Natario de Fonseca is Colonel Boaventura’s right-hand man, an excellent shot. He leads the attack against a rival colonel in the beautiful Brazilian backlands, and thus gives the name to a new town: Tocaia Grande, “The Big Ambush.”

Prostitutes are the first residents in Tocaia Grande, along with Fadul Abdala, a Lebanese peddler, and Castor Abduim da Assuncao, a blacksmith. Gradually the settlement grows, with families arriving from Sergipe and Estancia. A flood nearly wipes out the fledgling town; then the plague strikes and takes its toll. Tocaia Grande recovers from these disasters only to face the ultimate threat to its existence: the Church and the law arrive to lay their claim to this village’s growing prosperity.

Amado’s characters are vivid and broad, which is helpful because there are so many of them that it is difficult to keep them all straight, at least at first. The people of Tocaia Grande protect and respect one another despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that they lack written laws or formal religion.

Despite its bloody beginnings; Tocaia Grande is an innocent place, a kind of Eden, until human greed creeps in to destroy it. Amado skillfully brings this simple town to life, and causes the reader to mourn its eventual demise at the hands of self-interested and short-sighted developers. SHOWDOWN is an epic tale that illustrates the dangers that always accompany the arrival of civilization to a natural and beautiful place.