Basket Case (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
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Jack Tagger’s years in exile at the obituaries desk of a South Florida daily haven’t dulled his investigative reporter’s nose for a good story. When Jimmy Stoma, the infamous front man of Jimmy and the Slut Puppies, dies in a fishy scuba accident, Jack sees his ticket back to page one—if only he can figure out what really happened. Standing in his way are, just for starters, his ambitious young editor, who hasn’t yet fired anyone but plans to “break her cherry” on Jack; the rock star’s pop-singer widow, who’s using the occasion of her husband’s death to relaunch her own career; and the soulless, profit-hungry owner of the newspaper, whom Jack once publicly humiliated at a stockholders’ meeting. Following clues from the late rock singer’s own music, Jack tries to unravel the lies surrounding Jimmy Stoma’s strange fate.
MacArthur Polk obituary, either. “I choked, man,” he confesses. “Abkazion bailed me out. He grabbed all your notes, sat down at the city desk and banged the whole story out with, like, twenty minutes to deadline.” “I see.” Evan can’t stop apologizing, and he’s wearing on my nerves like a whining Chihuahua. “Once you told me the obit was for the front page,” he says, “my brain locked up big-time. I’m really sorry, Jack.” “Don’t be. It was wrong for me to dump it on you like that.” “What do
his Coupe de Ville into a palm tree along Perdido Boulevard. That he died was the only fact Emma managed to get right. The one who got the angry letters from the dead man’s family was me, because it was my name on the story beneath the fucked-up headline. Weeks later, Emma sent me a memo of apology, in which she again misspelled Murtaugh’s name. God, if only it had been out of spite and not incompetence. . . . Driving across Pelican Causeway, I’m imagining the headline possibilities for Jimmy
which she lays across my eyes and forehead. “Is that too cold?” she asks. “Why won’t you sleep with Juan? Everybody sleeps with Juan.” “Do you?” “I’m talking about the ladies, Emma. Is it because he’s a sportswriter?” “No, it’s because he’s your best friend.” “Juan is a gentleman. He never talks about his love life.” “Then how do you know we haven’t slept together?” “I pried it out of him.” “Really,” says Emma. “Why?” I peek from under the washcloth to see if she’s miffed. “You’re my
says, “I’ve never been here before.” “Then you should be warned: This is where he frequently sleeps with women.” “I’ll try not to make a scene,” Emma says. The house is dark. I knock firmly on the door. She stands back, clutching the gadget we found inside the scuba tank. “Maybe he’s not home,” I say hopefully. “His Jeep’s in the carport,” Emma notes. I knock again, harder this time. A light appears through a side window and soon we hear voices, plural. “Juan!” I call out. “Hey, Juan, it’s
a shameless suck-up. “Killer show,” Tarkington says, warming at the memory. “Floor seats, fifth-row center. I owe you for life, Jack. But I can’t do much with this one. I’m good, buddy, but I’m not a magician.” “And if Jimmy’s sister turns up murdered . . . ?” “I’ll be there like a gator on a poodle,” he says, “and I’ll not hesitate to subpoena your scrawny, white, First Amendment-quoting ass. Now, before you go, play me that song again.” Given the setting, it’s a strangely mellow