"Beluga" by Rick Gavin
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Taint often that a sequel overpowers its predecessor, yet that's the case with "Beluga," Rick Gavin's "part deux" take on his his first novel, "Ranchero."
Think of the original as an appetizer-- Clams Casino, Oysters Rockefeller, or a Slap-Your-Tongue-Six-Ways-to-Sunday Jell-O salad.
"Beluga," then, lays the feast: The fork-tender, chicken-fried cubed steak with rice & milk gravy and a mess o' collards with pot liquor so fine you'd swear it came from a distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
"Beluga"-- not the caviar, not the whale, but a person-- brings back Nick and Desmond, repo men from Indianola, Mississippi, who hit the jackpot without purchasing a lottery ticket, or visiting one of the Delta's finer casinoes.
No, when last we left them in "Ranchero," they had made off with a chunk of a meth lord's money. Desmond has since been able to purchase another Escalade, having forfeited his first one to his fearsome ex-wife, Shawnica.
Now that Nick and Desmond are flush, Shawnica's brother, Larry, wants to be financed in high style so that he and a buddy, Skeeter, can swipe a truckload of hot tires and fence them all over the Delta, ostensibly for a tidy profit.
It's like this: He wants to borrow stolen money to steal some stolen goods.
Hey, it works on Wall Street. A scam's a scam, whether on a dirt road lined with soybean fields, or just around the corner from the Federal Reserve Bank of NY, NY.
Perhaps if Desmond's bro-in-law Larry were more Bernie Madoff and less Barney the Purple Dinosaur, the scheme might've stood a chance. As it stands, Larry & Skeeter and Nick & Desmond might just as soon have decided to go snorkeling around the Great Barrier Reef with raw hamburger stuffed in their swim suits.
Don't want to spoil the plot particulars of the feast, but here's the general flavor: Imagine Orson Welles's "Touch of Evil" rewritten by Tennessee Williams, then tweaked by Quentin Tarantino.
As for dessert, let's hope for a heaping helping of Pearl, Nick's landlady, with lots of her Presbyterian friends, her canasta-playing cronies, and, perhaps, a plot surrounding her deceased husband, Gil-- he of the extensive, left-to-Pearl wardrobe.
Call it "Seersucker."
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