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“Gritty, earthy, and often hilarious . . . Has the humor of a tall tale told by Mark Twain.” —The Wall Street Journal



Repo man Nick Reid had a seemingly simple job to do: Talk to Percy Dwayne Dubois about getting the payments he’s behind on for a flat screen TV or repossess it. But Percy Dwayne wouldn't give in. No, instead he went all white-trash philosophical and figured that since the world was against him, he might as well fight it. He hit Nick over ...

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“Gritty, earthy, and often hilarious . . . Has the humor of a tall tale told by Mark Twain.” —The Wall Street Journal



Repo man Nick Reid had a seemingly simple job to do: Talk to Percy Dwayne Dubois about getting the payments he’s behind on for a flat screen TV or repossess it. But Percy Dwayne wouldn't give in. No, instead he went all white-trash philosophical and figured that since the world was against him, he might as well fight it. He hit Nick over the head with a fireplace shovel, stole the mint-condition calypso coral–colored 1969 Ranchero that Nick had borrowed from his landlady, and went on a rowdy ride across the Mississippi Delta.

Nick and his best friend Desmond have no choice but to go after him. The fact that the trail eventually leads to Guy, a meth cooker recently set up in the Delta after the Feds ran him out of New Orleans, is of no consequence—Nick will do anything to get the Ranchero back. And as turns out, he might have to.

An original and ballsy road-trip of a crime novel, Ranchero is an unforgettable read and a fantastic series debut.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Full of inspired comic hyperbole, Gavin’s rollicking debut does for the Mississippi Delta what Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen do for Florida. Former cop Nick Reid works for K-Lo’s rental shop in Indianola, Miss., repossessing TVs and such from people delinquent on their payments. Which is how he meets Percy Dwayne Dubois, gets hit on the head, and loses the 1969 Ranchero his landlady loaned him, “essentially a glorified Fairlane, which never rated glorification.” Determined to retrieve the stolen car, Reid calls on Desmond, a huge black colleague, to help him, and the fun begins as the pair crisscross the Delta, “less a place than a boot on your neck.” Reid and Desmond work their way through a series of lowlifes from Dubois’s cousin Luther to Acadian meth lord Guy (pronounced Gee), all the while trying to avoid Dale, a crooked, muscle-bound county cop. Readers will eagerly await Reid’s next adventure in the Delta. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Ranchero

“Gritty, earthy and often hilarious… The irresistible Ranchero has the humor of a tall tale told by Mark Twain.”

The Wall Street Journal

“A very colorful trip … Gavin turns out phrase after phrase of ear-pleasing insight into the Delta and those who live there, and dialogue that sounds just right… And when Gavin waxes funny, he really is funny, with enough comedic situations to keep everyone laughing as Reid tries to recover the Ranchero.”

The Associated Press

“In his debut, Rick Gavin offers a comic romp through the Mississippi Delta, "less a place than a boot on your neck," where eccentricities thrive, pathetic criminals flourish and the absurd can pass for the norm… Gavin's eye for the odd turns out dark, slapstick humor akin to Tim Dorsey's Serge A. Storm novels and Ben Rehder's series set in Blanco County, Texas... Gavin's fine eye for details, his compassion for humanity and his dark sense of humor make Ranchero work… Gavin's dialogue is Elmore Leonard-perfect.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Ranchero

“This first novel from Gavin is a little miracle. The dialogue is pitch-perfect…. One of the most enjoyable crime debuts in a very long time.”

Booklist (starred review)

“Gavin’s first novel is a sure winner. Reminiscent of Tim Dorsey’s “Serge Storms” series but with a more likable protagonist, it will appeal to down-home good old boys and their armchair counterparts. Recommended.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“Full of inspired comic hyperbole, Gavin’s rollicking debut does for the Mississippi Delta what Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen do for Florida… Readers will eagerly await Reid’s next adventure in the Delta.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Rick Gavin brings a true ear for dialogue and his gifts as a literary stylist to this series debut. A kick-ass backcountry novel.”

