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About Laurence Shames
Laurence Shames is the author of more than twenty books. Four of them have been New York Times bestsellers; seven have been optioned for feature film. His comic crime fiction has earned him Great Britain’s prestigious Last Laugh Dagger and has been called “as enjoyable as a day at the beach” by USA Today.
Shames was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1951, and graduated from NYU in 1972. Before turning to writing full-time in 1976, he briefly and unhappily held jobs as a taxi driver, lounge singer, furniture mover, lifeguard, dishwasher, gym teacher, and shoe salesman.
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Well, Key West Normal is when two friends in need of a place to live drag away an abandoned hot dog truck in the middle of the night…
But an insomniac New Yorker has got himself trapped inside it while searching for his neurotic cat…
And the truck is the secret hub of a global smuggling operation and holds a stash worth millions…
But the tough guy sent to recover the fortune is way more interested in being reunited with his one true love.
Most of all, though, Key West Normal is when none of the above seems at all improbable. It’s just the way things are. Or at least how they are in the funky, funny, palm-shaded, all-accepting town at the end of the road.
And when it falls to the unlikeliest pair of heroes—a homeless man named Pineapple and an ancient Mafioso known as Bert the Shirt—to sort through all the many twists and turns and save the day, well, that’s Key West Normal to the max.
Full of tropical sunshine and crackling dialogue, loopy wisdom and touching revelations from characters you’ll root for, this feel-good novel will lift you like an ocean wave and remind you how good it feels to forget your worries and laugh out loud.
FICTION: Poolside at their motel, the Fab Four fell into conversation with a snappy-dressing local named Bert the Shirt, who listened as the band worked out a harmony to the most beautiful song he’d ever heard--and wouldn’t hear again for over half a century.
FACT: That night, the Beatles played an unannounced free concert in the motel bar. Everyone was welcome. Local musicians showed up with guitars and keyboards, and had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of jamming with the Beatles till 4 am. This legendary event has forever after been known to Key West locals as THE PARADISE GIG.
FICTION: Next day, hung over and exhausted, the Beatles left for the airport, having somehow lost a stained and battered notebook that held a priceless stash of unrecorded songs.
NOW CUT TO THE PRESENT: A beautiful woman is doing a yoga headstand on a Key West beach when she’s abducted by a pair of thugs. An aspiring young singer is offered a recording deal that seems a bit too good to be true. Bad things happen to a couple of one-hit wonders…And old Bert hears a new song that is hauntingly familiar, but that he can’t quite place.
Could it possibly be the same song he’d heard at poolside so many years before? Could it be that all the present mayhem circles back through the decades to THE PARADISE GIG? Could the precious, even sacred, Beatles notebook possibly turn up after all these years? Could Bert be the hero who would rediscover that stash of unheard songs for music lovers everywhere—and save a young singer’s life in the process? With Nacho, his intrepid Chihuahua, at his side, and with no one but bumbling detective Pete Amsterdam for an ally, the undaunted Bert the Shirt sets out through the Florida haze to piece it all together, learning along the way how much the world has changed—and how much it has not.
In equal parts suspenseful and nostalgic, funny and romantic, this time-bending caper celebrates the power of music and the many tricks of memory, the joys of youth and the comforts of age, and the free and funky spirit of Key West.
He weighs four pounds and stands eight inches off the ground. His name is Nacho and he’s the bravest, shrewdest, funniest Chihuahua you will ever meet. He’ll do anything to help his master, the retired Mafioso Bert the Shirt, and his friends—especially the beautiful Rita, with whom Nacho is smitten from the very first time she reaches down to scratch his ears.
Wise-cracking Rita, straight out of Jersey, is new in town and needs a job. A gig at Wreckers Rum seems promising, but there’s something, well, a little off about the place. It doesn’t sell much booze, yet maintains a classy tasting room on prime Key West waterfront. Where’s the money coming from? Who’s the oddly chivalrous mobster behind the operation? What’s up with the crazy scientist in flip-flops toiling away in his triple-locked lab behind the distillery? And how might Rita get closer to the irresistible but aloof young chief distiller whose only passion seems to be for making rum? Determined to find both answers and true love, undaunted Rita lands herself in some very hot water—hot rum, actually—and it will take a special kind of devoted and unleashed hero to rescue her.
Oh…and one more thing about Nacho. He’s not just brave; he talks, lending plenty of loopy canine wisdom to this rollicking, sun-drenched story of rum and romance, chemistry and crime, friendship, family, and the sacred responsibilities of loyalty.
Who wouldn’t take a swap like that? Then again, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is, as Meg and Peter Kaplan soon discover. Heading south for a supposed dream vacation, what they find instead is a panic attack waiting to happen. Coconuts crash through windows, bearing cryptic death threats. People fall from palm trees while spying on the pool. Neighbors whisper of Mob connections, leaving the Kaplans to wonder if they’ll get whacked by mistake in the Southernmost City or if their cozy West Side co-op has been transformed into a convenient Mafia morgue.
Enter an FBI agent going rogue, a very good girl determined to be very bad, and the irrepressible Bert the Shirt with his chihuahua, and the cast is complete for this riotous Florida romp. Told with Laurence Shames’ trademark mix of suspense and comedy, mayhem and romance, crackling dialogue and lush description, TROPICAL SWAP is a vacation you can savor without ever leaving home.
Phoebe has a dream—a very modest dream. She wants to own a Sno-Cone truck at the beach in Key West. Nicky, her would-be boyfriend, also dreams small. All he wants is a decent gig as a guitar player in a bar.
Doesn’t seem like too much to ask of life, does it?
