“Welcome to Paradise”
by Laurence Shames
1999, 238 pages,
Fawcett Books, New York, N.Y.
America, Meet Alan Tuschman, Furniture Salesman Supreme
Al is a good person. He works hard and he works honestly, and his reward for being such a good and hard working man is an all expenses paid vacation, which to the chagrin of his fellow employees, he seems to win on an annual basis.
A divorcee, Al, along with his shih tzu "Fifi" and war wounds of torn tendons, broken bones and aching muscles from his varsity years pile into his lease Lexus with its "Big Al" vanity plate, and head to America's southernmost continental city, Key West, Florida.
America, Meet "Big Al" Marracotta, Seafood Mob Middleman
Destination? You guessed it, Key West!
Other Colorful Characters From the Seafood Syndicate
The "Fun" Begins
Not being the sharpest tools in the shed of organized crime, Chop Parilla and Squid Berman decide to follow Tuschman although he is a big man with a small dog. They follow him down Elizabeth Street almost to its end at the Gulf of Mexico to Tuschman's final destination, "Paradise", a cypress wood structure that was probably a former Key West house converted into a bed and breakfast.
From here Chop Parilla and Squid Berman begin their own unique form of torture that has you feeling sorry for poor Al Tuschman, yet Shames's work is so eloquently and understated, that you find yourself grinning at the outrageousness and irony of it all at the same time.
I was unaware of this fine author until Roothee at Tropic Star Cruises in Pineland recommended his work to me during the December 2003 vacation that my wife Karen and I took to South Florida (see Issues 195, 196, 197 and 198. I was fortunate enough to find this book at Key West Island Books, 513 Fleming Street in Key West two days later. I will also add that Key West Island Books has the finest collection of Florida noir I have seen anywhere. Hiassen, McDonald, Dorsey, White, Barry, Corcoran, Hall, you name 'em, just about all of 'em are there.
"Welcome to Paradise" is a delightful novel that highlights how a good and decent man deals with and invariably conquers the malevolent nature and motives of others, none of which he was ever deserving. I laud Shames for this fine work and advise that you check it out.
"La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.