By Rick Gavin

(Minotaur, $24.99, 304 pages)

Who is this author?

Emerging authors always need something to fall back on. When he’s not writing one of his “Delta Noir” comic crime capers, Rick Gavin works as a carpenter and sheetrocker in Louisiana. His first novel, “Ranchero,” introduced the piquant Mississippi Delta characters Nick and Desmond, who re-appear in his latest, “Beluga,” and will be back this fall in “Druid City,” which is set far, far away… in Alabama. How did Gavin go from sheetrocker to author? Here is what he told

“I read a lot and hear plenty of stories from the people I work with, so I decided to try my hand at writing a few of them down and shaping them to suit me. It took several tries before I came up with anything worth reading. A friend of mine sent the manuscript to an agent who somehow managed to sell it. Just my luck to have started publishing books as the whole business is going under.

“I was born in Georgia and have lived all over the South. I got as far as junior college while working in construction. I helped a sheet rocker for a week while his buddy was out sick and picked up the trade. It lets me work when I want to and write when I don’t. I spent a few months working on a job in the Mississippi Delta, and that’s where I started thinking about Nick and Desmond.”

What is this book about?

If you, like Nick and Desmond, had grabbed a bunch of dirty money from a meth dealer, then you, like Nick and Desmond, would need to launder your stash, and you, like them,  might do that by investing it in various schemes. Such as one that Desmond’s ex-brother-in-law proposes, centering on a trailer stuffed with stolen tires. Soon they’re being threatened by a ninja schoolgirl and some Delta-based gangsters. They might have been better off investing with Fidelity, but then we readers would not gain the dividend of reading a very funny book.

Why you’ll like it:

Gavin knows funny. As he told “I read a few of Mark Twain’s travel books and couldn’t quite believe how funny they were. It’s easy to make people cry – on the page or in life. Making them laugh is a much taller order. I knew I could do it telling a story but wasn’t sure I could do it writing one, so I gave it a try. I enjoy writing my novels. If they’re only half as entertaining to read as they are to write, then I think I’ll be satisfied. Thanks for laughing out loud.”

Reviewers are laughing out loud, too, praising Gavin’s ability to create wacky characters and set them in improbable situations, counterbalancing the silliness with a very dry wit.

What others are saying:

In a starred review, Booklist says:

“Nick Reid and his massive African American friend Desmond are sitting on $200,000 liberated from a Louisiana meth dealer, and they want to put their money to work for them. Against their better judgment, they finance Desmond’s ex-brother-in-law Larry Carothers’ plan to hijack a truckload of Michelin tires and sell them in small lots across the Mississippi Delta. Their better judgment reminds them that Larry is an idiot who legally changed his name to Beluga LaMonte while in Mississippi’s infamous Parchman prison, but Desmond remains in thrall of Beluga’s ultravolatile ex, Shawnica. Beluga, of course, bungles his own heist. Soon, family clans of Delta ne’er-do-wells—possessed of “raging shiftlessness”—are hunting Beluga, Nick, and Desmond. So is a “ninja schoolgirl assassin” who is determined to see that their deaths are slow and very painful. Ranchero (2011), Gavin’s debut novel, was lauded by many reviewers, and Beluga is a worthy successor. It’s exciting, violent, gritty, and often very funny, and the knowing portrait of a region largely unknown to most readers is almost revelatory. Gavin also has a distinctive narrative voice that could be described as Delta baroque. It might take a page or two for some readers to adapt to his rhythm, but once they do, they’ll be under its spell.”

Publishers Weekly says: “In Gavin’s stellar second slapstick noir set in the Mississippi Delta (after 2011’s Ranchero), former cop Nick Reid and his humongous black buddy, Desmond, invest money in a lame-brained scheme to steal a truckload of tires, which turn out to be the hot property of Lucas Shambrough, a deviant offshoot of a proud local family. In revenge, Lucas promptly sics his cronies—including his psycho mistress, who dresses like a schoolgirl but enjoys pounding people to pieces with blunt instruments—on the thieves. Since one of the endangered hijackers is Desmond’s former brother-in-law, Larry “Beluga” LaMonte, Desmond and Nick intervene to stop the mayhem, though all Nick really wants to do is get better acquainted with an attractive by-the-book policewoman. Gavin clearly likes his dimwitted characters, and he appreciates how hard they struggle with their harsh existence in the Delta. …. this is a captivating and frequently hilarious series.”

 “…Gavin’s captivating style and colloquial voice add a wonderful dimension to Southern regional literature. This will certainly seal his growing reputation in the humorous crime genre,” says Library Journal.

Fifteen more rounds of violent farce for sometime–repo man Nick Reid. …Gavin updates the good-old-boy charm of the “Smokey and the Bandit” movie series but adds some sharp narration by a hero who’s still plenty dumb enough to get into some seriously funny trouble,” says Kirkus Reviews.

When is it available?

“Beluga” is waiting for you at the Downtown Hartford Public Library.

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