Big Trouble [NOOK Book]

Overview

More information to be announced soon on this forthcoming title from Penguin USA

A slapstick thriller set in Florida, featuring oddball characters. They include a homeless man who lives in a tree, a student with a squirt gun playing a game called Killer, a couple of real killers, and a terrorist with a nuclear bomb in a suitcase.

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Big Trouble

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Overview

More information to be announced soon on this forthcoming title from Penguin USA

A slapstick thriller set in Florida, featuring oddball characters. They include a homeless man who lives in a tree, a student with a squirt gun playing a game called Killer, a couple of real killers, and a terrorist with a nuclear bomb in a suitcase.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Review of Big Trouble by Dave Barry
by Dave Barry

When this critic read Dave Barry's new novel, Big Trouble, the literary comparison that immediately came to this critic's mind was Ulysses by James Joyce.

As the reader is no doubt aware, last year the Modern Library declared Ulysses to be the greatest English novel of the 20th century. It is hard to argue with this choice: Ulysses is an extremely literary book, with "literary" defined as "hard to read." When this critic was a college student in 1967, this critic attempted to read Ulysses, and after 15 minutes of exhausting effort, this critic had no choice but to give up and play Frisbee for the next five semesters. This critic seriously doubts that anybody, including James Joyce, has ever actually gotten all the way through Ulysses.

Nevertheless it is a powerfully literary book, and at one time this critic believed that it would never be equaled in the 20th century. But this critic was forced to revise that opinion when he read Big Trouble.

The parallels between the two books are eerie:

  • Ulysses recounts the events in the lives of Dublin residents during a single day, using a narrative structure that incorporates an astonishingly rich and complex array of themes and images, with numerous subtle allusions to Homer's The Odyssey.
  • Big Trouble features a giant snake and a poison toad.

The list of striking similarities just goes on and on. This critic will not bore the reader with all of them, except to say that Big Trouble, like Ulysses, has both characters and a plot, the difference being that in Big Trouble, Barry boldly explores the theme of what goes through the mind of a man who is being pursued by hit men while he is handcuffed to a large entertainment unit and is also hallucinating that his dog is Elizabeth Dole.

This is a theme that James Joyce, for whatever reason, never even touched upon, as far as we know.

In conclusion, it is this critic's objective opinion that Big Trouble, which incidentally is available at bookstores everywhere, is the finest book ever written in any language by anybody. But don't take this critic's word for it: Buy several copies of Big Trouble and read them for yourself. Or, simply mail this critic some money.

 Dave Barry is a syndicated humor columnist with the Miami Herald.

Washington Post
Absolutely wild.
Seattle Times
What else do you need to know? It's by Dave Barry so you know it's going to be funny.
People
Dave Barry has gone completely-and delightfully-bonkers.
Trudi Miller Rosenblum
Humor columnist Dave Barry successfully crosses over to fiction in this entertaining, tongue-in-cheek mystery novel. The large cast includes several teenagers involved in a game called Killer, in which they must ambush each other with squirt guns. Others characters include two hit men out to kill the embezzling stepfather of one of the teenagers; a Russian barkeeeper who smuggles weapons on the side; an amiable homeless drifter; and several thugs. The various plot lines tie together nicely in a fast-paced story, and narrator Dick Hill does a good job at voicing the various characters. He does an especially good job with teenager Matt, to whom he gives an appropriately squeaky, awkward-adolescent tone; and with Eddy and Snake, two thugs right out of central casting.
Billboard
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In writing a comic thriller set in South Florida, the Pulitzer-winning Miami Herald columnist and author of 20 books of satirical nonfiction (most recently, Dave Barry Turns 50) risks the inevitable comparison to Carl Hiaasen. The good news is that he acquits himself well in this slapstick caper. Barry's cast of familiar South Florida oddballs populate what might best be described as a Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury) sendup of the hard-boiled crime novels of Elmore Leonard. Featuring a homeless drifter who sleeps in a tree and tends bar for two illegal arms-dealing Russian hoods, a pair of two-bit losers who hustle tourists at parking meters, an ex-journalist (now a failing ad-man), a pretty illegal alien, a boozy embezzler and his ill-used wife and daughter, a teen with a water pistol playing a game of Killer, a retarded dog, a psychedelic South American toad, two klutzy New Jersey hit men and a virtual army of local and Federal law enforcement, the novel's quirky players bounce off each other like popcorn in a microwave, chasing after a mysterious suitcase containing a nuclear bomb in an unlikely race against certain death. The zany plot has more twists than the I-95 Miami airport interchange and more pratfalls than a Three Stooges comedy. Despite an occasional stiffness and tendency to strain for one-liners, the narrative moves at a breezy pace. Barry is indisputably one of the funniest humorists writing today, and his fiction debut will not disappoint a legion of fans. Agent, Al Hart. 150,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild featured alternate; 12-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Humor columnist and writer Barry delights us with his first full-fledged novel. The circumstantial theater of events culminating in much riotous zaniness reminds this reviewer of P.G. Wodehouse. Only Barry sets his characters in 20th-century south Florida la Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard. If you remember that Barry always tries to find the humor in everyday situations, you almost instinctively know that when he gets to develop the plot, twists, and personalities in a story of his imagination, it will be a light-hearted, wacky ride. Consider the combination of a dim, homeless vagrant named Puggy who "lucks" into a job at a bar where two corrupt Russian owners are warehousing and selling high-tech weaponry; several teenagers actively pursuing one another in a secret squirt-gun game of "Killer"; two low-life thugs who have been "contracted" to bump off a sleazy embezzler, and you have the trappings of comedic farce. Dick Hill's rendition of the characters will have you laughing out loud during your commute. Highly recommended for those who like sophomoric silliness.--Kristin M. Jacobi, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Entertainment Weekly
...Well, Big Trouble is no Huckleberry Finn. But it's not only very funny, it's sure-footed, even-handed, levelheaded, and other leading book review adjectives, as well as hot, humid, and other leading weather-report adjectives (it's set in Miami, where Barry has long lived).