New York Times bestselling author Randy Wayne White

Library Journal
Nick Reid leads a low-key life, doing odd jobs at a rental store in the backwater Mississippi Delta, until his boss sends him out to repossess a television from no-account Percy Dwayne Dubois. Unable to imagine life without his TV, Percy Dwayne hits Nick upside the head with a fireplace shovel and, with TV, wife, and son in tow, makes a hasty escape in Nick's borrowed classic calypso coral 1969 Ford Ranchero. Thus begins a four-day trek across the Delta in search of Percy Dwayne and the stolen Ranchero, gathering along the way as unlikely a gaggle of backwoods hangers-on as ever peopled a story of redneck derring-do. Along the way, the group encounters corrupt law enforcement officers, drug addicts, meth lords, and other unsavory characters who detain and distract but never permanently interrupt the quest. VERDICT Gavin's first novel is a sure winner. Reminiscent of Tim Dorsey's "Serge Storms" series but with a more likable protagonist, it will appeal to down-home good old boys and their armchair counterparts. Recommended. [A Minotaur First Edition Selection; library marketing.]—Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Kirkus Reviews
A hapless repo man's quest for a defalcating consumer turns personal in Gavin's debut, a testosterone-fueled romp. Nick Reid is just minding his own business, putting the bite on Percy Dwayne Dubois for the 42-inch flat-screen TV he'd missed three payments on, when Percy Dwayne lays him out with a fireplace shovel and helps himself to Nick's wallet and cell phone and the 1969 calypso coral Ford Ranchero he's driving. Because the car isn't even Nick's--it was the pride and joy of Gil Jarvis, the late husband of the landlady who loaned it to Nick while his own wheels were under the weather--Nick chivalrously vows to retrieve it in mint condition. Enlisting the help of Desmond, a hulking African-American colleague, he slips the traces of K-Lo, his enraged Lebanese boss, and high-tails it after Percy Dwayne, his wife Sissy and their diapered baby PD Jr. His sort-of-plan is to head to Yazoo City, the reputed home of Luther Dubois, who just might be a relation. Percy Dwayne, meantime, has other plans. Calling Nick using his own cell phone, he offers to ransom the Ranchero back to him. All these plans come to naught when a meth cooker named Guy runs off with Sissy, PD Jr. and the car. It's not clear whether Sissy, like Helen of Troy, is cooperating with her abductor. In fact, nothing much involving psychology or narrative causality is ever all that clear. What's certain is that no one normal will appear and nothing normal will happen until Nick catches up with the Ranchero--maybe not even then. Forget comparisons to other books. The closest you've ever come to Nick's experience is sitting in a Florida drive-in theater circa 1958.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250006585
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Series: Nick Reid Novels Series , #1
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 983,678
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

When he's not writing, RICK GAVIN frames houses and hangs sheetrock in Ruston, Louisiana. Ranchero is his first novel.

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Read an Excerpt




I met Percy Dwayne Dubois after a fashion at his Indianola house. I’d come to collect his television and was explaining to his wife that they’d gone three months delinquent on their rent-to-own installments. He eased up behind me—I heard the joists complain—to offer commentary with a shovel.

Lucky for me it was a fireplace shovel, though uncommonly stout as that sort goes, and he swung it with force enough to lay me out on the linoleum.

Since I’d enjoyed a sort of career in legitimate law enforcement, I’d met with occasion to get myself knocked on the head a time or three. I’d been dinged with assorted planking, a dinette chair, a brass shoe tree, had survived my share of semi-drunken glancing tire-iron blows, and was once deafened for a week in Roanoke by a shemale named Varnella who caught me square on the ear with a handbag full of what proved to be shoplifted rice.

So I was familiar with the abrupt, iron-oxide flavor of it all and the baleful overtures of gravity. I knew the barest of chances to mount a survey of the kitchen floor before selecting a spot and informing myself, “I think I’ll stretch out here.”

