Kirkus Reviews QR Code
GULF BOULEVARD by Dennis Hart

GULF BOULEVARD

By Dennis Hart

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-57962-353-1
Publisher: Permanent Press

A universal fantasy kicks off Hart’s debut comic caper.

Jason Najarian, pencil pusher for a Boston rope company, wins a multimillion dollar lottery. Jason quits the job, buys his divorced parents each a house, disengages from newfound friends and relatives, and plots revenge on his unfaithful ex-wife, who pleads "[t]emporary insanity....My periods were wicked bad back then." Jason gives her $10,000, moves to a beachfront mansion on a Florida island and tells her to join him in Malibu, Calif. Hart’s Everyman fantasy plays out with a madcap cast, including "The Hammer," Phyllis Hammerstein, pint-sized realtor. She’s cool until Jason lays down a $1.2 million certified check, and then she turns flirty. The bad-guy lead is amply filled by 380-pound, 5-foot-10 Salvatore "Two Scales" Scalise, a hit man in hiding after accidentally adding the mob capo’s son to a contract. The romantic lead goes to Fiona "Running Bush" Tallahassee, Native American activist, who Jason believes is "the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, without first logging onto a website." There’s woe to come, but the narrative’s first half is all vicarious fun—new boat, new pickup and enough other goodies to make a comfort-rich hermit life for Jason. Hart has a way with one-liners and left-handed descriptions, as when measuring Jason’s ex-wife’s intelligence; she "thought AT&T was a place to get drinks because they always advertised about having the most bars." Add minor characters, like marina manager Memphis the Lighthouse, who believes Jason’s a terrorist, Tranquility, Jason’s father’s new hippie wife, and Bradley, the supercilious professor married to Jason’s mother, to this Florida milieu, and the action moves along quickly, albeit padded by a not-all-that-funny plot thread involving North Korea and human excrement as fertilizer.

Works by Dave Barry and Carl Hiaasen offer more hyperbole and surrealism, respectively. Still, there's plenty of good fun here, with a sequel to come.