How can you resist a book with the title Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? This new book by Stephen Dobyns, has been described as “Richard Russo meets Elmore Leonard” (a mind-boggling combination in itself) and reads like a literary version of one of the odder Coen brothers movies, humorous and bizarre at the same time.
Start with the main character, your classic (supposedly) ordinary guy caught in the middle of a vast criminal conspiracy. In this case, though, our protagonist is Zeco Raposo, who calls himself Connor, and while he just happened to be at the scene of a horrific motorcycle accident, he is far from an innocent everyman, since he works for his uncle, who’s running a series of very questionable “charities”, and has a few secrets of his own.
The accident may not be anything of the sort, and while the motorcycle that’s destroyed in the accident Connor witnesses is in fact a Fat Bob (a particular Harley Davidson model), the man riding it at the time may not have been Fat Bob (a local man whose nickname came from his name and girth as well as his fondness for this particular motorcycle). The detectives initially investigating the matter are a pair of characters who go out of their way to drive each other crazy, and eventually drive the FBI officers who get involved in the case crazy as well. Once they determine that this was a murder and no accident, the fun really begins.
Add some other quirky characters: a man with an Elvis style pompadour, a computer hacker who may be on the spectrum and who frequently comes up with bizarre and memorable misstatements, a homeless man who ended up with the bling from the corpse, all with their own distinctive voices and ways of dealing with the world and with each other.
The language of the book is a treat in itself, hard-boiled and funny, dialogue you want to read aloud, as it’s just slightly off kilter from reality and all the more entertaining for that. The book has an omniscient narrator who lets the readers in on details that the characters either don’t know, can’t know, or might have forgotten in the heat of the moment.
Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? is a mystery, a funny and definitely quirky book, well worth a read by anyone with adventurous literary tastes.