I don’t believe I was ever altogether senseless. As him and the wife were wrangling about me, I could make out what they said. In what I preferred to believe at the time a home economical impulse, she proposed they hack me up and pack me off to the woods in a sack. She was kicking me all the while she talked, poking me with her naked foot in a fashion that suggested I was exasperating clutter.

“Let’s think about the boy,” he told her, and they contemplated together their son, who was sitting hard beside me in his grimy, fragrant diaper.

The ammonia reek alone was probably keeping me awake. He was rolling a little plastic sedan up and down my shirtfront while he burbled that way toddlers will and unfreighted himself of drool. The wheels tickled and left me helpless against the need to twitch and squirm, which earned me the occasional supplemental shovel tap.

Up to this point, he could have gotten off with a month or two in the lockup, back payments on his TV, and a spot of contrition before a judge. But he saw fit to go, the way his sort will, all white trash philosophical and decided the world was stacked against him and he’d never know much of a shake.

He informed his wife there were higher-ups in the government in Jackson, most especially a fellow he’d crossed once on the attorney general’s crew, who were looking to put him in Parchman any way that came to hand. So it hardly mattered what he did or how he went about it.

“I can’t come out on top.” He said it with that air of wan self-pity that’s peculiar to humans with Pall Malls behind their ears and homemade tattoos.

Then he thumped me again and helped himself to my key ring and my wallet, and that was when his troubles got authentically underway.

By sheer chance I was driving a pristine 1969 Ranchero that my landlady had told me her dead husband, Gil, would have wanted me to drive. I’d never met Gil, but I’d seen a snapshot of him on her sideboard. It showed him wearing spotless coveralls and grimly Armor All-ing a tire. Gil looked the sort who’d probably rather have made me the loan of his liver than endure me to wheel his Ranchero out into the fallen world.

Sadly for him, his widow wasn’t the sort to value a car, and worse still the woman was a relentless insister by disposition. She’d led off insisting I call her Pearl instead of Mrs. Jarvis, had insisted I park my Nova in her driveway instead of down by the curb. She routinely insisted her Guideposts on me directly out of her postbox and piecemeal items from Gil’s wardrobe that never threatened to fit.

She was fond of some manner of alfalfa-looking green from the Sunflower Market and would always insist away about half of what she carried home. She forced on me countless pans of desiccated box-mix brownies, the occasional bundle of tube socks from dollar-store sidewalk sales, and she even insisted a salve on me once for a rash I didn’t have but she insisted the humidity would guarantee I got it.

Pearl had a son in New Orleans who lurked, as a rule, just out of insisting range. He’d swing by every now and again heading to Little Rock or Memphis. He never stayed the night or stuck around long enough for a proper meal. I once came across him on Pearl’s back porch plundering through her handbag, and he shot me one of those miscreant sneers that gave his game away.

From then on, I felt an obligation to tolerate Pearl’s insisting, a duty to serve as proxy for her boy. It was plain Pearl couldn’t help herself. She insisted like most people breathe. So I decided that whatever she said I ought to take or do, I’d just go ahead for rank efficiency’s sake and take or do it.

That’s basically how I ended up with Gil’s restored Ranchero. My Nova had been chewing a bearing for the better part of a week, and the wheel had finally locked up the day before the fireplace shovel. As I was walking up the drive Pearl had come into the yard to insist some manner of cheesy casserole on me, and she was right in the middle of reinsisting I not park in the street when I let her in on my Nova’s complaint.

To my surprise, Pearl told me she had a spare vehicle in the car shed. I lived above the thing and passed its grimy windows every day, but I’d just assumed Pearl’s garage was chock full of the sort of clutter I’d spied already down in her cellar and out in her storage shack.