Barry must have realized early on that you can't write a goofy novel set in Miami without putting a lot of guns in it. He had little choice but to work in what he calls the "Bunch of South Florida Wackos" genre, which he concedes, has already been brought to near-perfection by his Miami Herald colleague Carl Hiaasen. His picture of Florida revolves around tales of corruption, official incompetence, and criminal incompetence, played out by bizarre characters, many of whom own bizarre pets, including a dog with the face of Elizabeth Dole. But Barry's Thug World theme park has fewer casualties and more pure slapstick than Hiaasen's. He's like a lowlife P.G. Wodehouse. The plot develops thriller symptoms, involving a stray nuclear device from the former Soviet republic of "Grzkijstan" and it thickens engagingly.
September 10, 1999

Kirkus Reviews
In his first-ever novel, prolific humorist Barry (Dave Barry Turns 50, 1998, etc.) proves just how easy it is, or at least how easy he can make it seem, for any zany with Miami connections to master what he artlessly calls "the Bunch of South Florida Wackos genre." Here's the scoop. Matt Arnold, the high-school son of an unsuccessful advertising man, wants to assassinate his classmate Jenny Herk, as per the rules of the Killer game they're both playing, by shooting her with a water pistol. Jenny's father Arthur, embezzling executive and bagman for a ludicrously corrupt construction business, is also the target of a pair of killers who are packing more serious heat. Both executions are about to be witnessed by Puggy, an oblivious drifter whose low-impact job at the Jolly Jackal bar has connected him to gadabout Russian arms dealers who've recently assumed possession of a really heavy suitcase filled with something that looks like a garbage disposal with a 45-minute timer. The FBI is interested in the Jolly Jackals; the Miami police are interested in the assassination attempts; and the kingdom of allegedly lower animals also plays an active role. Roger the dog thinks of every encounter with the human community in terms of a possible meal; a poisonous toad lives only to eat from Roger's food dish; and a cobra named Daphne will play a timely role several bumps down the road. Barry juggles this ship of fools with a genial ease and a disarming lack of tension that suggest, maybe not Carl Hiassen, but the sweeter disposition of Laurence Shames. The big surprise is how readily adaptable Barry's jokey rhythms are to the demands of creating characters and spinning them a farcical plot. But ahost of lesser surprises are equally welcome. (First printing of 150,000; Literary Guild featured alternate; $150,000 ad/promo; author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101442227
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 7/6/2010
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 61,717
  • File size: 345 KB

Meet the Author

Dave Barry is a humor columnist. For 25 years he was a syndicated columnist whose work appeared in more than 500 newspapers in the United States and abroad. In 1988 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. Many people are still trying to figure out how this happened.


Dave has also written a total of 25 books, although virtually none of them contain useful information. Two of his books were used as the basis for the CBS TV sitcom "Dave's World," in which Harry Anderson played a much taller version of Dave.


Dave plays lead guitar in a literary rock band called the Rock Bottom Remainders, whose other members include Stephen King, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson and Mitch Albom. They are not musically skilled, but they are extremely loud. Dave has also made many TV appearances, including one on the David Letterman show where he proved that it is possible to set fire to a pair of men's underpants with a Barbie doll.


In his spare time, Dave is a candidate for president of the United States. If elected, his highest priority will be to seek the death penalty for whoever is responsible for making Americans install low-flow toilets.


Dave lives in Miami, Florida, with his wife, Michelle, a sportswriter. He has a son, Rob, and a daughter, Sophie, neither of whom thinks he's funny.







Biography

In the introduction to Dave Barry Is Not Taking This Sitting Down, the author addresses the desirability of his job as a humor writer and syndicated columnist. "It looks so easy!" he wrote. "...Every year, hundreds of thousands of people try their hand at this demanding profession. After a few months, almost all of them have given up and gone back to the ninth grade."

Yes, Barry is juvenile at times -- but he has achieved the kind of success that can only come from combining a juvenile mind with intelligence, timing, and a keen eye for the absurd. Favorite Barry targets include government inanity, dogs, guys, the Internet, and other oddities of life. He also specializes in weird news and urban myths involving UFO hunters, Pop-Tart science, and toilets. Many of these essays feature the line that has become his catchphrase, "I am not making this up." (Unless, of course, he is introducing something serious and daunting such as a book about the federal government, in which case he reassures that he has made everything up.)

Usually, though, he's not making it up. What he's doing is making it very funny. Whether the target is Congress or commercials, Barry refuses to take anything seriously, least of all himself – but he manages to convey some pretty indicting truths in the process. He's a master of irony and visual punchlines, sometimes interrupting himself with lists, snippets of dialogue, or other on-topic digressions. On the subject of turning 50 and dealing with waning eyesight (a "good thing" about aging, because "you can't read anything"), Barry describes finding restaurant menus suddenly printed "in letters the height of bacteria." He continues: "For some reason, everybody else seemed to be able to read the menus. Not wishing to draw attention to myself, I started ordering my food by simply pointing to a likely looking blur.

ME (pointing to a blur): I'll have this.
WAITER: You'll have "We Do Not Accept Personal Checks"?
ME: Make that medium rare."

Barry has had the most successful and prolific publishing career of any working newspaper columnist, and his humor never seems to go out of style. In 1999, he decided to try his hand at fiction. The result was Big Trouble, a comic thriller à la Carl Hiassen (though filled more with gags than guns) that Entertainment Weekly proclaimed "... not only very funny, [but] sure-footed, even-handed, levelheaded, and other leading book review adjectives." In 2004, he and Ridley Pearson collaborated on Peter and the Starcatchers, a clever prequel to Peter Pan that spawned two additional novels and a series of spin-off children's chapter books.

