“Gatsby’s Last Resort” is the story Carl Hiaasen might have written if he
abandoned his beloved beaches and quirky sun-splashed state of Florida and moved to the mountains and quirky tucked-away town of Telluride, Colorado.
Let’s just cut to the chase: the thin air is taking its toll. Or maybe it’s the excess wealth washing around the town, or the infestation of self-important, self-absorbed citizens who have plenty of time for various forms of shenanigans and hanky-panky, all of which give The Last Resort Detective Agency plenty of fodder for potential income.
Wit Thorpe is the LRDA’s brain trust and, well, that means trouble right there. “Idiot is my middle name,” he explains. “Wilford I. Thorpe was the birth record legacy handed down from my long departed father…It still enrages the bigots in the Four Corners area that a half-breed Ute would carry a moniker that suggests he is ironic and funny at the same time. Enraging bigots is the second best thing I do.”
Wit’s team includes his pre-teen daughter Cody, a wealthy barber and several other “under-employed locals.” In the main action of “Gatbsy’s Last Resort,” Wit bounces from spats over spouses and houses, running into and skewering a variety of colorful local characters. Does it help that he’s married to the local district attorney? Probably not.
The writing captures the town’s enigmatic essence and follows Wit around Telluride and other corners of southwest Colorado, including to nearby Paradox, where he visits a watering hole tended by a Yugoslavian (yes, not Irish) named Mick. “The dust lay thick in the shadows of the bar. Harsh slivers of sunlight from the windows exposed the old tables and mismatched wood chairs scatted about the undulating riprap of scarred and battered, pastel-tinted linoleum. Hot, high plains desert waited just outside the heavy metal door. Melancholy was not exactly the right word to describe the mood. I searched for a substitute. Pride in my vocabulary was one of my many faults. Glum might be the word I was looking for.”
Because, of course, Wit is also obsessed with writing. He’s working on a short story that seeks to invoke the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald crossed with a classic noir vibe. Long sections of that work in progress are interspersed with the main action of “Gatsby’s Last Resort” and let’s just say the steam factor rises in these well-done passages. (The short story sections show Rubadeau’s real talents—the style here is distinct from the main action.) The two strands intertwine as the “sudden apparition” of a main character from his story sachets into Wit’s world.
Complicated? Not at all. “Gatsby’s Last Resort” is refreshing, colorful, edgy, racy and fun. The jokes fly, the intrigue increases and Wit pursues his case and his craft with his own bumbling, spirited determination. Here’s hoping “Gastby’s Last Resort” is the start of a long-running series.