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Big Maria by [Shaw, Johnny]
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Big Maria Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 450 customer reviews

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Length: 331 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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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: 860 KB
  • Print Length: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (September 25, 2012)
  • Publication Date: September 25, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007KO2MLO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,533 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Just My Op VINE VOICE on 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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So I was in my bed, recovering from my hip replacement and wanted something to read. Didn't want SF. Didn't want Horror. Didn't want Fantasy or Military fiction.

Crime fiction popped into my head. Now, I had read Johnny Shaw's Dove Season and Plaster City and while those books were entertaining, they didn't' leave me rushing out to pick up the next one. But... I was bored, taking regulated shots of morphine to kill post-surgery pain, and thought what the hell. Maybe Shaw's got something else.

And he did.

He had Big Maria. Just waiting.

A writer has only a click to draw in a reader. Shaw knows this and so when he lay down that opening scene of a drunk waking up in a toilet stall, well, I was hooked. More than hooked. This was my kind of literature.

If you enjoy crime flicks like "Snatch," "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," "Get Shorty" then Big Maria might very well be for you. Seriously. Shaw has moments in here of pure genius. His three main characters are ones I wish I'd thought of, and the supporting cast generated just as many snorts and giggles as a whiff of chuckle gas. There are scenes that scream cinematic adaption, and maybe, just maybe, that might become reality.

Read this in two very merry days in between sessions of physical therapy.

No painkillers needed.
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