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Big Maria [Kindle Edition]

Johnny Shaw
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (312 customer reviews)

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Book Description

There’s gold in them thar hills—or more precisely, in Arizona’s Chocolate Mountains, where one hundred years ago a miner stashed a king’s ransom of the stuff. But times have changed. The world has changed. And now the Chocolate Mountains are the home of the largest military artillery range in the world.

Harry’s living on disability and getting liquored up and beaten down. Frank’s a feisty old-timer battling cancer and a domineering daughter. And Ricky’s a good kid in a bad spot, doing everything for family. Together they’re staking what little they have left on a dangerous quest to the Big Maria Mine—and the gold that can offer them a new beginning.

Unfortunately a meth-dealing biker wants a piece, a trigger-happy AWOL soldier wants to play chicken in a live minefield, two stubborn burros want to go home, a starving mountain lion wants his dinner, and the US Army wants to rain on our heroes’ parade with real bombs.

When you’re all out of crazy ideas, you’ve got to try the stupid ones.

Imagine Chuck Palahniuk and Don Winslow’s love child – and that would be ribald author Johnny Shaw. His novel Big Maria is a unfiltered, wild romp in which three men get one chance to find a lost gold mine; the only problem is the Big Maria Mine is right in the middle of a US Army artillery range. Click here to read an excerpt.

Editorial Reviews Review

Blake Crouch reviews Johnny Shaw’s new crime humor novel Big Maria

For me, there are several variations on the "amazing reading experience."

  1. When you can't put a book down due to perfect plotting.
  2. When you find yourself caring deeply about its characters.
  3. When those characters are people who in real life you would shudder to have as neighbors and yet you still care.
  4. And this is truly the rarest of all and nothing short of an absolute gift. When every few pages you stumble across a one-liner that makes you smile, laugh, shake your head, and wonder just how long this writer can sustain this lovely train of thought.
Such is the wonder of Big Maria, the second novel, following Dove Season, by Johnny Shaw, which somehow manages to achieve all of the above and more... Read the rest of this review at

From Booklist

Starred Review Shaw is back with another crazy “buddy picture” of a caper novel (following Dove Season, 2011), this one featuring three engaging losers who band together for a Treasure of the Sierre Madre–like search for an abandoned gold mine. Fortunately, our gang of bumblers is a bit less greedy than Fred C. Dobbs and associates, but the job they’ve set for themselves is a lot more demanding: first, they must find the treasure map buried under a house that is itself residing at the bottom of a lake; then it’s a simple matter of trespassing on federal land being used as a test-bombing site and climbing a mountain while dodging artillery and skipping through a minefield. It doesn’t help that our heroes are, respectively, a drunk named Schmidttberger (guess what his nickname is) with a broken leg; another drunk, this one a foolish optimist with an atrophied arm; and a senior citizen suffering from cancer and a heart condition. The comedy is low but hilarious and often tinged with violence (“Everything got a lot more confusing after the burro exploded”), but the emotion is real and often heartrending. Shaw somehow manages to drag you into his mix of absurdity, mayhem, and pathos against all your better instincts. You really shouldn’t be liking this book so much, you tell yourself before peeling off another 50 pages to see what explodes next and whether our guys get home safely. Comic thrillerdom has a new star. — Bill Ott

Product Details

  • File Size: 500 KB
  • Print Length: 331 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612184391
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (September 25, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007KO2MLO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,554 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Initially Off-putting But I Loved It July 31, 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The first few pages of this book were so nasty and disgusting that I would have quit reading if I had not been given a copy for review. Lots of profanity, scatological imagery, bodily fluids no longer in bodies, that I'd rather not be subjected to reading - and that's just the first eight pages about Harry, one of the major characters.

Well, I requested this book so I should give it a decent chance to redeem itself. I was hoping for something that might be along the lines of The Sisters Brothers, dark humor about a couple of less-than-respectable brothers that I really enjoyed. So I slogged on.

And I found that I love this book. Yes, there was still plenty of profanity, more than enough violence to go around, huge amounts of overly descriptive bits involving lots of maimed bodies, stinking bodies,more bodily get the idea. And the characters were hopeless losers, no chance of redemption, filled with stupid and impossible ideas. Animals don't fare well but their fates aren't based on intentional cruelty.

So why did I change my mind? The characters. I fell in love with these misfits, with their hopes even while they were telling themselves there was no hope, their resignation to their fates even while trying to change them, their quirkiness. The humor, dark but very entertaining. And the ridiculous storyline - trying to find a gold mine reportedly in the middle of an artillery range, all based on a conspiracy theorist's rantings.

This one is not for those offended by all those things that first put me off the book, but for those who can accept that, the book is very good, funny and touching and quite memorable.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fun read, if you don't mind bodily fluids and excrement September 17, 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I admit, i don't think poop is funny. If i thought graphic descriptions of feces, vomit, and other things that come out of human bodies could be humorous, well, i'd enjoy this book and a great number of hollywood films a lot more.

So, first off, if you don't think poop is funny, you probably won't like this book. It's got plenty of redeeming features, but with at least one bodily excretion reference every few pages, the fecal-humor-challenged will probably be happier not even starting.

Second, if you want consistent characters, again, move along. Of the three main protagonists, two are pretty steady (one is even compelling and likeable), but one is about as believable as a car blowing up after a bullet hits the windshield.

