Big Maria by Johnny Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When three men with nothing left to lose go looking for a lost gold mine in the Yuma Proving Grounds, they have no idea the forces they will be up against...
Johnny Shaw is quickly blazing his way up my list of favorite authors. Big Maria is the tale of three losers looking for their big score. Frank is an old man with cancer. Harry Schmittberger (guess what his nickname is) is a prison guard. And Ricky was a bus driver until he wrecked his bus and became the defendent in a couple dozen lawsuits. When the legend of the Big Maria Mine reaches Harry's ears, the three men join forces, forming a unit almost as capable as one regular man.
The supporting cast is also pretty good. Bernardo and Ramon, Frank's nephews, are hilarious and even I was afraid of Frank's domineering daughter Mercedes. Cooker, aka Worky, was as close to a villain to be found in the book but I eventually felt sorry for him. Poor Worky. The obstacles the trio encountered were well done and seemed fairly accurate since they were venturing into an inhospitable desert that was also a firing range.
Big Maria is one hilarious book. From the opening with Harry puking into his own pants while passed out on the toilet, I was hooked. As with Shaw's other books, Dove Season and Plaster City, the prose is peppered with hilarious lines. Unlike a lot of humorous crime books, this one doesn't lose its luster after fifty pages or so and the humor doesn't descend to a ridiculous level. It's a lot like a Joe Lansdale books and like Lansdale, I think it would be a blast to go to a barbeque at Johnny Shaw's house.
The ending was great. It wasn't all blowjobs and rainbows and I liked how things were resolved.
Like Shaw's other two books, Big Maria would make a great movie. Four out of five stars.
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