Along with several other published authors, Barry is a member of the musical group Rock Bottom Remainders. In assessing the band's talents, he has been quoted as saying: "They are not musically skilled, but they are extremely loud."

Good To Know

The Rock Bottom Remainders was originally organized by a publicist to perform at the 1992 American Booksellers Association convention. The members -- which include (or have included) Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, Barbara Kingsolver, Mitch Albom, and Matt Groening -- even took their show on the road at one point, turning it into the now out-of-print Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America with Three Chords and an Attitude.

Some things never change: Barry was elected class clown by his Pleasantville High School class in 1965.

Barry got his start in journalism at the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pennsylvania, then worked as a business writing consultant before joining the Miami Herald in 1983.

Attempts to convert Barry's humor to the screen have been less than memorable. The early '90s CBS sitcom based on two of his books and starring Harry Anderson, Dave's World, was short-lived; the spring 2002 release Big Trouble, starring Tim Allen, didn't fare well at the box office. Barry did, however, get a cameo in the latter.

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    1. Hometown:
      Miami, Florida
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 3, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Armonk, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Haverford College, 1969
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


Puggy had held down his job at the Jolly Jackal Bar and Grill, which did not have a grill, for almost three weeks. For Puggy, this was a personal employment record. In fact, after a career as a semiprofessional vagrant, he was seriously thinking about settling in Miami, putting down roots, maybe even finding an indoor place to sleep. Although he really liked his tree.

    Puggy liked everything about Miami. He liked that it was warm. He liked that most of the police seemed tolerant of people like him—people who, merely by existing, tended to violate laws that solid citizens never even thought about, like how long you were allowed to sit in a certain place without buying something. The attitude of most of the police down here seemed to be, hey, you can sit all you want; we're just glad you're not shooting.

    Puggy also liked the way, in Miami, you were always hearing people talking Spanish. This made Puggy feel like he was living in a foreign country, which was his one ambition, although the only time he had ever actually been abroad was four years before, when, after a long and confusing weekend that began in Buffalo, he was briefly detained on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for urinating in the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.

    The funny thing was, Puggy had not been trying to get to Miami in particular. He had left a homeless shelter in Cleveland and started hitchhiking in the general direction of south, looking for a warm place to stay the winter; the trucker who picked him up happened to be heading for the Port of Miami, rightdowntown.

    As good fortune had it, Puggy arrived on election day. He'd been on the street for less than an hour when a white van pulled up next to him. The driver, an older man, said something in Spanish and showed him a ten-dollar bill. Puggy, assuming the man wanted a blow job, said "Not interested." The man immediately switched to English and explained that all Puggy had to do, for the ten, was vote.

    "I'm not from here," said Puggy.

    "No problem," said the man.

    So Puggy got into the van. En route to the polling place, the older man picked up seven other voters, all men, some quite aromatic. At the polling place, they all walked right inside and the man told them what to do. The poll workers did not seem to have any problem with this.

    When it was Puggy's turn to vote, he gave his name, per instructions, as Albert Green, which he spelled "Allbert Gren." The real Albert Green was a person who had died in 1991 but still voted often in Miami. Puggy cast Mr. Green's ballot for a mayoral candidate named Carlos somebody, then went outside and collected his ten, which looked like a million dollars in his hand.

    Puggy had never voted for anything before, but on that magical day, riding around in the white van, he voted in the Miami mayoral election four times at four different polling places. He got ten dollars each for the first three times, but the fourth time, the van man said the price was now five, and Puggy said OK. He felt he had already gotten a lot from the city of Miami, and he didn't mind giving something back.

    Puggy cast his last ballot in a part of Miami called Coconut Grove; this is where the van man left him. There were palm trees and water and sailboats gently waggling their masts back and forth against a bright blue sky. Puggy thought it was the most beautiful place he had ever seen. He was feeling good. He was warm, and he had thirty-five dollars cash, the most money he'd ever had at one time in his life. He decided to spend it on beer.

    He scouted around for a good spot, quickly rejecting the tourist bars in the central Grove, where a beer could cost five dollars, which Puggy thought was way high, even for a guy who was pulling down ten dollars a vote. And so, after wandering to the seedier outskirts of Coconut Grove, Puggy found himself walking into the Jolly Jackal Bar and Grill.

    The Jolly Jackal was not upscale. It would have needed thousands of dollars' worth of renovation just to ascend to the level of "dive." It had a neon sign in the window, but part of it wasn't working, so it just said "ACKAL." When you walked in the front door, you could see straight back through the gloom to the toilet, which had lost its door some years back when a patron, frustrated in his efforts to operate the doorknob, smashed his way in with a fire extinguisher. The bar was dark and rancid with stale beer. The TV was tuned to motorcycle racing. There were names scrawled on the walls, and crude drawings of genitalia. Puggy felt right at home.

    He sat at the bar, which was empty except for a bearded man at the far end, talking to the bartender in a language that wasn't English, but it didn't sound to Puggy like Spanish, either. The bartender, a thick man with a thick face, looked at Puggy, but didn't come over.

    "I'll take a Budweiser," Puggy said.

    "You have money?" the bartender said.

    Puggy was not offended. He knew he looked like he didn't have money. Usually, he didn't have money.

    "I got money," he said, and he put all of it, three tens and a five, on the bar. The bartender, saying nothing, uncapped a longneck and set it in front of Puggy. He took Puggy's five and replaced it with three dollars and two quarters. Then he went back to the bearded man and said something foreign, and they both laughed.

    Puggy didn't care. He was figuring out, at a buck fifty a beer, how many beers he could buy. He couldn't pin down a definite number, but he knew it was going to be a lot. More than ten. He might even get some Slim Jims, if they had them here.

