The Black Palace

The Black Palace


a Black Comedy/ Southern Gothic story of intrigue

A true story of a trio who travel through the back roads of Mexico and the jungles of South America in the 1970's. On their journey they encounter many Alice in Wonderland absurdities - culminating in the imprisonment of one of them in a 100 year old Mexican Prison for drug smuggling. The story can be compared to Kiss of the Spider Woman, with a blend of Rashoman's Kurasawa . The prisoner , with help from friends , miraculously escapes through the sewer pipes and all head for the border.

This story is not just a prison break but the study of a relationship whereby a couple is isolated together one by free choice and the other by imprisonment and what transpires in their year together. in this strange Latin setting.


mid 1970s in and about a decrepid French built prison that housed the great Mexican Revolutionaries such as Zapata and Pancho Villa.


Mabel, 26 year old Southern dropout heiress, travels by VW bus with her 32 year old boyfriend (ex-New York executive) and his 24 year old ex-girlfriend through Latin America.

Jack, a charming, moody and irresponsible, abandons the women and flies back to the U.S. several times despite his lack of funds. He decides to smuggle cocaine to pay his debts but is arrested and jailed in Mexico.

Jack eventually escapes through the sewer lines where he navigates (ex-Navy pilot) through the darkness by "reading" the shadow angles formed by rare slivers of light.

The two women and other friends involved in the jailbreak must all sneak back over the border to the U.S.

Several vignettes

- Mexican prison: Inmates' families can visit almost daily privately in the cells. Strawberries, celery, platform shoes, blue skirts are not allowed in, but heroin, drills, hack saws are readily available.

- The "king" of one cell block has life-sized portrait of himself in his cell.

- 2 a.m. visit into deep jungle for dysentery treatment by a famous Shaman finds electricity which is used only to run a Coca Cola machine.

Character development

Jack is very manipulative and will only accept admirers who highly esteem his intelligence. However, these devotees are not to notice that his problems result from his not too smart impulsive actions.

Jack, fairly predictable as a self-serving figure, is the counterpoint to the other characters. (i.e., Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces and William Hurt in The Big Chill.)

Mabel, eccentric and entirely unaffected, chases around the world to escape the debutante proper life expectations of her Alabama parents. She is heir not only to their money but to their own unconventional lives. During the many hours she and Jack spend alone in the jail, Mabel tells many of these family stories.

Mabel is the interesting half of this isolated jail cell relationship between one with absolutely no freedom and the other with freedom of movement. Jack is the prisoner, but in reality his wants determine all of Mabel's actions.

The family stories give insight into how Mabel came to have this type of personality.


Mabel and Jack are in Alabama, with Mabel telling new stories to family and friends.

Mabel hears of a new land of paradise - a remote island off Mexico. There is no electricity and scorpions are a constant menace, but she makes plans to visit this new utopia.

Possible literary direction

Addition of Will T. years later in Alabama.

Will T. is 60 year old, 300 lbs and a genius recluse in the small caretaker's cottage behind the aging southern mansion his family once owned. His lifeline is beer delivered by taxi. He is a prisoner by choice and Mabel's old friend. She visits him with her travel journal and tells him stories of Mexico.

Possible literary motifs

- Contrast of these two "brilliant" men - Jack and Will T. - both prisoners - both by choice: Jack by poor impulse control and Will T. by alcoholism and his lifestyle.

Copyright © 1998 ANTON HAARDT
All Rights Reserved.