But this isn't a serious novel. It's a silly, absurdist story of three losers trying to find a hidden gold mine. Anything that can go wrong does go wrong, hilarity ensues (especially if you think poop is funny), and then more things go wrong. The ridiculousness of the main characters pales in comparison to the truly random supporting characters.

And despite being disgusted (in the bad way) every few pages, i finished this book. Why? Because i wanted to know how it ended. And i admit, i liked the ending. It was worth it. Though i'd have liked it more without the totally unnecessary violence and feces.

In many ways, this book reminded me of Dave Barry's Lunatics. A one-thing-leads-to-another plot of absurd twists, made 'funny' by adding excrement. Not a single page of it is remotely believable, but i doubt that's what the author was going for.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have to admit, not even a third the way through this fantastic story I was ready to write a 5 star review. I was so entertained in the first several chapters--the characters, the descriptions, and story line--I thought if the rest of the book is blank pages, I'd be hooked waiting for more of Just. Like. This. I held back being the responsible person I am and was not disappointed one single bit! I wish I could give it more stars for being one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read.

Three men's lives separately unravel and circumstances--booze, cancer, and a mule deer--bring them together in a plot to find a gold mine in the middle of a live artillery range. The motly characters are unlike anything I've seen before--I was grossed out one minute, empathized the next, I laughed, and I cheered them on. Other crazy characters--an overbearing daughter "shaped like an angry bowling pin", her 2 stoner sons who are hooked on The Muppet Show, a meth cooker wanting part of the action, 3 dogs (one a meticulous taco eater), and 2 burros who relax to Madonna's Like A Virgin song--swirl in and out until they are all on this crazy ride together. The writing is colorful, extremely colorful, precise and humorous, and could have only been written by an author who has done an awful lot of people watching and/or experienced those he wrote about first-hand. I kept thinking "where did he come up with this stuff?!" Everything about this story is amazing--I loved every single crazy piece of this crazy tale.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's not funny, and not well executed - No Spoilers August 4, 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I got this book because it had a premise that promised a fun, funny adventure.

What I got was neither fun nor funny. In fact, the first couple of pages were so graphically disgusting that I almost stopped reading. On the plus side, it wasn't that gross the rest of the way (mostly) but it also didn't make me truly enjoy it.

This is a tale of three losers who come together and decide to search for a lost gold mine sitting in the middle of a U.S. military artillery range. In their search, they encounter some strange supporting characters/ antagonists, and suffer virtually every setback imaginable. Will they find the gold?

My biggest problem with the book is that the characters didn't connect with me in any way. There was only one character I liked, and the story was spread thinly enough that he wasn't very developed. Ultimately, because I didn't connect with the protagonists, I didn't really care what troubles they went through, or exactly how it turned out.

What is most frustrating is that the author put together a decent story, and if he had spent more effort on crafting his three main characters in such a way that the reader really identifies with them, this might have been a pretty good book.

As it is, I found it mediocre and cannot really recommend it to anyone else.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story. I was especially captivated about the middle ...
Great story. I was especially captivated about the middle of the book which resulted in me finishing way to quickly. Read more
Published 19 hours ago by M. M. Mansell
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny
Definitely 5 stars. Hated for it to end. Johnny Shaw is a true original. Characters,settings, situations are laugh out loud. more please.
Published 1 day ago by Peter Wight
3.0 out of 5 stars The characters are disgusting, the language so offensive
I'm actually between 3-4 stars. The characters are disgusting, the language so offensive, but I found myself reading on just to see if there was any redemption for these losers! Read more
Published 1 day ago by B. Fisher
4.0 out of 5 stars you start out thinking it is going to be a downer but wind up laughing...
I almost put the book down, a couple of times, but kept at it. So glad I did. Wound up reading clear through in one afternoon and wanted more.
Published 1 day ago by Phyllis McConnell
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Pass Up
A really well written piece. Unlike so many bpoks you find, this one doesn't contain a bunch of useless filler for the purpose of adding pages. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Bill
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very amusing
Published 9 days ago by Barbara H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny Book
I loved this book. It was funny! This guy can make you laugh.
Published 9 days ago by James A
1.0 out of 5 stars I hate it
Published 10 days ago by brenda bingham
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty sweet.
Had a great time reading this book.... part party, part detective, part sappy, part happy. Fun read with a kick butt punch...
Published 11 days ago by Laurie
5.0 out of 5 stars Johnny Shaw is a treasure
I've ripped through three Jonny Shaw books in the last couple of weeks, and would have read them quicker if earning a living hadn't gotten in the way. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Laer Pearce
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More About the Author

Johnny Shaw was born and raised on the Calexico/Mexicali border, the setting for his award-winning Jimmy Veeder Fiasco series, which includes the novels DOVE SEASON and PLASTER CITY. He is also the author of the Anthony Award-winning adventure novel, Big Maria.

His shorter work has appeared in Thuglit, Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey, Plots with Guns, and numerous anthologies. He is the creator and editor of the fiction magazine, BLOOD & TACOS, which recently added a phone app, a Podcast, and a book imprint to its empire.

Johnny received his MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA and over the course of his writing career has seen his screenplays optioned, sold, and produced. For the last dozen years, Johnny has taught writing. He has taught at Santa Barbara City College, UC Santa Barbara, LitReactor, and numerous writing conferences.

Johnny lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, artist Roxanne Patruznick.

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