Big Trouble: A Novel
|Publisher:||Putnam Publishing Group|
Dave Barry makes his fiction debut with a ferociously funny novel of love and mayhem in south Florida.
In his career, Dave Barry has done just about everything—written bestselling nonfiction, won a Pulitzer Prize, seen his life turned into a television series. And now, at last, he has joined the long list of literary figures from Jane Austen to Tolstoy who have made the transition from humor columnist to novelist…and done it with a style and inventiveness that establishes that, yes, he is very good at that, too.
In the city of Coconut Grove, Florida, these things happen: A struggling adman named Eliot Arnold drives home from a meeting with the Client From Hell. His teenage son, Matt, fills a Squirtmaster 9000 for his turn at a high school game called Killer. Matt’s intended victim, Jenny Herk, sits down in front of the TV with her mom for what she hopes will be a peaceful evening for once. Jenny’s alcoholic and secretly embezzling stepfather, Arthur, emerges from the maid’s room, angry at being rebuffed. Henry and Leonard, two hit men from New Jersey, pull up to the Herks’ house for a real game of Killer, Arthur’s embezzlement apparently not having been quite so secret to his employers after all. And a homeless man named Puggy settles down for the night in a treehouse just inside the Herks’ yard.
In a few minutes, a chain of events that will change the lives of each and every one of them will begin, and will leave some of them wiser, some of them deader, and some of them definitely looking for a new line of work. With a wicked wit, razor-sharp observations, rich characters, and a plot with more twists than the Inland Waterway, Dave Barry makes his debut a complete and utter triumph.
Dave Barry, the only newsman to win a Pulitzer for exemplary use of words like booger, will please humor and crime-fiction fans alike with this racy debut novel. The scene is Miami. In ritzy Coconut Grove, the teen son of Eliot, a newsman turned adman, sneaks up to spritz a cute girl with a Squirtmaster 9000 to win a high school game called Killer. Meanwhile, two hit men sneak up to kill the girl’s abusive stepdad, Arthur. Arthur cheated his bosses at corrupt Penultimate, Inc., which equipped a Florida jail with automatic garage-opener gates that accidentally freed prisoners in a lightning storm.
Farcical confusion ensues, witnessed by a saintly bum named Puggy, camped in a tree in Arthur’s yard. Puggy works at the Jolly Jackal Bar & Grill, which has no grill and actually sells guns and bombs to an offshoot of the Crips and Bloods called the Cruds, and to Penultimate (which plans to conquer Cuba). But when dim thugs Eddie and Snake rob the Jolly Jackal and Arthur tells them it’s a Russian mob front selling bombs, the proprietor snorts, “Bombs, pfft! No bombs! Is bar.”
Can Snake and Eddie spirit a suitcase nuke through Miami, “where most motorists obeyed the traffic and customs of their individual countries of origin”? Can Eliot and cop Monica Rodriguez save the day? And how do the 300-pound hallucinogenic Enemy Toad, the 13-foot-long python Daphne, highway goats, and the Denture Adventure seniors’ theme park fit in? Everything fits perfectly, including a few dark passages new to Barry’s work. But one warning: if you read this book while drinking milk, at some point it will spurt out of your nostrils. —Tim Appelo
The frantic pacing of Big Trouble is surely intentional, but the movie leaves you wanting more of…something. Not more characters—it’s got plenty of those—but more room for them to breathe in a top-heavy plot that recalls Get Shorty (also directed by Barry Sonnenfeld) without reaching those heights of ingenuity. Based on the bestseller by syndicated Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry, this Miami-based mayhem bears the distinct imprint of Barry’s humor, in which absurdities pile up like rush-hour traffic, involving a former journalist…