So why do things keep going so dreadfully wrong for Phoebe and Nicky? Is it just plain bad luck? Or is it the decidedly bad intentions of a sleazy local cheat, a Miami gangster desperate to stay in business, and a murderous Cuban smuggler looking for a fall guy?
Against these enemies, and with only a pair of mangrove-dwelling philosophers and an ancient Mafioso as allies, Phoebe and Nicky will need more than a major shift in fortune to keep their hopes, and themselves, alive. They’ll need a kind of smarts and courage they never knew they had.
Lush with Florida atmosphere, deftly balancing suspense and comedy, romance and mayhem, KEY WEST LUCK will leave you cheering for the exploits of its unlikely heroes.
SHOT ON LOCATION, the new and long-awaited Key West novel by Laurence Shames.
Hilarious and suspenseful, wisecracking and wise, this is the most intoxicating story yet from the author of such cult classics as FLORIDA STRAITS and SUNBURN. Longtime Shames fans will rejoice at his return to the fictional turf of Key West and the reappearance of some of his most beloved characters. And new readers will find themselves in for a hell of a ride as Hollywood glitz meets Florida funky.
And it’s true—unemployed TV writer Lenny Sullivan has been having trouble seeing his life and times as anything more than fodder for edgy wisecracks. But when he bolts to Key West to refresh his lighter side, things suddenly turn serious. Well, sort of serious. A bullying businessman in league with a pair of bumbling mobsters is plotting to burn down his best friend’s struggling comedy club. The pill-popping star of his last best chance at a hit show is under a death threat from a very sore loser in a love triangle. And Lenny’s staunchest ally in the fight to keep the club, the star, and the laughs alive happens to be a 90-something named Bert the Shirt. Fortunately, Bert has a soft spot for comedians and is the savviest if not the most grammatical guy in town…
Deftly balancing suspense and humor, mayhem and romance, Key West color and showbiz glitz, ONE BIG JOKE uproariously entertains while making a sly but impassioned argument for the saving grace of comedy in tough times.
Meet Key West native Renita Daughtry--22, wide-eyed, gorgeous, and very much in love with love. In other words, an irresistible target for professional impostor and pathological liar Richie Pestucci, who plans to charm her into utter helplessness.
But there’s just one problem. Renita’s seeming naivete masks a lot of savvy and a will of velvet-coated steel, and it isn’t long before Richie, now smitten with his intended victim, starts to wonder just who is gaming who. As his cynical poise dissolves and the lovers’ game of cat-and-mouse grows subtler and sexier, things start going dangerously and hilariously wrong. So wrong, in fact, that setting them right will require the combined efforts of a heroic twin brother, a fiercely loyal uncle who takes his pest control job very seriously, and a sharp-dressing retired mobster with a singing chihuahua.
Seamlessly blending tender romance with raucous caper, One Strange Date massages the heart-strings even as it tickles the funny bone and explores the deep everyday mystery of how and why we choose to believe.
Money Talks is a novel with a strange past behind it—and an even stranger present all around it. It’s a book that some readers and reviewers have been kind enough to call prophetic. That’s a nice word, and very flattering, but let’s be clear: It just does not apply here.
Back in 2009--when the novel was first published with the title Maxxed Out and under the pseudonym David Collins--neither I nor anyone else imagined how the world would look less than a decade later, or who would be in charge. I wasn’t trying to write a political satire or a predictive dystopia. All I wanted to do was to create an entertaining fiction--part boardroom drama, part dark comedy, part love story, and part murder mystery--about a New York real-estate mogul with a bullying manner, a head of hair flamboyant enough to match his ego, and a somewhat childish fixation to see his name on very large buildings. I wanted to get inside the head of such a man, to understand what drove him, what kind of bottomless need was behind his unremitting quest for attention and for power. First and foremost, then, Money Talks was intended as a character study of a certain kind of billionaire and a certain kind of villain.
Cut to the present. Read the headlines. Check out the news. I think you’ll get the picture. And I hope you’ll agree that this novel, while it makes no claim whatsoever to prophecy, has turned out, at the very least, to be weirdly…and even spookily, timely.
Set partly in Santa Barbara, CA and its nearby wine country, and partly in a mysterious yet strangely believable version of the Afterlife, this big-hearted and redemptive novel employs a light touch in treating serious themes of family damage, second chances, and forgiveness.
Darcy Barnett—a gifted chef on the brink of thirty, with issues when it comes to trusting men—meets Paul DeFiore, a 34-year old winemaker with family burdens of his own. They are so right for each other that it terrifies them both. Hugh Barnett—Darcy’s father, a charming philanderer whose wandering ways created Darcy’s mistrust in the first place—is determined to help them get together. Inconveniently, he’s no longer among the living; no matter, he has two compelling reasons to find a way. He needs to be reconciled with his daughter before he can rest easy, and he’s hoping, in the Afterlife, for a rapprochement with Sheila, the wife he cheated on and failed to appreciate, and who divorced him back on Earth. Along the way, he also meets Manny Klein, whose tragedy was meeting the love of his life too soon, and who for half a century has been hoping to see his soul-mate Emma again—somehow, somewhere, anywhere.
Powerfully romantic, often funny, THE ANGELS’ SHARE interweaves the stories of these three sets of lovers. It taps into the universal yearning to believe that those who were most important in our lives are never altogether gone; that death is not oblivion, but a state in which people can finally tell the truth because the truth no longer hurts; and that love will conquer all--given enough time.
"In Mr. Shames' hands" wrote The New York Times, "the '49ers are Don Quixotes, idiosyncratic, refreshingly straightforward and correctly out of place in today's world. They could not have found a more favorable class historian."
“A scathing indictment of the excesses of our time as well as a prophecy of changes ahead.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution