Rumors of lost pirate treasure in the Gulf of Mexico drive hard men mad in the sweaty, desperate days after the BP oil spill.
This is one hell of a debut novel. Cooper combines the rough-hewn but poetic style favored by writers like Charles Willeford with the kinds of miscreants so beloved by Elmore Leonard, all operating in the tumultuous modern-day disaster that is New Orleans. Our chief troublemaker is old Gus Lindquist, a one-armed drunk who believes that a hard-to-find island off the coast still holds the buried doubloons of French pirate Jean Lafitte. He hires Wes Trench, the troubled teenage son of a local shrimper, to accompany him on his so-called adventure to find the loot. Unfortunately, the site in Louisiana’s Barataria region is also home to a patch of particularly potent weed farmed by Reginald and Victor Toup, two dangerous scumbags who think up stunts like delivering an alligator to Lindquist’s bedroom in an attempt to scare him off. Other comic moments come from the efforts of slick BP representative Brady Grimes to convince the hardheaded and suspicious locals to take a paltry, token payment over the massive settlement everyone knows is coming. Lastly, Cooper throws in a pair of wild cards in Nate Cosgrove and John Henry Hanson, unlikely allies who meet on a road crew while serving out their community-service sentences. When Cosgrove and Hanson decide the Toup brothers’ ganja is worth ripping off, it all comes boiling over in a conflict not everyone will survive. With crisp, noir-inspired writing and a firmly believable setting, Cooper has written an engaging homage to classic crime writing that still finds things to say about the desperate days we live through now.
Somewhere, Donald E. Westlake, John D. MacDonald and Elmore Leonard are smiling down on this nasty, funny piece of work.