    Puggy was on his fourth beer when a couple of guys came in, one called Snake, whose T-shirt said "Gators," and one called Eddie, whose T-shirt said "You Don't Know Dick." They both wore cutoff jeans and flip-flops, but their feet were black with dirt, so it almost looked like they were wearing socks.

    Snake and Eddie referred to themselves as fishermen, although they did not fish. They did live on a boat; it had been abandoned by its legal owner because it had no engine and would sink if it were moved. Snake's and Eddie's actual source of income was standing in front of vacant parking spaces in Coconut Grove, and then, when a tourist car came along, directing the driver into the space, making arm motions as though this were a tricky maneuver that had to be done just right, like landing the space shuttle. Then Snake and Eddie would stand close by, waiting for a tip, which usually the tourists gave them, especially if it was dark.

    Puggy figured that Snake and Eddie must have been to the Jolly Jackal before, because as soon as they walked in, the bartender was coming toward them, pointing back at the door, saying "Out! I tell you once before! Out!"

    "No, no, man, no," said Eddie, holding his hands up in front of his chest, making peace. "Look, we just wanna couple drinks. We got money." He was digging into his cutoff shorts, pulling out some quarters, some dimes and pennies, putting them on the bar.

    The bartender looked at the money, saying nothing.

    "OK?" said Eddie, settling at the bar to Puggy's right, one stool away. "OK," he said again, because he could see the bartender was going to let them slide. Snake sat on the stool to Eddie's right. Eddie pointed at the cluster of coins, said, "We'll take whatever much this'll get us."

    The bartender, still saying nothing, counted the money, sliding the coins off the bar one by one into his hand. He put out two glasses and filled them with clear liquid from a bottle that had no label, then walked back to the bearded man.

    "Asshole," remarked Eddie, to Snake.

    Puggy, as soon as he determined that the situation was not going to require him to duck, went back to watching the TV, which was now showing pickup trucks racing. Puggy had never thought of that as a sport, but his policy with TV was, if it was on, he'd watch it.

    It was maybe twenty minutes later that he decided to take a leak. He started to pick up his money, and he realized that some of it was gone. He wasn't sure how much exactly, but he was definitely short at least a ten.

    Puggy looked to his right. Eddie and Snake were both looking at the TV, looking interested, like it was showing naked women, instead of pickup trucks.

    "Hey," said Puggy.

    Eddie and Snake kept staring at the screen.

    "Hey," repeated Puggy.

    Snake kept staring at the screen. Eddie turned his head to look at Puggy, a hard look.

    "You got a problem, chief?" he said.

    "Gimme it back," said Puggy.

    "What?" said Eddie, screwing up his face, trying to make an expression like he had no idea what Puggy meant, but overdoing it.

    "I said gimme it back," said Puggy

    "What the fuck're you talking about?" said Eddie. Now Snake was looking, too, both of them starting to turn toward Puggy on their stools.

    Puggy knew, from experience, that this was one of those situations where he could get hit. He knew he should give it up. He knew that, but, shit, ten dollars.

    "I said," he said, "gimme ..."

    Eddie's punch didn't hurt so much, because he was still a whole stool away, and the punch caught Puggy on the shoulder. But when Puggy fell over backward to the floor, that did hurt. Then Snake was coming around from behind Eddie, stomping with the heel of his flip-flopped foot, trying to get Puggy in the face. Puggy curled up and pressed his face in where the bar met the floor, not planning to fight, just trying to ride it out. The floor smelled like puke.

    Snake was making his fourth attempt to stomp Puggy's face when there was a ringing "bong" sound and Snake went down. This was because the bartender had hit him in the head from behind with an aluminum softball bat. The bartender had never played baseball, but he had a nice, efficient swing. He preferred the aluminum bat because the wood ones tended to break.

    With Snake down, the bartender turned to Eddie, who was backing toward the door, hands up in front of him, the peacemaker again.

    "Listen," Eddie said. "This ain't your problem."

    "YOU are problem," said the bartender, taking a step forward. You could tell he expected Eddie to run, but Eddie didn't. This is because Eddie could see that Snake—who could take a bat to the head better than most—was getting to his feet behind the bartender, picking up one of Puggy's longneck beer bottles. The bartender didn't see this, but Puggy saw it, and for no good reason he could think of, even later, he rolled over and kicked out hard, his left foot catching Snake's right leg just above the ankle. The ankle made a cracking noise, and Snake, saying "unh," went down again, dropping the bottle. The bartender spun back around, saw Snake on the floor, spun back to see Eddie going out the door, then spun back to Snake again. Leaning over, holding the bat like a shovel, he gave Snake a hard poke in the ribs.

    "Out!" he said.

    "He broke my ankle!" said Snake.

    "I break your head," said the bartender. He gripped the end of the bat, cocked it for a swing, waited.

    "OK OK OK," said Snake. Using a stool for support and keeping an eye on the bartender, he pulled himself up, then hobbled to the door. When he got there, he turned and pointed at Puggy, still lying under the bar.

    "When I see you," Snake said, "you're dead." Then he pushed open the door and hobbled outside. Puggy noticed that it was dark.

    The bartender watched Snake leave, then turned to Puggy.

    "Out," he said.

    "Look, mister," said Puggy, "I ..."

    "Out," said the bartender, gripping the bat.

    Puggy got to his feet, noticing, as he did, that he had peed his pants. He looked on the bar. His voting money was gone, all of it. Eddie must have grabbed it while Snake was trying to stomp him.

    "Oh, man," said Puggy.

    "Out," said the bartender.

    Puggy was starting toward the door when, from the other end of the bar, the bearded man, who had watched the fight, not moving from his stool, said, in English, "You can stay."

    The bartender looked at the bearded man, then shrugged and relaxed his grip on the bat.

    Puggy said, "I got no money. They took all my money."

    The bearded man said, "Is OK. No charge."

    Puggy said, "OK."

