THE MORTAL NUTS by Pete Hautman


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 Another riotous carnival of larcenous fun Ö la Elmore Leonard--this time set in and around a real carnival. Taco tycoon Axel Speeter, who doesn't like banks, keeps his fortune in Folgers--$260,000 in seven coffee cans, to be precise. Sophie Roman, newly promoted to manager of Axel's Taco Shop, doesn't know about it, but her footloose daughter Carmen does, and soon so do Carmen's boyfriend James Dean and his new skinhead friends, Tigger (the little, dumb one), Sweety (the big, even dumber one), and Pork (their pumped-up crank connection). All Axel wants to do is max out his take at the Minnesota State Fair; all Carmen, an aspiring nurse, wants to do is dose herself with bigger and bigger hits of Valium--at least until she samples the crank; all Dean wants to do is plunge his arms up to the elbows in Axel's greasy greenbacks. While all are biding their time waiting for Hautman's hilariously overgalvanized plot to kick in, Axel reminisces about some long-ago hands of poker he played with his buddies Sam O'Gara, the human randomizer, and Tommy Fabian, the monarch of Tiny Tot Donuts; surprisingly capitalistic Sophie and increasingly brain-dead Carmen jockey for position at the taco counter; and Dean goes after Axel's buddy Tommy Fabian, of Tiny Tot Donuts, and spends a lot of time mangling bits from the John Donne book borrowed from the sister he killed back in Omaha. Even minor characters, like the Motel 6 night manager and the clotheshorse twinkie Axel's hired for the State Fair stint, share the tunnel-vision looniness, convinced, like Axel and Dean, that their ships are about to come in. Hautman (Short Money, 1995, etc.) provides pleasantly hallucinogenic dialogue that faithfully reflects the mixture of nonstop junk food, increasingly toxic drugs, and background noise from the Tilt-a-Whirl and the hog pens just outside the midway; the whole world vibrates, with each felonious dreamer always on the cusp of a carnival buzz. Joyfully loony--as blissful as a ton of cotton candy.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-81000-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996


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