Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Posts Tagged ‘former cop’

RANCHERO by Rick Gavin: Book Revieew

There’s a reason the Mississippi Delta gave birth to The Blues. Rick Gavin’s picture of life there is pretty dismal.  His protagonist, repo man Nick Reid, has given up a job with the police in a small Virginia town for reasons that are not explained.  For another unexplained reason, he’s moved to Indianola, Mississippi, a dismal small Delta town surrounded by towns that are even deeper into poverty and despair.

When Nick goes to the place where Percy Dwayne Dubois lives (calling it a home would be an over-the-top compliment) to repossess a forty-two inch plasma television set on which Percy Dwayne has neglected to make payments, his arrival isn’t greeted happily.  Percy Dwayne hits Nick over the head with a shovel, and while Nick is lying stunned on the kitchen floor, Percy Dwayne’s wife suggests that they should hack him up and pack him off to the woods in a sack.

After tying Nick up, to add insult to injury Percy Dwayne, his wife, and their diaper-clad toddler son make their getaway in the Ranchero, a beautiful 1969 vehicle that Nick borrowed from his landlady. A Ranchero is “sort of a low-slung, boxy coupe in the front and a shallow truck in the back,” and apparently this particular vehicle was in mint condition, its coral-colored paint gleaming as if it had just come off the assembly line at Ford.

Before going off in the Ranchero to repossess the TV, Nick had promised his landlady that he would take scrupulous care of her late husband’s car, and that’s the premise of the novel.  All Nick really wants to do is to recover the car and repossess the television, but life is much more complicated than that.

This is a very low-key premise on which to write a mystery novel–no kidnapping, no murder, no rape.  But in Rick Gavin’s extraordinarily capable hands, there’s as much tension here as in any high-concept novel or movie. And there is an incredible amount of humor as well.

Nick Reid is very much a man of mystery in this first novel, which I hope will soon be followed by others. His new job is definitely a come-down from his previous one, he seems to have no family or friends left behind in Virginia, and the reader doesn’t know anything about his background.  What we do know is that he’s a man who keeps his promises, regardless of the “tussling” it costs him.  He pursues Percy Dwayne across the Delta, meeting up with various characters who make the fugitive seem like a gentleman and a scholar.

The author’s descriptions of the houses and scenery of the Delta are staggering.  Percy Dwayne’s “front room was shin-deep in trash and pieces of cast-off clothing.”  Describing how he got out of the ropes with which the couple had tied him, Nick says, “Because they were shiftless trash, I was almost half a minute working loose.”  And going to find a man named Luther, who may or may not know where Percy Dwayne and his wife have fled, Nick and his friend Desmond drive down Lee Boulevard in Webb, Mississippi, where instead of statues of Confederate luminaries on horseback there are car engines rigged to live oaks with blocks and tackles.

This first novel is too good to put down, so be prepared to read it straight through. Unfortunately, there’s no biography or web page I could find for Rick Gavin, only a brief blurb on the novel’s back cover.  “Rick Gavin frames houses and hangs Sheetrock in Ruston, Louisiana, when he’s not writing.  This is his first novel.”  I’m hoping he puts down his framing tools and goes back to his computer as soon as possible.

THE TAKING OF LIBBIE, SD by David Housewright: Book Review

Rushmore McKenzie has more lives than a cat. In the first chapter of The Taking of Libbie, SD McKenzie is kidnapped, Tasered, thrown in a trunk, and driven from his home in Minnesota to Libbie, South Dakota, a town whose motto is RULES, REGULATIONS, AND RESPECT.  You think?

Rushmore McKenzie (what were his parents thinking?) is a former policeman who was able to retire when he came into a great deal of money.  Now McKenzie spends his time doing favors for friends, as he puts it.  But was it doing a favor that landed him in Libbie, SD?

It turns out there is a relatively simple explanation for the two men who abducted him and brought him across the state border. Several weeks before, a man using McKenzie’s name had fleeced the small town out of a big chunk of its annual budget, just how much no one will say.  The impostor said his company wanted to build a shopping mall, and the town council and the mayor were only too happy to hand over money to get the ball rolling.  The only problem was that there were no plans to build the mall, and The impostor left town in the middle of the night and hasn’t been seen since.  Two thugs, hired by the town’s arrogant and wealthy mayor, were sent to pick McKenzie up and bring him back to Libbie for justice, but when he was deposited at the police station everyone recognized that he wasn’t the man they were looking for.

You’d think the real McKenzie would head home to the Twin Cities at this point, which he does, but only to say goodbye to his friends and then return to South Dakota.  He’s determined to find the man who used his name so convincingly.

For a small town, there’s a lot going on in Libbie, SD.  Besides the shopping mall fraud, there’s arson, adultery, and agoraphobia, and that’s only the a’s.  When two people are murdered shortly after McKenzie returns, he’s more determined than ever to find out what’s really happening in this town.

David Housewright knows a lot of interesting facts  about life in rural South Dakota.  Never having even passed through that part of the country, the remoteness of it is amazing to me–no clothing stores within five or six hours of this town; entire counties in the state without physicians; college graduates departing the Great Plains for the cities, leaving behind an elderly population having a hard time dealing with things economically and emotionally.  That partially explains the town’s eagerness to invest in the shopping mall scheme–it’s something to bring money and life back to a town with no future.  It’s a sad portrait of a dying part of America.

This ex-cop is a bit different from the usual detective hero, and I like him.  He has a lot of depth, thinks things through, and when he does something that he later feels isn’t right, he suffers for it.  This is the seventh book about Rushmore McKenzie, and I plan to go back to see how he got to be who he is now.

You can read more about David Housewright at his web site.