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 Candide in Key West, from a rising master of mafia comedy. Sitting in his suburban New Jersey garage one dismal morning, Murray Zemelman (``the bra king'') decides not to kill himself--and instead drives away from his bosomy young second wife and keeps driving till he's at the end of US 1. His escape from the rat race energizes Murray so much that his psychiatrist suggests he imagine his fishing line a ground wire that carries off the excess energy, and Murray dreams blissful dreams of ``tiny lightning bolts hissing like matches doused in a shallow sea crammed full of finned and smiling creatures.'' But everybody's got to do something, and Murray soon takes up the cause of Tommy Tarpon, last of the Matalatchee, who's getting leaned on by mobster Charlie Ponte and his bagman, State Senator Barney LaRue, to front a casino. At the Bra King's urging, Tommy applies to LaRue for tribal ownership of minuscule Kilicumba Island; LaRue, seeing dollars as brilliant as Murray's fish, falls all over himself to expedite the grant; and when Ponte's goons make Tommy an offer he can't refuse for his cooperation in opening a casino on the island, he refuses. Big mistake--for Tommy, for Murray, and for Murray's first wife, Franny Rudin, whom he's avid to rekindle his post-marital romance with, even though she acidly reminds him that in their 21 years together, ``the most political thing I ever saw you do was buy stamps.'' Okay, once the schlemiel hits the fan, there's not much left to watch except the triumph of grit and ingenuity and sunset romance as the purity of the heroes, rather than their virtue, armors them against disaster. But Shames recycles enough characters from his earlier farces (Sunburn, 1995, etc.) to keep his old fans happy and provides enough snappy, joyous patter to snag his share of new ones. Oh, the people--and the sentences--you'll meet this time. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 7th, 1996
ISBN: 0-7868-6109-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1996


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