Thursday, June 19, 2014

Yikes, what a great book! PLASTER CITY by Johnny Shaw!

Yikes, what a great book! Johnny Shaw is a writer who keeps getting better, and if he gets any better than this it’ll be downright scary.

Johnny Shaw’s debut novel Dove Season (the first Jimmy Veeder Fiasco), was great fun, and garnered a Spotted Owl Award. His second novel, Big Maria (without Veeder), was even better, snagging an Anthony Award. Now comes Plaster City, his best yet, and deserving of even greater laurels.

Jimmy Veeder and his pal Bobby Maves are back, still wild and crazy, two years after the events of Dove Season. But they’ve grown as characters, and Shaw has grown as a writer. This is a fine novel—witty, wacky and sometimes hilarious, but with a heart, a soul and a brain. As a result, Plaster City is extremely satisfying on several levels. The characters are alive, the plot is compelling, the action is exciting and inventive, and there are real-life serious issues lurking just beneath the surface.

There’s plenty of conflict here, as Jimmy and Bobby battle with guns, lead pipes and fists against a biker gang, Mexican mobsters, and even each other. But the most important conflict pits our two heroes—poster boys for irresponsibility—against the pressures of fatherhood.

Johnny Shaw and his Spotted Owl
When Bobby’s teenage daughter (a girl he barely knows) goes missing, the two set out on a mad quest to find her and return her to her mother. At the same time, Jimmy’s adopted son Juan is struggling with the traumatic events that brought he and Jimmy together. As Jimmy and Bobby deal with fatherhood in their own ways, Bobby is forced to examine his relationship with his own estranged father, a man every bit as wild an crazy as Bobby himself.

Yeah, there are serious issues here, but they never get in the way of the fun. And fun is a big, big factor, beginning with Jimmy’s wise guy narration and intensified by the wacky repartee between the Jimmy an Bobby. And it just keeps on coming, in the choices they make, the company they keep and the messes they get into. The book is subtitled “A Jimmy Veeder Fiasco,” and that’s an understatement. These guys have a knack for turning the simplest tasks into fiascoes, and do so on a regular basis. The result is a non-stop romp through the Southwestern desert.

Plaster City is everything a novel should be—engaging, enlightening, and always entertaining. And as I said, Johnny Shaw is still getting better. I can’t wait to see what he does next.  


Stephen Mertz said...

Great review of a fine writer. I've only read DOVE SEASON (so far) and it was the best book I read that year. Go, Johnny, Go!

Rick Robinson said...

I have DOVE SEASON but have not read it.