Chocolate Lizards

Cole Thompson, Author
Cole Thompson, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-20052-7
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-312-26486-4
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-901982-72-5
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4299-8174-3
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Despite his best efforts to make this a madcap, oil-well-drilling, West Texas romp, Thompson's debut novel is an uneven mix of bad jokes, cowboy cliches and unconvincing characters. Erwin Vandeveer is a movie star wannabe from Boston, a spoiled, naive young Harvard grad who was a failure in Hollywood, and who is now stuck in Abilene, Tex., broke and discouraged. Erwin links up with Merle Luskey, a wacky, drunken Texas oilman who is about to lose his drilling business due to a bank foreclosure. The two unlikely partners have just 30 days to strike oil and save the company. Opposed by a crooked banker and a fat, corrupt, sadistic sheriff, Merle and Erwin embark on a string of harebrained schemes to pay off the bad loans and stay solvent. But Merle is an unpredictable lush who gets both of them into trouble--on the order of burglary, forgery, kidnapping and industrial espionage. Aided by an aging tart named Miss Tex-Ann Big-Love and by goofy, porn-loving old cattle rancher Alton Scheermeyer, Merle and Erwin come up with a plan that just might work. The author presents unflattering and unfunny stereotypes of Texans and Yankees alike. Handsome Erwin is just too hoity-toity for the rough and tumble Texas oil fields, and the Texans here are mainly ignorant, foul-mouthed, whiskey-drinking rednecks. Abandoning its early promise of humor and adventure, this story winds up as flat and dry as West Texas itself. (Apr.)
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