Double Wide by Leo W. Banks (Brash Books, 2017) is an entertaining mash-up of unrelated elements (societal dropouts, baseball, gold mines, and economic botany) that add novelty to the usual smuggling along the border of Arizona in this compactly plotted debut. Prospero (Whip) Stark was an up-and-coming pitcher with a professional player contract and a killer fastball when his career crashed beyond salvaging. He retreated to the exquisitely beautiful desert outside Tucson, living more or less off the grid in a trailer and renting a few other trailers to those like him with no particular liking for society. Content with life, Whip comes home after a grocery run to find a shoebox on his front porch and is dismayed to find the severed hand of his friend and catcher from his professional baseball days in it. A short time later he finds the dead body of a stranger within a couple of miles of his trailer community.
Uneasy about the crime wave in his area, he knows he has to figure out what happened to his friend, which brings Whip back to the baseball field where he had his greatest successes. There he meets Roxanne Santa Cruz, a hard-drinking reporter ever on the hunt for a good story and she thinks Whip has one. Their investigation encounters a parade of eccentric characters including a retired professor of botany who has gone on the run with a stripper, the professor’s reclusive mentor who greets visitors with a shotgun and attack dogs, a sleazy sports agent, a naïve teenager with a wild pitch that he thinks is his ticket to fame and fortune, and a machete-toting drug smuggler.
Banks describes Arizona with the enthusiasm and detail of a travel guide. His characters are credible, if unusual. This convoluted and fast-moving story won the 2018 Spur Award for Best First Novel and the 2018 Spur Award for Best Contemporary Western. It was also True West Magazine's Best Western Crime Novel of the Year. I am looking for a sequel featuring at least some of the people introduced here.
· File Size: 1763 KB
· Print Length: 352 pages
· Publisher: Brash Books; 1st edition (November 1, 2017)
· Publication Date: November 1, 2017
· ASIN: B074K1MD1H
Aubrey Hamilton ©2018
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.