"In this business, nothing is as good as dead..." The business in question is the high-end art world, and everyone in this darkly comedic mystery wants a piece of it. When painter Augie Silver is lost at sea in a sailing accident, his many friends among Key West's artists, writers, and hangers-on mourn--until, that is, they realize that Augie's death has sent the prices for his pictures skyrocketing. What at first seemed a tragedy turns out to be a windfall--until, that is, Augie, rescued at sea, limps back to town alive. Not everyone is thrilled by the artist's resurrection. Someone, in fact, is upset enough to start trying to bump off Augie for real. Full of steamy Key West atmosphere and sometimes brutal insights into the wacky world of creative types, SCAVENGER REEF is both a taut whodunit and a wise meditation on loyalty real or faked, friendships sincere or toxic.
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Laurence Shames has been a New York City taxi driver, lounge singer, furniture mover, lifeguard, dishwasher, gym teacher, and shoe salesman. Having failed to distinguish himself in any of those professions, he turned to writing full-time in 1976 and has not done an honest day's work since. His basic laziness notwithstanding, Shames has published more than twenty books and hundreds of magazine articles and essays. Best known for his critically acclaimed series of Key West novels, he has also authored non-fiction and enjoyed considerable though largely secret success as a collaborator and ghostwriter. Shames has penned four New York Times bestsellers. These have appeared on four different lists, under four different names, none of them his own. This might be a record. Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1951, to chain-smoking parents of modest means but flamboyant emotions, Shames graduated summa cum laude from NYU in 1972 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Shortly after finishing college, he began annoying editors by sending them short stories they hated. He also wrote longer things he thought of as novels. He couldn't sell them. By 1979 he'd somehow passed himself off as a journalist and was publishing in top-shelf magazines like Playboy, Outside, Saturday Review, and Vanity Fair. In 1982, Shames was named Ethics columnist of Esquire, and also made a contributing editor to that magazine. By 1986 he was writing non-fiction books whose critical if not commercial success first established his credentials as a collaborator/ghostwriter. His 1991 national bestseller, BOSS OF BOSSES, written with two FBI agents, got him thinking about the Mafia. It also bought him a ticket out of New York and a sweet little house in Key West, where he finally got back to Plan A: writing fiction. Given his then-current preoccupations, the novels--beginning with FLORIDA STRAITS--naturally featured palm trees, high humidity, dogs in sunglasses, and blundering New York mobsters. Having had the good fortune to find a setting he loved and a wonderfully loyal readership as well, Shames wrote eight Key West novels during the 1990s, before taking a decade-long detour into screenwriting and collaborative work. In 2013, he returned to his favorite fictional turf with SHOT ON LOCATION--a suspenseful and hilarious mix of Hollywood glitz and Florida funky. TROPICAL SWAP, Shames’ tenth Key West novel, tells the riotous tale of a home exchange that sounds too good to be true, and is.From Publishers Weekly:
Following up his hilarious Florida Straits , Shames delivers another dose of criminal high jinks in relentlessly bohemian Key West, although this tale falls a little short of the first's full measure of fun. The questionable artistic merit of iconoclastic painter Augie Silver doesn't matter much while he's still alive--not to him, his lovely wife and local smalltime gallery owner Nina, nor to their gay houseboy Reuben. But when Augie's ship fails to return to harbor after a January sail, things quickly change. Those with Augie Silver art in their possession contemplate their sudden wealth. One considers the purchase of charter boats, another support of his floundering poetic career, a third a new wardrobe of black clothing. Further up the economic scale, a New York gallery owner and her bankrupt husband anticipate high profits as they make a quick grab for all the available Silver pieces. Then Augie returns from his watery grave. Surely prices will drop. Oh, if only Augie were really and truly dead. Such authors as Carl Hiassen and Elmore Leonard also mine the venal weirdness of the Sunshine State, but Shames offers sharp-edged parody without a trace of meanness, portraying his craven cast with a bold, new affection. Perhaps it was only the newness that made the earlier story seem fresher than this. Readers will look forward to the next tale to find out.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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