Tuesday, February 11, 2020

DOUBLE WIDE Is an Amusing and Entertaining Debut Novel from Leo W. Banks

Prospero "Whip" Stark was once an up-and-coming phenom, pitching in the major leagues. But then he blew out his shoulder and, following surgery, his career never recovered. From there it was all downhill until he found himself in a Mexican jail doing time on drug charges. Now free and back home in the U.S., he's settled into an aging Airstream trailer, living the simple life in the desert outside of Tucson, Arizona.

A handful of other misfits have joined him in the tiny community known as Double Wide, and Stark is the unofficial mayor of the settlement, watching over his charges. Life is more or less copacetic in Double Wide until one afternoon Stark comes home to find that someone has left a box on his porch. In the box is a severed human hand, and from the tattoo on the back of the hand, Stark recognizes it as a hand that was once attached to the arm of his former catcher, Rolando Molina.

The last Stark saw of Molina, the man had developed a serious cocaine addiction and was entering treatment. Stark is determined to discover what might have happened to his friend, and he suspects that Molina's death is connected to a cartel that's running drugs through an old mining camp on nearby Paradise Mountain. In the course of his investigation, Stark will become entangled with vicious and dangerous drug runners, money launderers, baseball players, aspiring sports agents, and a sexy stripper-turned-television news reporter named Roxanne Santa Cruz. And by the time it's over, only the strong, wily and smart will survive to see the end of the tale.

This is a very entertaining debut novel with a cast of offbeat characters and a great lead protagonist in Whip Stark. It's by turns scary and funny; the dialogue is great, and the story moves along at just the right pace. A veteran Arizona journalist, Banks knows the territory well, and the setting is vividly described. You can feel the desert heat burning into your skin and the monsoon rains pelting down so hard that a person can't see three feet ahead into the night. The story's various threads all come together in a great climax, and this is a book that should appeal to a broad audience.

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