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Hammerhead Ranch Motel: A Novel Hardcover – July 3, 2000

127 customer reviews
Book 2 of 18 in the Serge Storms Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Penzler Pick, August 2000: Is it Florida, or is it the mystery writers who set their stories there? There seems to be a tradition of Florida noir that is as loony as that name implies. Tim Dorsey is the newest writer from the Sunshine State whose stories are inhabited by a cast of characters who, in any other state, would probably be behind bars. In Dorsey's world, not only are they roaming free, they are also wreaking havoc with impunity up and down the peninsula.

In his first book, Florida Roadkill, Dorsey introduced us to several characters who are still at large as his second story begins. Serge A. Storms is a spree killer and Florida history buff, still looking for the five million dollars that's stashed in the trunk of a Chrysler--unbeknownst to the driver--somewhere in the state. Johnny Vegas is a playboy who, because catastrophic events always seem to get in the way, has yet to lose his virginity. Also along for the zany ride is 90-year-old Mrs. Edna Ploomfield, who blows away a man delivering her flowers and chocolates; a DJ who changed his name legally to Boris the Hateful Piece of BLEEP so that he would not be BLEEPED on the air every time he used the name; and Safety Officer Chester "Porkchop" Dole who watches the monitors on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Along with a dancing Chihuahua who forecasts the weather, the Diaz Boys, Harvey Fiddlebottom, undercover cops, and a variety of oddballs, they will congregate in or around the seediest place never to have been shut down, the Hammerhead Ranch Motel on the Gulf of Mexico. There, they will play out their lunacy as Hurricane Rolando-berto bears down on them. This is a wonderful summertime read, relentlessly funny and impossible to put down. --Otto Penzler

