... in the wilds of Montecito...
Whatever the circumstances, life is good.
|Painting: Van Stein|
Chuckle, oink, barf.
These are the first thoughts to enter Jeff Dalkin's brain upon learning what a potential client wants him to find.
Dalkin says: "Fuck-nuts." (It is involuntary; he suffers—some say enjoys—Tourette’s syndrome.)
Then Dalkin agrees to take the job. So what if it’s the nuttiest assignment he's ever been offered? It pays a grand a day, expenses (first-class).
And Dalkin's focus is nothing if not well defined: Big bucks blow me.
It occurs to Dalkin that maybe he should know something more about this client. Sure, Arthur Toady is rich beyond belief—they all are or fuck 'em.
But what compels Toady to underwrite this unusual quest?
At an open-air table outside Sambo's, the first and last of a politically incorrect coffee shop chain, Dalkin sips from a mug of grounds and fingers his phone.
"Speak!" commands a voice on the other end.
"I need a timber assessment on..."
"I'm finished doing timber assessments for you," snaps Ronald M. Schvantz, the dataveillant.
"Whattaya mean?" squawks Dalkin.
"You kidding? My data sources are wise to you. This is what, the fifth time you've called looking for freebies?"
"Hey, timber assessments were your idea."
"That's correct," says Schvantz. "But when I tell you there's a load of timber on a gaffer you put up, you're supposed to buy a globe-scan. But you? You take my teaser and scram."
"Okay, okay. What's a global cost now?"
"Between 2650 and 3300 smackers."
"Depending on what?"
"How much wood in the forest."
"So find out," says Dalkin.
"That is not correct,"
"How about a cursory globe-scan?"
"No such thing. You want blood, go to the Red Cross, cos you're wasting my time."
"Owwww! Holy fucking Christ!"
"Sorry. A spiritual rebirth doesn't cut it."
"Don't sass me. It's my tooth. The coffee. Damn, that hurts!" Dalkin rubs his jaw, trying to soothe a bottom molar. "Okay, okay. Do Arthur Toady. I'll pay."
"Yup." Dalkin spells it.
"Do you have any statistical identifiers?"
"You want me to do your job for you?"
"Just give me something I can work with," says Schvantz. "Or I'm likely to find ten Toadys, God forbid. An address, maybe. Or just tell me what city."
"Santa Barbara, California. A neighborhood called Hope Ranch. And he's very rich—blow me."
"Of course." Schvantz is already clacking away at his keyboard. "Toady the toymaker?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Lotta timber," says Schvantz. "You're looking at the high end."
"Is that a yes?"
"How much is this guy worth?" Dalkin presses.
"A billion, at least. Toady's Toys is no slouch."
"Anything about religious affiliation?"
"You're pushing it." But Schvantz cannot resist an opportunity to show off. "He's a mixed bag of buns."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"He gives to all faiths."
"How do you know that?"
"A new data base: charitable religious contributions." Schvantz pauses. "We can also get his pharmacy prescriptions and supermarket buying habits. You in?"
"Nah." Dalkin already had what he needed. "How about a globe-scan on Satan?"
"Sure," said Schvantz. "Go to hell."
"I mean it..." But Dalkin is talking to an empty void. He feels a pang of pain, whacks his jaw. "Fuck-nuts."
A re-set of new habits in the making.
As the top “Road Warrior” of contemporary American fiction Robert Eringer—like the hero of the iconic Willie Nelson song—is happiest when with his friends he is “On the Road Again," and in his latest and best novel—Book Drive—he takes his readers on yet another trip they will long remember.
As in his well-regarded earlier Road Novels—Motional Blur (2016) and Last Flight Out (2019)—Eringer uses the device of a journey to tell a riveting story about believable and appealing characters whose travails illustrate some larger truths concerning the human condition.
The journey in question is taken by an elderly once famous writer—Christopher Lathom—as a promotional tour for his first novel in thirty years.
Proceeding along the scenic coastal route from L.A. to Seattle a series of misfortunes overtake Lathom which provide striking insights into a dysfunctional legal system, a declining publishing industry, and the inanity of political correctness which collectively compel this memorably rendered protagonist to confront the utter bleakness of his mismanaged life.
Eringer’s gift is his ability to make you care about this dyspeptic and querulous character.
Through an ingenious series of plot twists and turns there emerges a painful but moving tale of human redemption through the power of love and family.