For Pearl’s part, she drove a Buick sedan, one of those lozenge-shaped four-doors that looked extruded rather than designed. Pearl had personalized hers by dinging and bashing it in at every corner because Pearl had a way of insisting when she was behind the wheel as well.

“I can fit in there,” she’d tell herself, and then demonstrate she couldn’t.

So I hardly expected Pearl to open the car shed door to reveal not just an impeccably, almost clinically tidy interior but a Ranchero up on jack stands under a fitted tarp. The elastic at the bumpers had gone primarily to powder, so a couple of tugs on the canvas brought the covering away to reveal, in its full resplendence, Gil’s restored vehicle. I now know the proper name for the color is calypso coral, a fairly arresting shade of tropical pink.

A Ranchero is essentially a glorified Fairlane, which never rated glorification. It’s sort of a low-slung, boxy coupe in the front and a shallow truck in the back, not fit on the one end for a proper family or on the other for legitimate cargo. Consequently, the thing looked right at home elevated on jack stands, a street-legal curiosity on display. I’m sure Gil’s goal had been to keep the tires from going square, but he’d also all but guaranteed the thing would go undriven.

It hardly seemed worth taking down, and I was saying as much to Pearl when she gave another yank upon Gil’s tarp. One of the rotten fitted corners had gotten snagged on a bumper flange, and that tug proved enough to hinge the jack stands over all at once.

Gil’s Ranchero rode them to the slab and settled on its shocks. The force disgorged a mouse that sat dazed on the cement, spat with violence from the undercarriage.

“Oh my,” Pearl said. “Gil would have fussed.”

I imagined him rotating in the churchyard.

I didn’t make Pearl insist any further, just collected the oily kraft paper Gil had laid across the dash, reattached the battery cables, and removed the mangy shearling seat covers. Mice had come in through the heater vents and hauled off most of the fluff. I found the ignition key on the visor, set the choke half out, and the engine caught nearly straightaway.

My ancient Nova was ongoing proof I had no love for cars, but even I was stirred by the glorious baritone hum of Gil’s Ranchero and a little mortified to stall the thing out after rolling about six feet onto the driveway.

Telling Pearl I needed to take it for a test drive, I grew capable in a block or so, and was altogether seduced before I was a full half mile from the house. The low rumble of the engine. The extra-stiff ride. The unexpected pep. The polished walnut gearshift knob that felt erotic in my hand. My Nova had fluttering heat shields and wallowing suspension, clattering valves that made the thing sound like a Pacific Rim sweatshop on wheels.

Once I’d returned to the house and parked the thing, I pledged an oath to Pearl about the scrupulous care I’d take of Gil’s Ranchero. I assured her that I’d bring it back exactly like I’d found it, which is the statement I fixed on as I lay sprawled on that gritty kitchen floor.

Just before they left, that boy and his wife had tied me up with lamp cord, had given me one last shovel swat in the face, and shoved me under their dinette. Because they were shiftless trash, I was almost half a minute working loose, and I gained my feet by hauling myself slowly up a chair.

I could see my face in the breakfront glass. I was lumpy and puffy and crimson with my nose laid open along the bridge and my left eye swollen shut. My bottom lip was split. I’d leaked a slurry of bloody drool on my shirtfront. I had a headache of the blinding and unperforated sort.

I’d heard them start up Gil’s Ranchero, so I knew it’d be gone from the drive. They’d left me their rust-eaten Pacer with a screwdriver plunged in a sidewall, the best they could manage by way of forestalling pursuit.

The front room was shin-deep in trash and pieces of cast-off clothing. A ratty couch, a corner cupboard full of mismatched cups and saucers, and a dying aspidistra in a shiny plastic pot. They’d taken, of course, their plasma TV, the very thing I’d come to fetch.

I should have called my boss straightaway. That was company protocol. Whenever one of us got in a dustup, K-Lo insisted we phone him—not so he could help us out, but more so he could rant and fume. K-Lo was a hothead by disposition and technique, and there was little in this life he preferred to righteous indignation.

