Frank W. Butterfield was one our lovely recent guests! To find out more about him and get links to his work, check out Episode 138: It’s All True and Very Silly!
This was an interesting one, the 4th book in a long running series of stories featuring fabulously wealthy P.I. Nick Williams and his partner, Carter. Set in 1953, when bigotry and homophobia were legal and enforced by law, the two men tread a fine line between living their lives as they want to, but always aware their loving relationship could land them in jail.
Having said that, this is a jolly escapade in the main, possibly a little too jolly, considering that Carter’s father has just been murdered in a most grisly way, and a local black man has been arrested as a result. Nick hires a plane forthwith, and off they go to Georgia, where every stereotype of Southern man and woman-kind awaits to cause them all kinds of problems. This wasn’t a bad thing though, because let’s face it, a LOT of people in the 21st century are walking stereotypes.
It’s hard not to like this story, although I ran up against a few niggles that threw me off a bit. The first, and biggest, were the occasions when a character would do or say something, “for some reason.” As a reader and writer, I am always looking for reasons. They don’t need to be immediate or blatant, but they need to be there. Adding nuances to writing can be difficult, especially when there are a lot of characters and different plot lines zinging about, but the phrase would have been better left on the cutting room floor, so that the reader could make their own decision as to what the reason was.
The other niggle, possibly because I’m a curmudgeon, is the uneasy mix of tough subjects (racism, homophobia, murder, lynchings) with the amount of time the characters spent laughing. They all seemed rather too happy. Possibly this was because trust-funded golden boy, Nick, could afford to buy everyone out of trouble. If this makes him sound like a bit of a wanker, he really isn’t. He and Carter are so achingly sweet, especially together, it could make your teeth hurt if you’re in any way a cynic. The sex is fade to black, as it would have been in any respectable 1950’s film, so anyone expecting woody shenanigans will not get them.
Instead, there is a lot of other stuff to enjoy. The plot weaves and ducks and dives. The author throws a lot at them, jail-time for Nick, followed by a kangaroo court, and inserting him and Carter in with a lot of rufty-tufty lumberjacks to try to weed out the murderer. I looked forward to a woodsaw-related climax, especially after the gory death (off-script) earlier but bearing in mind the novel is 1950-esque, with the restraint, decency and politeness of that era, it’s best to read the book to find out if and when that happens.
On the whole, bar the few hiccups, I enjoyed it. Nick and Carter are engaging, fun and cute, even though people around them keep dropping dead. Readers not wanting sex and too many f-bombs, and who appreciate a sense of decorum as well as humour, will enjoy this retro romp very much indeed.
It’s just another Thursday morning in July of 1953 when the doorbell rings at 137 Hartford Street and it’s bad news.
Carter’s father has been murdered in Georgia and the local sheriff has no intention of finding out who really did it.
So, Nick and Carter borrow the first plane that Marnie, Nick’s amazing secretary, can find for them and they zoom off back into the past to see if they can uncover the truth of what really happened before the wrong man is convicted. And, knowing the lay of the land under the moss-covered oaks, Carter is pretty sure that the color of a man’s skin will figure heavily in who takes the fall.
In The Laconic Lumberjack, the best Nick can do is stand by Carter’s side as he confronts an awful past, uncovers some surprising secrets, and deals with the unsavory reality of small-town hypocrisy.
In the end, Nick and Carter discover more about themselves than they ever expected to find.