From Publishers Weekly

HWith this followup to Florida Roadkill, Dorsey places himself in the ranks of Laurence Shames and Carl Hiassen as a writer of hilarious, violent farces set in Florida. A loopy energy fills this A-ticket trip among the bridges, sailboats, seedy dives, dysfunctional families and drug deals of Tampa Bay. In the prologue alone, a college student falls through the glass dome of the Florida Aquarium; aged but feisty Mrs. Edna Ploomfield fights a gun battle with a shotgun-toting drug dealer; coitally challenged playboy Johnny Vegas has his Porsche flattened by a truck; and a man in a Santa Claus suit torches a car on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge before jumping into the sea. Later, we meet Lenny, inveterate pothead and sometime 'gator wrestler, whose exploits turn up in the Weekly Mail of the News World; Alabama-bred blonde Ingrid Praline, whose "giant Lolita package gave men hemorrhagic fever"; panicky pilot Bananas Foster; and many more zany characters. After Dorsey introduces a white Chrysler and a metal briefcase with $5 million in it, fans will not be surprised when demented killer Serge A. Storm of Florida Roadkill shows up, kicking off a long parade of crazies, most of whom end up in the motel of the title during a hurricane (and a VCR viewing of Key Largo) in the novel's wild finale. Until then, joke follows joke like a 50-car pileup, in a plot that can feel like a game of 52-pickup; it's as if Dorsey chopped up his narrative into one- and two-page segments, threw them on the floor and published them in the resulting nonorder. The story loops backwards and forward in time: halfway through the book, for example, come the scenes that set up the wild prologue. But Dorsey's temporal convolutions do not impede momentum: instead, they encourage readers to hang on for the ride. And a delightfully giddy ride it is, ending with the promise of more craziness to come. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 291 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (July 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688167837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688167837
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #864,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tim Dorsey was a reporter and editor for the Tampa Tribune from 1987 to 1999 and is the author of ten previous novels: Florida Roadkill, Hammerhead Ranch Motel, Orange Crush, Triggerfish Twist, The Stingray Shuffle, Cadillac Beach, Torpedo Juice, The Big Bamboo, Hurricane Punch, and Atomic Lobster. He lives in Tampa, Florida.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 17, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read all of Christopher Moore, Carl Hiaasen, Bill Fitzhugh, and John Welter's books, when I encountered Tim Dorsey, and what a delightful surprise it was, as I hadn't really heard or seen much about him before, compared to the above writers.
If you're a fan of any of the above, and especially of Hiaasen, then you'll like Dorsey too, especially this book. I rank this novel with the best of Hiaasen, and in fact it's probably the best thing I've read in the genre in some time.
I would recommend you read Florida Roadkill first, as some of the same characters appear also in Hammerhead Ranch, especially Serge, who I would also say is the most memorable character to come along since Skink in Hiaasen's books. As another reviewer here said, one can't help but wonder what would have happened if Skink had met Serge.
Florida Roadkill is also excellent, but Hammerhead Ranch is even better, but it's still worthwhile reading as it's sort of a prequel to Hammerhead Ranch. Not the least of its merits is that the character, Serge, is introduced in Florida Roadkill, and has a major role in both books.
There are many similarities between the two authors, perhaps not surprising since they write for neighboring newspapers in south Florida. If anything, Dorsey's books are even more darkly satirical than Hiaasen's, and I would also say his books are more violent too. There are lots of bad guys in his books, and very few good guys. The bad guys are always scamming, swindling, and otherwise preying on each other, and as there's no honor among thieves, the dead body count in a Dorsey book is pretty impressive by the time you reach the end.
To sum up, this is a very funny book, and the book's main idea is really great, so I'll describe it briefly here.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By ppm on July 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In his sequel to Florida Roadkill, Tim Dorsey kept me up all night turning the pages so fast that I got paper cuts. Serge is back, and with a new and improved Coleman-type character, Hammerhead Ranch Motel quickly recaptures the dark but irresistable humor of the first book. The only complaint I have is that it's harder to follow the characters in this book, but Dorsey manages to get everyone together in the wonderful and unpredictable finale. I'd have to say that as a Florida resident, I love the way this book makes fun of everything corrupt about Florida- very Carl Hiiasen! However, you don't need to be from Florida to appreciate the humor and satire that Dorsey churns out, and everyone will love the eclectic group of characters that spill out of the pages. All the great characters that made it alive throught the last novel are back - Sean and David, Johnny Vegas, and my favorite criminally insane Floridaphile, Serge. Dorsey brings in new characters that are a delight, from bad guys you can't help but love, to the good guys that are, to say the least, a little eccentric. So, buy this book, but don't start reading it unless you have a lot of free time, because you won't be able to put it down.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dayton Ward on February 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Just as with Dorsey's first novel, I found myself laughing at loud at the nonstop, bizarre antics of the freakiest collection of characters I've seen since...well, since the last time I was in Florida. Reading about the trials and tribulations of Johnny Vegas is a hoot, but it's Serge, the psychopath with scruples, that really makes the book. A distinct improvement over "Florida Roadkill" is the fact that this time around, the plot does not take a backseat to the characters. Instead, the story and the players weave together quite effectively.
Being a Tampa native, I was once again drawn in by Dorsey's descriptions the city and the surrounding areas. It's as if the AAA Travel Club rep shotgunned a six-pack of Surge before sitting down to write a travel guide. Completely enthralling and at times hysterical, I thought I was walking the streets of my hometown all over again.
Though it's not as completely off the charts of lunacy as "Florida Roadkill," it's still a frenetic, wildly entertaining read.
Bring on the next one!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Norburn on October 15, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Before you read Tim Dorsey you need to know what you are getting into:

1. Despite comparisons to Hiaasen and other south Florida crime writers, Dorsey is in a league of his own when it comes to `wild and wacky' crime fiction. Where authors like Hiaasen keep at least one foot grounded in reality (at least South Florida's reality) Dorsey makes no such pretences (unless there really are fast-food restaurants that sell nothing but deep fried chicken skins)

2. You need a score card to keep track of the characters. New characters are introduced every couple of pages. Some appear briefly and then aren't heard from again for hundreds of pages.

3. He can be pretty darn funny.

I have mixed feelings about most of Dorsey's novels. I like a little twisted humour with my crime fiction and Dorsey never fails to deliver. The downside is that when a plot is as absurd as the one in Hammerhead Ranch Motel it just doesn't build any tension. His novels lack the level of suspense that keeps a reader turning pages.

The huge cast of characters is funny and entertaining but the novel doesn't build much momentum. Eventually the lives of these characters (the ones that Serge doesn't kill) will converge in a ridiculously chaotic climax, but until then the novel bounces around like it's been set loose inside a pinball machine. The characters are cartoon-like and come and go so infrequently that even though they're funny, the reader doesn't have much of an investment in them. I find that I enjoy the first half of a Tim Dorsey novel much more than the last.

As for Dorsey's anti-hero Serge; I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan. I find the supporting cast of characters to be a lot more entertaining.
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