His given name was Kalil, and he was Lebanese by descent. His parents sold kibbe and domas from a storefront up in Clarksdale. K-Lo’s great grandfather had come to the Mississippi Delta to farm.

When the slaves were freed and the planters had liberated their field hands, they went scouring the planet for labor to help harvest the cotton crop. They brought in nearly anybody they could persuade to come. Italians, Slovaks, Asians, Africans, Mexicans, Middle Easterners—people in desperate enough straits back home to find the Delta inviting.

Of course, it turned out that picking cotton by hand in the Mississippi sun was precisely the sort of work you had to be indentured to do. If you thought you were miserable in Naples, Dubrovnik, Hunang, Rabat, or Damascus, you’d reconsider after a week in a Delta cotton patch.

Consequently, most immigrants gave up farming, but they stayed on nonetheless, could hardly afford to just pick up and leave. They became shopkeepers and tinkerers, money lenders and levee builders; opened stalls and restaurants to sell the food they’d eaten back home. That’s why there’s falafel in Clarksdale, congee in Greenville, tamales all over the place. Stuck smack in the middle of the homogenous South, the Delta is crazy exotic.

As a rule, deepest Dixie is black and white and Christian in a way the Lord and Savior could never have intended. Your basic Southern Baptist would willingly delay his personal ascent into heaven for the baser pleasure of hanging around to see you burn in hell. The Delta just supplies a regional wrinkle in the common tone.

K-Lo’s people might have been Muslim, but they’d evolved to the Southern veneer. They drank sweet tea, wore Walmart denim, and could rattle on about the weather, but they’d all retained their Middle Eastern volatility. It was an unrelenting tribal trait like being towheaded or chinless. I knew if I dialed up K-Lo, he’d effectively explode.

I decided instead to call Desmond, a far more temperate soul and the only one of my colleagues I liked. Unfortunately, I’d left my Motorola on the dash of the Ranchero and couldn’t locate anything but vacant phone jacks in the house, which sent me outside to waylay a boy on a bike down by the street. He didn’t see me until I was right beside him, when he all but levitated.

“Shit, mister!” he yelped, and retreated across the road in an awful hurry. It took a five-dollar bill to lure him back so I could rent his phone. He studied me while I dialed up Desmond to tell him where I was. Desmond didn’t ask questions, just agreed he’d come and fetch me.

“What happened to you?” the boy wanted to know once I’d handed his phone back to him.

“I got in a tussle,” I told him, and jabbed my thumb at the house I’d come out of. “Know him?”

He nodded. “Daddy says he stole our mower.” Then he added by way of friendly advice, “You might want to work on your tussling.”


Copyright © 2011 by Rick Gavin

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2014


    Very clever and totally worth reading! Just started the 2nd book.

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  • Posted December 27, 2013

    With spot-on descriptions of the West Central Mississippi delta

    With spot-on descriptions of the West Central Mississippi delta region and solid humor, this book has a lot to recommend it. On the other hand, the characters are stereotypes and the plot nearly non-existent. I got bored with the Dukes of Hazzard-type shenanigans a hundred pages in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013


    This was such a fun read! Not many books have me laughing out loud but this one really did. Keep them coming.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2012

    Very funny

    Has an awesome story, likeable and hilarious characters. Leaves you laughing and guessing til the very end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2012

    Fun read

    Very simple, and fun story set in the swamps and backwoods. A lot of characters to relate to. Leaves you laughing after every chapter. Good dialogue, great ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    this author has the mississippi delta down pat. it was a real fun read.

    i'm looking forward to his next book. i gave it as a xmas present to a friend who lives in ms. i am waiting to hear from them, about what they thought.

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  • Posted December 16, 2011

    Fun to read.

    An amusing story, simply told. Good characters.

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    Posted December 28, 2011

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    Posted July 8, 2014

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    Posted November 11, 2011

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    Posted September 13, 2013

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