    He was drinking his second free beer, feeling better again about how the day was going, except for peeing his pants, when the door opened. He flinched, thinking it might be Snake come back to kill him, but it was a guy in a suit, carrying a briefcase. The suit went to the far end of the bar and started talking foreign with the other two men. Then the bearded man called down to Puggy.

    "You want to make five dollars?"

    "Sure," said Puggy. This was some town, Miami.

    It turned out that the job was moving a wooden crate out of the trunk of a Mercedes parked outside. The crate was very heavy, but the bearded man and the man in the suit did not help. Puggy and the bartender, breathing hard, lugged the crate inside, past the bar, past the toilet, down a hallway to a room that the bearded man unlocked, which took a while because there were three locks. The room was bigger than Puggy thought it would be, and there were other crates inside, different sizes. They set the crate down and went back out. The bearded man locked the door and gave Puggy a five-dollar bill.

    "You are strong," he said.

    "I guess," said Puggy. It was true, although a lot of people didn't see it because he was also short.

    "Come back tomorrow," said the bearded man. "Maybe I have another job for you."

    That was how Puggy began his employment at the Jolly Jackal. Usually he came to work in the late afternoon and stayed until Leo (that was the bartender's name) or John (that was the bearded man's name) told him to go home. Some days they didn't need him to do anything, but they let him stay anyway. When they did need him to work, it was always moving heavy crates—sometimes from the Mercedes to the room; sometimes from the room to the Mercedes. Each time, when it was done, John gave him a five. One time, Puggy asked what was in the crates. John just said, "Equipment."

    Mainly, Puggy watched TV and drank beer, which Leo almost never charged him for. It was like a dream. If Puggy had known jobs were like this, he would have tried to get one a long time ago.

    At night, when they told him to leave, he went back to his tree. He had found the tree on his third night in Coconut Grove. He'd spent the first two nights in a park near the water, but some kind of nasty ants were biting him, plus, on the second night, from a distance, he'd seen Eddie and Snake go past, heading toward the dinghy dock. Snake was limping.

    So Puggy went looking for another place. He discovered that, if you walked just a short way in Coconut Grove, you could be in a whole different kind of neighborhood, a rich people's neighborhood, with big houses that had walls around them and driveway gates that opened by a motor. There were strange trees everywhere, big, complicated trees with roots going every which way and vines all over them and branches that hung way out over the street. Puggy thought it looked like a jungle.

    He found a perfect tree to live in. It was just inside a rich person's wall, but across a big, densely vegetated yard from the house, so it was private. Puggy got into the tree by climbing the wall; he was a natural climber, even after many beers. About twenty feet up in the tree, where three massive limbs branched off from the trunk, there was a rickety, mossy wooden platform, a kids' treehouse from years before. Puggy fixed it up with some cardboard on the platform and a piece of plastic, from a construction site, that he could drape over the top when it rained. Sometimes he heard people talking in the house, but whoever they were, they never came back to this end of the yard.

    Late at night, there was always music coming from one end of the house. It was some kind of music with a flute, soft, coming through the jungle to Puggy. He liked to lie there and listen to it. He was very happy the way things were going, both with his career and with his tree. It was the most secure, most structured, least turbulent existence he had ever known. It lasted for almost three weeks.


"I LOOK AT this ad," the Big Fat Stupid Client From Hell was saying, "and it doesn't say to me, `Hammerhead Beer.'"

    Eliot Arnold, of Eliot Arnold Advertising and Public Relations (which consisted entirely of Eliot Arnold), nodded thoughtfully, as though he thought the Client From Hell was making a valid point. In fact, Eliot was thinking it was a good thing that he was one of the maybe fifteen people in Miami who did not carry a loaded firearm, because he would definitely shoot the Client From Hell in his fat, glistening forehead.

    At times like these—and there were many times like these—Eliot wondered if maybe he'd been a bit hasty, quitting the newspaper. Especially the way he'd done it, putting his foot through the managing editor's computer. He'd definitely burned a bridge there.

    Eliot had spent twenty-one years in the newspaper business. His plan, coming out of college, had been to fight for Justice by using his English-major skills to root out and expose corruption. He got a job at a small daily newspaper, where he wrote obituaries and covered municipal meetings in which local elected officials and engineering consultants droned on for hours over what diameter pipe they needed for the new sewer line. Eliot, listening to this, slumped over a spiral reporter's notebook covered with doodles, figured there was probably some corruption going on there somewhere, but he had no idea how even to begin looking for it.

    By the time he'd moved up to the big-time city newspaper, he'd given up on trying to root things out and settled into the comfortable niche of writing features, which it turned out he was good at. For years he wrote about pretty much whatever he wanted. Mostly he wrote what the higher honchos in the newsroom referred to, often condescendingly, as "offbeat" stories. They preferred issues stories, which were dense wads of facts, written by committees, running in five or six parts under some title that usually had the word "crisis" in it, like "Families in Crisis," "Crisis in Our Schools," "The Coming Water Crisis," et cetera. These series, which were heavily promoted and often won journalism contests, were commonly referred to in the newsroom as "megaturds." But the honchos loved them. Advocacy journalism, it was called. It was the hot trend in the newspaper business. Making a difference! Connecting with the readers!

    Eliot thought that the readership of most of these series consisted almost entirely of contest judges. But more and more, he found himself getting ordered to work on megaturds, leaving less and less time for him to work on stories he thought somebody might actually want to read.

    The end came on the day when he was summoned to the office of the managing editor, Ken Deeber, who was seven years younger than Eliot. Eliot remembered when Deeber was a general-assignment reporter, just out of Princeton. He was articulate and personable, and he could be absolutely relied on to get at least one important fact wrong in every story, no matter how short. But Deeber did not write many stories; he was too busy networking. He rose through the ranks like a Polaris missile, becoming the youngest managing editor in the paper's history. He was big on issues stories. That's why he summoned Eliot to his office.

