Books: Macho Days on the Cacao Frontier SHOWDOWN

by Jorge Amado; Bantam; 422 pages; $18.95

At the beginning of this Brazilian pageant, a colonel surprises his rivals in a violent encounter known thereafter as tocaia grande, the big ambush. It is an overriding metaphor, not only for events in Jorge Amado's novel but also for those outside it. There the ambushees are bookstores, critics and the public. The firepower comes from an arsenal of hype.

Bantam, Amado's new publisher, seems uncomfortably aware that its author is not a brand name. His 21 previous novels (among them Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon and Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands) have been translated into 46 languages in 60 countries,...

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