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Big Maria Paperback – September 25, 2012
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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.
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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.
Harry - spends most of his time either drunk or hungover, and seems to be a magnet for bad luck
Ricky - has messed up badly and wants to win back the respect of his wife and daughter
Frank - an older man with not much time left, is bored with waiting around for death to find him
Frank's the fellow with the most common sense and also something of a "father figure" for the first two. BUT, before you go gettin' that Ozzie Nelson vibe, know that Frank will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to keep Harry and Ricky in line and focused on the prize...which just happens to be a forgotten gold mine.
The fact that said gold mine is now located within the confines of the US Army Proving Ground?
Details. Mere details.
So off these fellows go, on a very bumpy, and very funny, quest for fortune and treasure. In front of them? Guys with guns, choppers and tanks. Behind them? Harry's scary daughter, Mercedes. Forget 'pitbull with lipstick'...she's a rhino with a perm, and she'll do WHATEVER IT TAKES to protect her father, and basically keep him from having any fun.
This book is a comedy of misadventures with likable characters, great dialogue, hilarious situations, and oh, yeah - donkeys. Sounds like a winner to me.
For me, Big Maria is not so much about finding the gold as it is about true friendship. No one would have thought the three of them would end up as friends, but the unlikely happened.
This is a well written novel that would come across as intended for a male audience (in my book, at least)... But amidst the adventures, the swearing, the absence of a female protagonist, the setting on a military-controlled desert/mountain, the story has got humor, and most especially, it's got heart. I like that, I like that very much.
But personable characters make this story.
You want to cheer at their successes and cry at their setbacks.