    "How's it going, Eliot?" Deeber had said, staring things off. "Everything OK with you?"

    "Well," said Eliot, "I'm kind of ..."

    "The reason I ask," said Deeber, who was not the least bit interested in whether or not everything was OK with Eliot, "is that John Croton tells me you haven't turned in a thing on the day-care project."

    The day-care project was the current megaturd. It was going to explain to the readers, in five parts with fourteen color charts, that there was a crisis in day care.

    "Listen, Ken," said Eliot, "There are already five people working on the ..."

    "Eliot," said Deeber, the way a parent talks to a naughty child, "you were given an assignment."

    Eliot's assignment was to write a sidebar about the Haitian community's perspective on the day-care crisis. Deeber believed that every story had to have the perspective of every ethnic group. When he went through the newspaper, he didn't actually read the stories; he counted ethnic groups. He was always sending out memos like: While the story on the increase in alligator attacks on golfers was timely and informative, I think more of an effort could have been made to include the Hispanic viewpoint. The main reason why Deeber's car ignition had never been wired to a bomb is that reporters have poor do-it-yourself skills.

    "I know I had an assignment," said Eliot. "But I've been working on this story about ..."

    "The pelican story?" sneered Deeber. Eliot thought Princeton must have a course in sneering, because Deeber was good at it.

    "Ken," said Eliot, "it's an incredible story, and nobody else has it. There's this guy, this old Cuban guy in Key West, and he trains pelicans to ..."

    "Drop bombs," sneered Deeber. "It's the most dumb-ass thing I ever heard."

    "Ken," said Eliot. "This guy is amazing. He actually tried to use a trained pelican to kill Castro. Something went wrong, maybe the bomb malfunctioned, maybe the pelican got confused, but the thing apparently blew up outside a hotel in downtown Havana, sprayed pelican parts all over a bunch of French tourists, and the Cuban government claimed that it was some kind of atmospheric ..."

    "Eliot," said Ken, "I don't think we're serving our readers with that kind of story."

    "But it's true," said Eliot. He wanted to grab Deeber by his neck. "It's a great story. The guy talked to me, and he ..."

    "Eliot," said Deeber, "Do you realize how important day care is to our readers? Do you realize how many of our readers have children in day care?"

    There was a pause.

    "Ken," said Eliot, "do you realize how many of our readers have assholes?"

    Deeber said, "I see no need to ..."

    "All of them!" shouted Eliot. "They all have assholes!"

    Quite a few people in the newsroom heard that through the glass wall to Deeber's office. Heads were turning.

    "Ken," said Deeber, "I'm ordering you right now to ..."

    "Let's do a series on it!" shouted Eliot. "RECTUMS IN CRISIS!" The entire newsroom heard that.

    Deeber, aware that people were watching, put on his sternest expression.

    "Eliot," he said. "You work for me. You do what I tell you. I gave you an assignment. If you want to keep working at this newspaper, that assignment will be done, and it will be in here"—he pointed to his computer—"before you go home tonight."

    "Fine!" said Eliot. He stood up and crossed around to Deeber's side of the desk, which caused Deeber to scoot his chair backward into his credenza, knocking over several journalism contest awards.

    Eliot said: "How about I put it in there RIGHT NOW?"

    Then he put his left foot through Deeber's computer screen. His foot got sort of stuck in there, so when he yanked it back out, Deeber's whole computer crashed to the floor. In the newsroom, there was a brief but hearty outbreak of applause.

    Except for the time a drunk loading-dock employee drove a new $43,000 forklift into Biscayne Bay, nobody had ever been fired from the newspaper faster than Eliot. His coworkers expressed their sympathy and support; in fact, Eliot became a minor cult hero among reporters all over the country. But it was pretty clear he wasn't going to get another job in journalism, especially not in Miami, where he wanted to stay so he could be near his son, Matt, who lived with Eliot's ex-wife.

    And so Eliot became Eliot Arnold Advertising and Public Relations, working out of a small office in Coconut Grove. At the beginning, he spent most of his time going around begging people to become his clients. But after a couple of years of hard work, he'd reached the point where he spent most of his time going around begging for his clients to pay the money they owed him. Either that, or he was listening to clients tell him why his work was not acceptable. This is what the Client From Hell was doing.

    The Client From Hell's latest brainstorm was Hammerhead Beer, which tasted so awful that the first and only time Eliot put some in his mouth, he spat it out on his desk. Eliot thought Hammerhead Beer was an even worse idea than the Client From Hell's previous project, a theme park for senior citizens called Denture Adventure.

    But the Client From Hell actually paid his bills some of the time, so Eliot had developed an advertising concept for the beer. The Client From Hell was looking at it, and offering his usual thoughtful brand of criticism.

    "This sucks," he said.

    "Well, Bruce," said Eliot, "I tried to ..."

    "Listen," said the Client From Hell, who did not believe in letting other people finish their sentences as long as he had any kind of thought whatsoever floating around in his brain. "You know what my business philosophy is?"

    I surely do, thought Eliot. Your business philosophy is to take money from your extremely wealthy father and piss it away on moronic ideas.

    "No, Bruce," he said, "what is your ..."

    "My business philosophy," said the Client From Hell, "is that there's a lot of people in the world."

    To illustrate this point, the Client From Hell gestured toward the world. Several moments passed, during which Eliot waited hopefully for amplification.

    "Well," Eliot said, finally, "that's certainly ..."

    "And," continued the Client From Hell, who had been waiting for Eliot to speak so he could interrupt him, "all those people WANT something. You know what they want?"

    "No," said Eliot. His plan was to go with short sentences.

    "They want to feel good," said the Client From Hell.

    More moments passed.

    "Ah," said Eliot.

    "Do you know what I mean?" said the Client From Hell. He stared at Eliot.

    "Well," said Eliot, "I ..."

