2016; 322 pages. Book #22 (and the latest) in the Serge A. Storms series. New Author? : No. Florida Crime Noir, Stoner Humor. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
Welcome to Wobbly, Florida. That’s “Wobbly” as in “crooked”, since scams and shakedowns and speed traps abound. Also “Wobbly” as in “shaky”, since rumor has it that the dwindling groundwater level has made conditions ripe for a sinkhole to develop.
But for Peter and Mary Pugliese, Wobbly seems like heaven compared to their native New York. And well whattaya know, Peter’s a geologist. He could be a valuable asset for studying the sinkhole issue. Or for covering it up.
Meanwhile, our recurring protagonist, Serge A. Storms, has found a new passion in life – the movie Easy Rider. He’s ready to chase the American Dream, through small towns in the backlands of Florida, and on a tricked-out chopper, just like Peter Fonda. With his best bud and super stoner, Coleman, at his side, just like Dennis Hopper.
What’s To Like...
Coconut Cowboy is another vintage Serge-&-Coleman saga, and that’s the best kind of Tim Dorsey storyline. The chapters flip-flop between shenanigans in Wobbly, and the motorcycle meanderings of our dysfunctional duo. There’s nothing very twisty in either plot thread, but the fun’s in the details, in watching as Dorsey contrives to bring both threads together, and in wondering if the sleazeball baddies are going to "get away with it".
In addition to the usual psychotic wackiness, the reader is treated to all sorts of small-town Florida historical trivia ( I presume these anecdotes are factual). We also get to attend the Purple Hatter’s Ball, and there’s even a mention of Krotz Springs, Louisiana. Where, you ask? Hey, my company used to have a plant there. Along the way, you will learn important knowledge, such as how to best answer the question, “Honey, which one of my friends do you think is the sexiest?”
As always, Tim Dorsey treats us to a fascinating cast of new characters. Some are good, some are bad, some are smart and streetwise, some couldn’t spell “cat” if you spotted them the “C” and the “A”. All of them have their charms. You’re gonna love Elroy, Slow, and Slower.
If you’ve never read a Tim Dorsey novel, you should be aware that there’s a goodly amount of cussing, some gratuitous violence, constant drug-usage by Coleman, and Serge-administered vigilante justice. Here, there are five instances of the latter, albeit one by a guest executioner. Some of us think that’s a plus.
As expected, the wit, humor, and madcap situations simply sparkle. The best is the Woodstock-esque hippie festival, with Serge inadvertently taking his first trip. Cheech and Chong would be proud. Coconut Cowboy is both a standalone novel and part of a series.
“Florida’s big-sky country, rolling hills and farms and sprawling beds of those lavender and harvest-yellow wildflowers in an intoxicating oil-painting palette like a Monet come to life. When I was a kid, bumblebees whizzed around those flowers, and one of my uncles said you could catch a bee in your cupped hands, and as long as you kept shaking them, the bee would rattle around and couldn’t sting you.”
“Did you try it?” asked Coleman.
“Stung me right away and hurt like a bastard,” said Serge. “The sixties were all about the lies.” (pg. 96)
“Why are you so upset?”
“The last scene in Easy Rider always chokes me up.” He aimed a camera out the window. “Two freethinkers exploring the limitless road of our great nation, and they’re wasted by a pair of mental dead ends.”
Coleman exhaled again as pot smoke filled a tiny cockpit. “I remember that movie now. It was about those cats doing weed all the time. What a great plot!”
“Coleman, that wasn’t the plot-“
“It most definitely was the plot.” (…)
“Coleman, Easy Rider was about the American Dream.”
“Like I just said.” (pg. 26)
“One person’s Wiffle ball is another person’s butt whistle.” (pg. 186 )
The greatest fun in reading Coconut Cowboy is watching the two plotlines slowly race (is that an oxymoron?) towards convergence. Unfortunately, a spectacularly-spun story is marred by an ending that is hasty, clunky, and strains at the believability factor.
Serge and Coleman finally make it to Wobbly (that’s not a spoiler), and I looked forward to their climactic encounter with the baddies. But in a blink of an eye, we jump from arrival to epilogue, with the events in-between related after that. This drops the tension to zero, and flat-lined the excitement.
Nevertheless, although this was disappointing, I wouldn’t say that it ruins the book. There's just too many plusses to this book. It just pushes it down from “great” to “good”.
8 Stars. Add 1 star if you’re a bona fide biker. Subtract 1 Star if you’ve never watched Easy Rider.