Harrison Shepherd was born in 1916 in the United States but at the age of 12 was taken by his mother back to her native Mexico. There she lived with a man who frightened her and mistreated her, she left him to become the mistress to a series of men. She was beautiful, fashionable, and eccentric, and Harrison was pulled along by her antics. At the age of 14 Harrison was sent back to Washington, D.C. to live with his father who promptly put him in a boarding school and forgot about him. He went back to Mexico after a couple of years and began work as a cook to Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Khalo, both of whom are artists. Through them he meets Lev Trotsky and becomes his secretary. All through this time he keeps meticulous notes about his life and the interesting people around him. He eventually returns to the U.S. to sell Frida's artwork and ends up staying, finally becoming the author he had always wanted to be. He is accused of being a communist during the McCarthy reign of terror.
It took me a long time to get into this book. Much of the book is written as diary entries or letters, and sometimes narrative or newspaper articles. Because it is written mainly from Harrison's perspective, and sometimes his secretary Violet Brown's, all the interesting parts of the story come from the characters he is around. Harrison himself seems to be a peripheral character for much of the book. Even Violet Brown, a middle-aged glove- and hat-wearing widow whom Harrison considers colorless despite her name is actually more interesting than he is. I felt like he became much more interesting once he became an author even though he was quite reclusive. At least I was reading more about him instead of Frida or Trotsky. By the end, I cared about what happened to him and felt that he finally had some personality, mostly in the Senate questioning that was done but for most of the book I was just slogging through it and it took me way too long to read. There was some profanity including one f-word as well as some spanish words that were probably swear words but I don't know how bad they were. There was also some crude slang terms used that made me cringe a bit and just some crude talk in general along with affairs and such. Not as bad as some books, but I still will rate it R for the f-word, etc.