‘Is it better to have responsibility and fail or to choose to remain irresponsible?’
Jimmy Veeder has come back to Imperial Valley after a 12 year absence, his Father Jack is dying from cancer and there's not long left. Lots to catch up on, one of his last requests, find him a Mexican prostitute named Yolanda, an usual one from the man that shaped him, maybe even a touch precarious but hell it's his Dad and he sets out to achieve this last thing for him with the help of a few friends.
That's the bare bones of the story and what a story this is, sad, serious, violent and insanely funny at times. The shift from the swift and intense, more often than not, our protagonist getting the shit kicked out of him to a laugh out loud moment as things calm suddenly, is absolutely wickedly told.
First friend to reintroduce himself is Bobby Maves a man who was completely at peace with violence. Not a mean bone in his body. He just liked to fight and he was good at it. Bobby is also funny as Fuck. As kids Jimmy was always the funny one, Bobby the giggling bully forever getting him out of the shit. Their relationship forms the backbone of the story and their interaction is amusing, entertaining and very much rough and ready.
'Bobby stopped laughing. His voice got quiet. “Wait a minute. You haven’t seen me in fucking years, you barely fucking know who I am anymore , and you just assume that I have some line on where the hookers are? Now I’m the tour guide driving the Muff Bus down Pussy Road? Is that what you fucking think of me.' Feigned anger all the way.
Honestly this is a review I could construct purely on quotes, there's so much I highlighted when I went over the kindle book after I'd finished with the audio, I could have read this book twice. These two quotes centre on the search for Yolanda early in the story and there's shit loads more of this kind of dialogue.
'Do I look retarded? Don’t answer that. I was undercover, remember? Had to be subtle. Have a plausible story,” Bobby said. “What I told him was that you hadn’t been laid in five years, and I was worried that you were edging toward queer. Mr. Morales agreed with my assessment, saying something about your long hair. We both agreed it was pretty gayish. He gave it some thought. And seeing that the situation was desperate, he told me where Tomás holds court.'
Second friend and the one they need to find Tomás Morales, now a serious player in the illegal border businesses and the link to the one they seek in Mexicali.
Don't get me wrong though this is not solely a humour trip, there's some pretty raw, sharp edged stuff in here as well, notably a torture scene that delves into the hardness of Mexican life on the edge, the complete lack of compassion and a place where death is almost expected if you Fuck up. A power struggle where the biggest and baddest protect what they have, the only way they know how and it’s not handshakes and beers. Jimmy and Bobby stumble through the Mexican underworld, a journey of discovery and the simple fact that you never really know someone as well as you would have liked.
Then a gut wrenching death scene that will stay with you a long time after you finish this book, an intense sadness, an agreement of sorts and compelling to the point of needing a break but desperate to carry on, absolutely riveting.
And then we have Buck Buck and Snout, almost as if there wasn't enough to laugh at we have the introduction of two animals, not literally, two brothers who it seemed accepted their lot in life a long time ago and it's fart jokes and the like. Two characters loyal as they come and heap loads of fun, but brutal when required.
'There was a small fire a few yards away, and two figures huddled around it. It was ninety-something degrees. What kind of idiots build a fire? These kind of idiots. Buck Buck and his brother Snout had a gopher turning on a makeshift spit. They sat on the ground in nothing but boxers and rubber boots, facing the fire.'
Jesus, I could go on for hours, enough to say that I really enjoyed this, I've not given any real game changers away plot wise, most of this happens in the first 50 pages. There's so much happening in this story, so many brilliant characters, laughs aplenty, brilliant dialogue, a stream of epiphanies both shocking and stunning, violence, more violence, cigarettes and alcohol, and all capped off with a Mexican standoff.
My apologies for the long review/ramble and I still feel like I've not said enough. I could go on for hours, read this southern U.S. crime thriller, honestly you won't be disappointed.
Highly recommended, manic at times, gripping at others and this I will definitely read again. Johnny Shaw has only released 3 books so far and I'll be reading the others very soon.