. Chenault returns to Yeamon.
Best part of story, including ending:
Although Thompson's writing is rich and dynamic, the story of Rum Diary is a little plodding and has a less than satisfying conclusion.
Best scene in story:
Furious that they have all lost their jobs, Sala and Kemp confront their editor & chief at a bar. The three men get into it, but before a punch is thrown the editor doubles over and has a fatal heart attack.
Opinion about the main character:
Kemp comes off as a misogynist. Despite his affections for Chenault, after he witnesses Yeamon abusing her he takes the man out drinking and the two reporters remain friends.
The Rum Diary takes place in San Juan, Puerto Rico during the late 1950s. Kemp, the narrator gets involved with a woman who is with another man. There is a lot of jealousy and treachery in the novel. Many drinks are poured so there is a bit of violence too.
The review of this Book prepared by Kristy Pastore