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Welcome to Paradise: A Novel Hardcover – April 27, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Take Big Al, an inept minor-league Mafioso who's boss of a New York fish market, and send him to Key West. Have a rival who'd like to take over the market put out a contract on said mobster. Then give the hit man just enough information to make sure he fingers the wrong guy. That's not hard when both the target and an innocent tourist have the same vanity plate, even though one's a short guy with a big dog and the other's a big guy with a small dog. At first the only thing Big Al of the Mob and Big Al the furniture salesman from New Jersey have in common is their desire for a few days of R and R in the Sunshine State. But by the time the salesman's been nearly done in by a ton of rancid calamari and has narrowly escaped death by stuffed sailfish, there's another link between the two Al's, and therein lies the tale. That link is a beautiful woman named Katy Sansone.

Will Big Al the Good end up with Katy, the dissatisfied girlfriend of Big Al the Bad? Perhaps, and between the setup and the payoff there are plenty of laughs and a few implausible coincidences. Laurence Shames's seventh Key West adventure is a good read for a day at the beach or an afternoon in the hammock for mystery fans who can't wait for the next Carl Hiaasen. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

His seventh comic thriller set in the Florida Keys finds Shames running out of fun. The usual suspects make up the cast of charactersbumbling two-bit Mafioso grifters and hitmen who find themselves in ludicrous situationsbut the players seem perfunctorily one-dimensional, and their predicaments, while humorous in premise, come off contrived rather than comic. Minor mobster Nicky Scotto is convinced that rival Big Al Marracottaa five-foot midget who replaced him as boss of the Mafia-run Fulton Fish Marketpoisoned him with bad clams. He enlists Chop Parilla, a Hialeah hot car dealer and his henchman, Squid Berman, to even the score. They plan to get Big Al when hes on vacation in Key West with his willowy girlfriend, Katy Sansone. The two hoods think theyve found their victim, except theres more than one guy in Key West with Big Al license plates. When Squid and Chop mistakenly zero in on hulking Al Tuschman, former high school football hero and Jersey furniture salesman, they play tepid dirty tricks such as putting 50 pounds of spoiled calamari in the wrong Als Lexus, and a live lobster in his bed. Ultimately, Katy becomes fed up with being the sex toy of the degenerate mini-mobster Al, and opts for Al the gentle giant. Meanwhile, Nicky, anxious to regain his former position as head honcho of the fish market, contracts a hit to assassinate his rival. The new lovers, Al and Katy, are entertaining characters, but their amiable romance doesnt keep the plot from getting corny or tired. Unlike his bestselling contemporaries Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen, who consistently bring freshness to similar material, Shames seems to have misplaced the enthusiasm that marked his early work (Florida Straits, etc.).
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1st edition (April 27, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375502521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375502521
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #960,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laurence Shames has been a New York City taxi driver, lounge singer, furniture mover, lifeguard, dishwasher, gym teacher, and shoe salesman. Having failed to distinguish himself in any of those professions, he turned to writing full-time in 1976 and has not done an honest day's work since.

His basic laziness notwithstanding, Shames has published twenty books and hundreds of magazine articles and essays. Best known for his critically acclaimed series of Key West novels, he has also authored non-fiction and enjoyed considerable though largely secret success as a collaborator and ghostwriter. Shames has penned four New York Times bestsellers. These have appeared on four different lists, under four different names, none of them his own. This might be a record.

Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1951, to chain-smoking parents of modest means but flamboyant emotions, Shames did not know Philip Roth, Paul Simon, Queen Latifa, Shaquille O'Neal, or any of the other really cool people who have come from his hometown. He graduated summa cum laude from NYU in 1972 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. As a side note, both his alma mater and honorary society have been extraordinarily adept at tracking his many address changes through the decades, in spite of the fact that he's never sent them one red cent.

It was on an Italian beach in the summer of 1970 that Shames first heard the sacred call of the writer's vocation. Lonely and poor, hungry and thirsty, he'd wandered into a seaside trattoria, where he noticed a couple tucking into a big platter of fritto misto. The man was nothing much to look at but the woman was really beautiful. She was perfectly tan and had a very fine-gauge gold chain looped around her bare tummy. The couple was sharing a liter of white wine; condensation beaded the carafe. Eye contact was made; the couple turned out to be Americans. The man wiped olive oil from his rather sensual lips and introduced himself as a writer. Shames knew in that moment that he would be one too.

He began writing stories and longer things he thought of as novels. He couldn't sell them.

By 1979 he'd somehow become a journalist and was soon publishing in top-shelf magazines like Playboy, Outside, Saturday Review, and Vanity Fair. (This transition entailed some lucky breaks, but is not as vivid a tale as the fritto misto bit, so we'll just sort of gloss over it.) In 1982, Shames was named Ethics columnist of Esquire, and also made a contributing editor to that magazine.

By 1986 he was writing non-fiction books whose critical if not commercial success first established Shames' credentials as a collaborator/ghostwriter. His 1991 national bestseller, BOSS OF BOSSES, written with two FBI agents, got him thinking about the Mafia. It also bought him a ticket out of New York and a sweet little house in Key West, where he finally got back to Plan A: writing novels. Given his then-current preoccupations, the novels--beginning with FLORIDA STRAITS, which has been called a cult classic almost as often as it's been optioned for film--naturally featured palm trees, high humidity, dogs in sunglasses, and New York mobsters blundering through a town where people were too laid back to be afraid of them.

