The ’20s roar in this crime-caper-meets-historical novel, an homage to the Sunshine State in its halcyon flush—flappers colliding with pink flamingos and gangsters stalking West Palm Beach.
Joe Kennedy’s cheating on Rose with Gloria Swanson, who’s cheating in turn on her Marquis husband. Bryce Shoat, black sheep kin to tycoon Harvey Firestone, is cheating on dishy, ditzy Nina Randolph so as to steal the affections (and assets) of luscious, lush heiress Janice Pendergast. And ex-bootlegger Frank Hearn, our raffish anti-hero, is bent on cheating all Miami. Irby (7000 Clams, 2005) unveils the dark side of the American Dream, in a burg where everyone’s on the make, primed, like Jay Gatsby, to reinvent himself bigger, brighter and glamorously fake. An eye-patch-wearing refugee from bleak Asbury Park, Hearn first gains big shekels by fixing a jai-alai match, then schemes with Parker Anderson, former mayor’s son and a con man with beaucoups connections, to pull off a massive real-estate scam in a town where the economy has been dicey ever since the hurricane of 1926. But in dizzyingly short order, Frank’s chased by goons from the jai-alai club; taken a nightstick in the gut from coppers wise to his stolen Chrysler; and gotten the straight dope that Parker’s been shot in the noggin’ just before bedding a nightclub dancer. Whew! And the story only speeds up from there. Frank’s desperate for moolah not only because he’s one avaricious operator, but to repay a massive loan from the father of his beauteous fiancée, Irene. So his motives are triple: greed, fear, true love. In the end, the last wins out—just as the book emerges more as comedy than thriller. But it’s terrific as both, weaving together the Kennedy, Shoat and Hearn tales into one fine trifecta of fun.
A smart Jazz Age treat that swings.