A portion of Toros & Torsos takes place in Spain early in 1937 as Hector Lassiter joins Ernest Hemingway and novelist John Dos Passos in Madrid during the early days of the Spanish Civil War.
In T&T, Hector has gone to Spain as a favor to Pauline Hemingway — agreeing to watch over a sometimes erratic Ernest, while at the same time doing what he can to contain Hem’s growing preoccupation with journalist Martha Gellhorn, the woman destined to become the third of four Mrs. Hemingways.
For his part, Ernest was participating in the filming the propaganda/fundraising documentary The Spanish Earth, which Hem would eventually personally screen for FDR.
John Dos Passos was searching Spain for his missing friend and translator José Robles — a quest that would eventually result in the destruction of the longtime Hemingway/Dos Passos friendship. That rupture is vividly explored at length in Stephen Koch’s gripping The Breaking Point: Hemingway, Dos Passos, and the Murder of José Robles.
Toros & Torsos finds Hector in the crossfire of the Hemingway/Dos Passos feud, and, eventually, in threatening to become one of the Spanish Civil War “disappeareds” — like Robles — when Hector receives what madrileños called the “Knock of Death.” In other words, a late-night visit from the Spanish secret police, a visit that typically ended in arrest, torture, and frequently, death.
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