Big Trouble

Dave Barry, Author Putnam $23.95 (255p) ISBN 978-0-399-14567-4
In writing a comic thriller set in South Florida, the Pulitzer-winning Miami Herald columnist and author of 20 books of satirical nonfiction (most recently, Dave Barry Turns 50) risks the inevitable comparison to Carl Hiaasen. The good news is that he acquits himself well in this slapstick caper. Barry's cast of familiar South Florida oddballs populate what might best be described as a Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury) sendup of the hard-boiled crime novels of Elmore Leonard. Featuring a homeless drifter who sleeps in a tree and tends bar for two illegal arms-dealing Russian hoods, a pair of two-bit losers who hustle tourists at parking meters, an ex-journalist (now a failing ad-man), a pretty illegal alien, a boozy embezzler and his ill-used wife and daughter, a teen with a water pistol playing a game of Killer, a retarded dog, a psychedelic South American toad, two klutzy New Jersey hit men and a virtual army of local and Federal law enforcement, the novel's quirky players bounce off each other like popcorn in a microwave, chasing after a mysterious suitcase containing a nuclear bomb in an unlikely race against certain death. The zany plot has more twists than the I-95 Miami airport interchange and more pratfalls than a Three Stooges comedy. Despite an occasional stiffness and tendency to strain for one-liners, the narrative moves at a breezy pace. Barry is indisputably one of the funniest humorists writing today, and his fiction debut will not disappoint a legion of fans. Agent, Al Hart. 150,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild featured alternate; 12-city author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999
Release date: 09/01/1999
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