Monday, December 20, 2010

Hammerhead Ranch Motel - Tim Dorsey

2000; 354 pages. Sequel to Florida Roadkill, reviewed here. Genre : Crime humor; Florida noire. New author? : No. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
Welcome to Hammerhead Ranch Motel, where each of the 14 rooms has a tale to tell. Really. Their stories are given on pages 58-61.
Serge A. Storms also has a story to tell. But it might be a bit incoherent, since he's off his meds again. It's about a suitcase with 5 million dollars in laundered drug money in it, hopping around from owner to owner like a restless bedbug. Those who have it now don't know it; those who do manage to snatch it can't seem to hold onto it. It's almost as if the money is cursed.
What's To Like...
The $5Mil is the core story, but this is more about Tim Dorsey introducing you to a slew of oddball characters in diverse situations and various Florida locations. As you read Hammerhead Ranch Motel, you'll wonder how Dorsey is going to be able to tie them all together by the end of the book, but he accomplishes this quite niftily.
The humor had me LOL, and Serge's trove of Florida historical trivia was facinating, even though I don't live there. And what a cast of supporting characters!
There's playboy Johnny Vegas, an involuntary virgin whose meticulous plans for sex keep getting trumped by acts of God. There's City and Country, a Thelma-&-Louise knock-off whose introduction to pot leads them to conclude that the greatest rock-&-roll band ever was ABBA. There's Edna Ploomfield, a pistol-packing geezerette who blows away drug hitmen like they were ducks in a pond. And at least another dozen equally kooky Floridians to meet. There's no Coleman, but his place is taken by a stoner named Lenny.
The downsides are few. It's a sequel, but there's no backstory; so it's best to read Florida Roadkill first. If you're uncomfortable with a psychopathic hero whose forte is innovative slayings, you should probably give this a pass. Ditto if literary sex and drugs are not your cup of tea.
Kewl New Words...
Jalousie : a window shutter (in this case, in a door) constructed from angled slats of wood or plastic. Terrazzo : a highly-polished mosaic flooring made from small chips of marble or granite set in mortar.
Flag turned to face Zargoza. "Why am I getting subpoenaed?"
"Because you're a toad!" said Zargoza, suddenly raising his voice. "And not just your regular happy garden toad, but one of those lumpy, putrescent amphibilous tumors you find under a bunch of rotted lumber in a ditch next to a closed-down industrial plant ... How's Marge and the kids?"
"They're fine, Z ... but I'm worried..."
"Take a chill pill," said Zargoza. "It'll blow over." (pg. 71)
"I taught my Rottweiler Chinese," the Miami man ahead of them at the cash register told his friend.
"Get outta here."
"No lie. You know how everyone in Dade is buying vicious dogs because of crime? I read where burglars are giving the dogs commands, because everyone uses the same ones - sit, stay, heel - and houses are cleaned out while expensive pit bulls and German shepherds stand there stupid."
"Why Chinese?"
"Can't use Spanish. Half the burglars in Miami are bilingual."
"How do you say sit in Chinese?"
"I'm not gonna tell you!" (pg. 110)
Doesn't anyone sell cocaine these days? I mean, besides undercover cops? (pg. 63)
For all the mayhem, Hammerhead Ranch Motel is a remarkably tightly-composed story - far better than Florida Roadkill. It was a light, entertaining read; and all the characters - whether good, bad, and/or idiotic - were fun to meet and follow. Who cares about the 5 million? 8 Stars.

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