    "NO YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I MEAN!" shouted the Client From Hell, feeling better now that he was bullying a person who needed his money, which was his absolute favorite thing about being rich. "Because I gave you the perfect concept for Hammerhead Beer. The perfect concept! Which is not this piece of shit here." He made a brushing-away gesture, the kind you make at flying insects, in the direction of Eliot's concept, which Eliot had stayed up late working on. It was a board on which Eliot had mounted a close-up photograph of a hammerhead shark, its mouth gaping between its two impossibly far-apart, alien eyeballs. Underneath the photograph, in large, black type, were these words:


Ugly fish.
Good beer.


    "What the hell is this?" the Client From Hell demanded. "Why are you saying ugly here?"

    "Well," said Eliot, "I'm contrasting, in a kind of humorous ..."

    "Listen," said the Client From Hell, whose idea of humor was—he had this on video, and watched it often—Joe Theisman getting the bottom half of his leg almost snapped off. "I don't want to see ugly. That is not the feeling I want. I gave you the concept already! I gave you the perfect concept!"

    "Bruce, I talked to a lawyer about your concept, and he says we could get into real trouble with ..."

    "`GET HAMMERED WITH HAMMERHEAD!'" shouted the Client From Hell, pounding a pudgy Rolexed fist on Eliot's desk. "That's the concept!"

    He stood up and spread his fat arms apart, to help Eliot visualize it. "You have a guy in a boat with a girl, she's in a bikini, she has big tits, they're on a boat, and they're getting hammered! With Hammerhead! The feeling of this ad is, somebody's gonna get laid! In the background swimming around is a shark! The girl has REALLY big tits! It's PERFECT! I give you this perfect concept, and you give me ugly! Listen, if you think I'm paying for this shit, forget it, because I'm not paying for ugly. I can get ugly for free."

    You already are ugly, Eliot thought. What he said was: "OK, let me try to ..."

    "Don't tell me try. Don't try. I hate the word try. Try is for losers," said the Client From Hell, who got his entire philosophy of life from Nike commercials. "Lemme tell you something." He was tapping his finger on Eliot's desk (his fingernails were fat). "You are not the only ad agency in this town."

    I am the only ad agency in this town who is so far behind on his alimony that he will tolerate a moron of your magnitude, thought Eliot.

    "OK, Bruce," he said.

    "I wanna see it TOMORROW," said the Client From Hell.

    I could get a gun by tomorrow, thought Eliot. With those hollow-point bullets.

    "OK, Bruce," he said.

    The phone rang. Eliot picked it up.

    "Eliot Arnold," he said.

    "I need to borrow your car tonight," said Matt, who was Eliot's son and seventeen years old, which meant that he was usually too busy to say hello.

    "Hello, Nigel!" said Eliot. "How're things in London? Can you hold for a moment?"

    "Nigel?" said Matt.

    "Bruce," Eliot said to the Client From Hell, "I need to take this call from a client in London about ..."

    "I wanna see it tomorrow, and it better be right," said the Client From Hell, banging open Eliot's door, walking out, not closing the door. From the hall—from right outside the next-door office of the certified public accountant who complained whenever Eliot played his stereo—he shouted: "AND SHE BETTER HAVE BIG TITS!"

    "Thanks for coming by, Bruce!" Eliot called to the empty doorway. "I think we're almost there!" To the phone he said: "Matt?"

    "Who better have big tits?" asked Matt.

    "Nobody," said Eliot.

    "Who's Nigel?" asked Matt.

    "Nobody," said Eliot. "I made Nigel up so my client wouldn't think I was interrupting a meeting for personal business."

    "Was that the beer moron?"

    "Yes."

    "Whyn't you just dump him?" asked Matt.

    "Matt," Eliot said, "do you have any idea where money comes ..."

    "So," said Matt, who was not about to waste valuable non-school time listening to a lecture he'd already heard, "can I borrow your car tonight?"

    "What for?" asked Eliot.

    "Me and Andrew have to kill a girl," said Matt.

    "OK," said Eliot, "but I want the car back at my apartment by ten-thirty, and I want you to promise to drive ..."

    "OK thanks Dad," said Matt, hanging up, a busy man.

    "... carefully," said Eliot, into the silent phone.


WHEN SHE FINISHED cleaning up after dinner, Nina went back to her room—it was called the "maid's quarters," but it was just a little room with a tiny bathroom—and locked the door. She'd started locking it about three months earlier, when Mr. Herk had walked in on her. Nina was getting undressed, down to her bra and panties. Mr. Herk had not knocked; he'd just opened the door and come in.

    He was holding a glass of red wine. Nina snatched her robe from the bed and held it in front of herself.

    "It's OK, Nina," he said. "I just wondered if you'd like a little wine. You work so hard."

    Nina knew he didn't care how hard she worked. She knew what he wanted, because of the way he looked at her sometimes, especially when he was drinking. He liked to come into the kitchen when she was there alone and stand a little too close to her, not saying anything, just looking at her.

    Holding the robe close to herself, she said, "No, thank you, Mr. Herk. I am very tired."

    He closed the door behind him and moved toward her. "You just need to relax," he said. He put his hand on her bare shoulder and let it slide toward her breast. His hand was wet with sweat.

    Nina ducked from his hand and stepped backward, toward the bathroom.

    "Mr. Herk," she said, "I don't think Mrs. Anna will like to know you are here."

(Continues...)

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 70 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(41)

4 Star

(18)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 70 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2004

    Expected much more from this great author

    I thought the book had a very promising start, with a unique style and some great humor, then it just completely lost momentum. I almost felt as if Barry wrote the first half of the book, then turned it over to someone else for the remainder. The story became less and less funny the more unbelievable it became. I was just really dissapointed with it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2003

    A Fine fine yarn

    I hadn't read much of Dave Barry, knew only that once there was a TV show sort of based on him starring Harry Anderson. Harry Anderson, I knew, was hilarious. It turns out Dave Barry is too, and this is one of those rare books that finds you on the last page, smiling, tears of mirth flowing generously, and wishing to God it were just a few pages longer. More, it may turn you onto this whole 'Florida' genre that seems to have popped up. Dave Barry is the master of sticking his finger in the American melting pot and pulling out all the boogers. This is a wonderful, wonderful book that will bring the corners of your mouth a little closer to your eyelids.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2012

    Sherbear

    Loved it! Very funny.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    EXCELLENT!!!!