Having had the good fortune to find a setting he loved and a wonderfully loyal readership as well, Shames wrote eight Key West novels during the 1990s, before taking a decade-long detour into screenwriting and collaborative work. His most recent book, SHOT ON LOCATION--a suspenseful and hilarious mix of Hollywood glitz and Florida funky--marks a rollicking return to his favorite fictional turf.

Customer Reviews

I laughed out loud!
Kris Long
I have read all of Laurence Shames books and find them all very exiting and he keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Bryan Lee Coolidge
Excellent character development and the story flows nicely.
Gerry Mc

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jason Birkby on June 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When Reading Laurence Shames novel "Welcome to Paradise" don't go looking for some deep impacting novel. Shames takes a simple idea keeps it simple throughout the book and gives you a nice quick entertaining read. There are few characters and the pace flows by that this is a one night read.
"Welcome to Paradise" is the typical wrong place wrong time novel. Furniture salesman Al Tuschmann is on vacation in South Florida. Tuschmann is trying to enjoy himself, but is the victim of some bizarre violent acts. Little does Tuschmann know that Al Maracotta a New York gangster is also in town, and a couple of this Al's enemies have hired a couple of roughnecks to make his life miserable. The roughnecks get there information crossed and start harassing the wrong the Al. Throw in a gangster's gal, a couple of strange dogs and the weirdness that is South Florida and you have yourself a nice little scenerio to read through.
I really enjoyed this quick little novel. I have read other Shames novels and though they go a little deeper, this one is my favorite. If you like this style check out Ed McBain's "Downtown" which is about a Florida salesman in New York.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
With a friendly and intuitive writing style, Laurence Shames takes his readers and deliveries them to a paradise vacation. Like most vacations, this trip isn't about the destination - it's about life's journey. Fate and mistaken identity, lead our main character through a gauntlet of unpleasant experiences. Key West is a great place to do some soul searching. In this novel, the drama of comedy/tragedy, humility & humiliation are crashed into more than Florida Key, Deer. My only regrets, are that this vacation lasts less than 250 pages & that our beloved author writes only one book per year (perhaps a trip to the midwest, would improve Mr. Shame's work ethic).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Jones on March 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mobster Al Marracotta and furniture salesman Alan Tuschman have about as much in common as a bowl of spaghetti and a bowl of conch chowder. They do, however, have the same nickname (BIG AL) and it just so happens that both of them are driving to Key West at the same time! A pair of south Florida wise guys are hired to make Big Al Marracotta's vacation in Key West miserable, but in a case of mistaken vanity plates, they start picking on the wrong Big Al! Using dead squid, live lobsters, and a remote control shark, "Chop" and "Squid" make Alan Tuschman wish he'd never left home!
It's another Key West caper by Laurence Shames full of quirky characters, non-stop laughs, and a clever unexpected ending. The only disappointment was "Bert the Shirt" didn't make a cameo appearance. Oh well, there's always the next book!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Sulkin on July 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Shames newest Key West adventure features a new set of characters, but still includes his mandatory Mafia wiseguys and hit-men to get the plot rolling. In a case of mistaken identity, an innocent furniture salesman from New Jersey is the unintended target of some deadly practical jokes intended for his Mafia namesake. The interplay between the wiseguys is funny, despite the seriousness of the situation. As usual, Key West is a major character in the story. Reading a few of the earlier Shames books will give the reader a better understanding of the locale's local color.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A reader on July 23, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Most of the reviewers here agree that this book isn't an example of "high art", but if you're looking for fun reading, (or in my case, fun listening) look no further than Welcome to Paradise by Lawrence Shames. It is a very cleverly plotted story, with intertwining themes, parallel story lines, true to form characters, all leading up to a big mano-a-mano climax in the parking lot at the end. I really enjoyed the book's descriptive elements of the Florida Keys -- the beaches, the sunsets, the dive bars, the chickens, the nudist hotels, etc. it all made me feel like I was "on vacation" like the characters in the story. It's such a fun and funny gangster/mistaken identity/love/transformational story that I'm surprised that it hasn't been picked up by some Hollywood producer and made into a movie. The Farrelly brothers could probably do it justice. There isn't any big moral to the story, other than "stick up for yourself", as far as I could see, and there's no deep and painful introspections on life. So, in sum, it was exactly the way a vacation should be -- a nice, sunny escape.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I love Shames' stories. Read them all. Funny, lots of surprising twists, nice endings. No big investments needed, but if you're looking for a nice means to escape, these stories fit the bill. Two boneheaded "hit men" and two guys named "Big Al" all mixed up in Paradise. And I loved the "death by seafood" theme. Shames' books are all good. It's hard not to laugh out loud. Can't wait for the next one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Howard Babbitt on June 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In this book the author starts with a "what if". What if there were two people with the same nickname and vanity plate, in the same place, at the same time. What if some bumbling mobsters got them confused. It is that situation that Big Al, the furniture salesman from New Jersey, finds himself in. He can't figure out why his luck has turned so bad.
From this premise a humorous book unfolds. When it is finally all settled, we have learned all about who is brave and who isn't, in the book, and in real life. There are messages in the humor about good versus evil, and about all of our self images. This is one of Mr. Shames' best works. My only complaint is that it was over far too briskly. I couldn't put it down.
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