2016; 322 pages. Book #7 (out of 23) in the Serge A. Storms series. New Author? : No. Florida Crime Noir, Stoner Humor. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.
Hooray, hooray! Serge Storms is getting married! He’s not quite sure who the lucky lady is, but he’s confident his soulmate will walk into his life shortly. It’s just a matter of keeping his eyes open, and using a pair of binoculars to improve his vision will only speed up the process.
Hooray, hooray! Coleman’s back! You probably thought he died way back in Book 1, Florida Roadkill. So did our narrator. Now it’s his job to come up with some plausible explanation for just how Coleman managed to spring back to literary life. Good luck with that, Mr. Narrator.
You know, if we could just get Coleman and Serge to cross paths and team up once more, that would be really great. For the reader, at least. For the rest of Florida though, it might be an explosive disaster.
Like a shot of Torpedo Juice.
What’s To Like...
Torpedo Juice is another tale from Tim Dorsey’s always-entertaining Serge A. Storm series, which features the dynamic duo of a psychotic, serial killer anti-hero (Serge), and his usually-clueless stoner sidekick (Coleman). This book actually marks the return of Coleman to the series, having been away for a couple stories due to …well… death. Seemingly.
Any Serge A. Storms book features a plethora on convoluted plotlines, and Torpedo Juice is no exception. Serge treks around, trying to get his life in order and searching for his soul-mate. Anna is on the run after her abusive husband is murdered. A drug king is obsessed with the movie “Scarface”. A greedy land developer wants to build more condominiums along Florida’s coastline because, hey now, you can never have too many of them. And to sheriff’s deputies, Gus and Walter, just want to keep the riffraff out of their jurisdiction.
If you’re a veteran Tim Dorsey reader, you also expect to be treated to some innovative executions by Serge, and Torpedo Juice does not disappoint. There are four of them here, which is about average. The upside-down crucifixion doesn’t count though, cuz Serge didn’t do it; and the simple bludgeoning seemed a tad mundane for him.
It was fun to eavesdrop on the patrons of the No Name Bar, and I liked mention of Firesign Theater. I learned a new acronym, GOMER, “Get Out of My Emergency Room”. The “Lower Keys Chapter of People Susceptible to Joining Cults” were hilarious, as were the details of Serge’s honeymoon night. There are 42 chapters covering 369 pages, so finding a good place to stop for the night is always easy. And keep in mind that Tim Dorsey writes for adult readers, so there is cussing, violence, sex, and lots of booze and drugs.
All the plotlines and characters converge on the Florida Keys for an ending that I found to be superb. Each of the main threads gets tied up, and the reader is treated to a bunch of finishing twists that somehow make sense. Yes, those twists might seem a bit contrived, but I mean that in the most positive way.
“Communication is easy for me because I’m a listener. I love to hear people gab about themselves. Every single person is special. Everyone has great stories. Like you. I’ll bet you have a million. How old are you? Sixty?”
“I’m all about listening. That’s why the world is in shambles. Nobody listens anymore!”
“I, uh …”
“Shhhhh! Listen,” said Serge. “I have big news.” (pg. 25)
“Have you been seeing anyone else?” asked Daytona Dave.
“Thought I’d found the perfect woman this morning,” said Serge. “But it didn’t work out.”
“What happened?” asked Bud.
“He got tear-gassed,” said Coleman.
“What approach are you using?” asked Sop Choppy.
“He follows them at a distance with binoculars,” said Coleman.
“That never works,” said Bud. (pg. 134)
“Did you eat a lot of glue as a child?” “Sometimes.” (pg. 99 )
There are some quibbles, the most notable of which is the lack of a main storyline. Normally, Tim Dorsey includes one in each novel, such as the suitcase full of cash, which was used for two or three of the earlier novels. Here there just isn’t one. Serge and Coleman bumble around, the other threads wend their way towards the Keys, but if I had to list the primary storyline, I’d be stumped.
I get the feeling the primary purpose for Torpedo Juice is to get Coleman back into the series. But that was clunky, and the pace was slow for the first quarter of the book as we wait for Serge and Coleman to cross paths. To be fair, reintroducing dead characters in a series is never an easy or smooth undertaking. For example, see “Bobby” in the soap opera “Dallas”, and even Arthur Conan Doyle’s miraculous revival of Sherlock Holmes from Reichenbach Falls.
Last, and least, Tim Dorsey used a very innovative literary device in Torpedo Juice when he wanted to keep the identities of several characters a mystery: he put them in various makes of cars, and referred to them by that. So we have unknown people in cars like a brown Plymouth duster, a 71’ Buick Riviera, a metallic green Trans Am, a white Cadillac with tinted windows, and a jaguar (or jaguars) with colors ranging from black to white. I found this clever, but also confusing.
7½ Stars. Here's the Bottom Line: Torpedo Juice might not be the best book in this series, but it is has lots of Serge’s trademark wit, a sufficient amount of intrigue and action, and is eminently entertaining. And that’s the whole reason I read Tim Dorsey’s books.