    I still read this book over and over even after all of these years. AND THE MOVIE IS EVEN BETTER!!!!!!! That is a true rarity in this day and age.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2011

    Absolutely loved this book

    This book was short, I finished it in a few hours, but it was fast-paced, and I laughed out loud often. If you like Davve Barry you will love this book. If you have never read anything by Dave Barry you will love this book. one million times better than some predictable series suspense novels and without the gruesome violence.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2010

    Funny Funny Stuff

    Hilarious. Who would have thought that so many buffoons could get themselves into so many absurd situations in so few pages. Mr. Barry moved to the top of my Humor reading pile.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2008

    A laugh riot

    I had never read a book by Dave Barry, so I was unprepared for what I was about to find. I knew the story sounded funny by reading the inside cover, but it was past funny and into ridiculous. It starts out with 'Puggy' who has found a new home in the Herk's family tree. It is a step up for Puggy, who has had a run of bad luck later, so maybe his luck is changing for the better. He immediately falls in love with the Herk maid, but from there his luck takes a turn for the worse. The Herk family has their own problems, marital, financial, and a unhappy teen. Two inept hit men are sent to take care of Arthur Herk for pilfering mob funds, two small time criminals try to steal a 'valuable' suitcase that is sure to hold unknown treasure, and two FBI agents on the trail of the suitcase, which actually contains a small nuclear device. All these individual have run-ins with various animals from the Herk family dog who seems to have gone crazy, a poisonous toad, 'gators', and goats. Add into this crazy mess cops following up pranks that end up allowing them to come across some real criminals, even if it is just some small timers trying to hit a big score. The bad news for the criminals is that the suitcase is not holding a portable garbage disposal or any other type of treasure and they will never see the Bahamas. If you want a good laugh and an entertaining read, I highly recommend 'Big Trouble'. It will have you turning pages to see what mishap will fall on Puggy next, and will he ever hold hands with the maid? Will Arthur Herk be able to escape the curse of Elizabeth Dole? Will the Herk family dog ever get to eat out of his dog food bowl again or will they just keeping feeding the poisonous toad instead? All these questions will be answered and more if you choose to read 'Big Troulbe'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2011

    Very funny! Great fast read.

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    The characters were very entertaining!!

    The characters were very entertaining!! A very good investment of your time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2007

    Funny, funny

    Funny stuff.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2005

    An Outstanding Success...

    If not wanting others to pick up another one of his books was his intent... I do applaud Mr. Barry for getting people to read and for that I give him two stars. However, I credit myself with five stars for having finished this lackluster tome. The humour in his prose is fleeting at best and so utterly disappointing at most other points that I fault no one for putting it aside and forgetting you ever heard of it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2005

    Couldn't Put It Down!!!!

    This is the funniest book I have ever read. I couldn't stop reading it once I had started, and it kept me laughing the whole way through. Its offbeat and candid humor will keep you rolling.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2004

    It's by Dave Barry, so do you need any more info?

    THE BEST BLOODY BOOK I HAVE EVER READ, OR WILL READ. IT IS SO FUNNY THAT I ACTUALLY WET MY PANTS FROM LAUGHING.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2003

    This is the greatest book EVER!!

    Well, at first I was kind of skeptical about reading a novel by Dave Barry, but soon I realized he delivers the comedy and fast... You need to get this book now... And if you already have one, get more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2003

    Funny, but not my style

    Big Trouble is fast-paced, full of extremely dysfunctional characters, and is vintage Dave Barry. He pulls out all the stops with his razor-sharp wit, often drawing blood when only a mild scratch would suffice. Personally I prefer Barry in shorter dozes. In Big Trouble, the characters are so off-the-wall that they lose credibility. The plot is so over-the-top that it borders on the surreal. I prefer characters and events that retain enough normalcy that one can laugh and say, 'Yeah, I know someone just like that.' Or 'I could see that happening.' Come on...a guy who lives in a tree? A madcap rush to the airport (complete with escaping goats) to stop an A-bomb stolen from petty Russian criminals?? Maybe I have led a too sheltered life. Maybe I need to move to Dade County to appreaciate the insanity?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2003

    FUNNY,FUNNY,FUNNY!

    very FUNNY, but also a good story with entertaining characters. Highly recommended!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2003

    Dave Barry Dives Into Fiction

    Dave Barry has written a hysterical novel that will please anyone who enjoys Dave's columns but wishes they were longer then a few paragraphs. Taking a cast of regular and not-so-regular characters, he puts them in situations that range from odd to outrageous, but all the while feel like they could actually happen. And let's hope he brings Roger the dog back for another novel. If you enjoy Carl Hiaasen, then you will also like Big Trouble.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2003

    Easily the Funniest Work of Fiction I have Ever Read

    Dave Barry is a hysterical genius. And BIG TROUBLE is no exception to anything that he has done. It has zany charecters, and plot that could only happen in Florida, and enough jokes to keep Comdey Central on air for seven weeks. The events are hilarious and the entire book is just worth the read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2002

    Completely HISTERICAL!!!

    This book never left my hands until I was finished. I couldn't read this book in public. I laughed so much people thought I was crazy!! Everyone wanted to know what I was reading. The character names were great. Roger and the Toad get an A++ . Bring back Roger!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2002

    simply hilarious

    As a miami resident, I found this book doubly hysterical. I couldnt put it down. I definately reccommend!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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