The Marauders: A Novel

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Overview

When the BP oil spill devastates the Gulf coast, those who made a living by shrimping find themselves in dire straits. For the oddballs and lowlifes who inhabit the sleepy, working class bayou town of Jeannette,  these desperate circumstances serve as the catalyst that pushes them to enact whatever risky schemes they can dream up to reverse their fortunes. At the center of it all is Gus Lindquist, a pill-addicted, one armed treasure hunter obsessed with finding the lost treasure of pirate Jean Lafitte. His ...
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The Marauders: A Novel

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Overview

When the BP oil spill devastates the Gulf coast, those who made a living by shrimping find themselves in dire straits. For the oddballs and lowlifes who inhabit the sleepy, working class bayou town of Jeannette,  these desperate circumstances serve as the catalyst that pushes them to enact whatever risky schemes they can dream up to reverse their fortunes. At the center of it all is Gus Lindquist, a pill-addicted, one armed treasure hunter obsessed with finding the lost treasure of pirate Jean Lafitte. His quest brings him into contact with a wide array of memorable characters, ranging from a couple of small time criminal potheads prone to hysterical banter, to the smooth-talking Oil company middleman out to bamboozle his own mother, to some drug smuggling psychopath twins, to a young man estranged from his father since his mother died in Hurricane Katrina. As the story progresses, these characters find themselves on a collision course with each other, and as the tension and action ramp up, it becomes clear that not all of them will survive these events.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
It's always the voice, the singular sound of a place like none other, that draws you into a regional mystery. In Tom Cooper's first novel, The Marauders, that beguiling music comes out of the Louisiana bayous, where a raucous chorus of shrimp fishermen, marijuana growers, treasure hunters, professional crooks and common thieves fight to be heard. Every last one of these gaudy characters has a story to tell about life on the Gulf Coast.
Publishers Weekly
12/08/2014
Cooper conjures all the complexities of post-Katrina, post–Deepwater Horizon bayou life in his first novel, a noirish crime story with a sense of humor set on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Each of the memorable main characters is introduced by a short chapter bearing his—or, in the case of the sinister marijuana-growing Toup Brothers, their—name. The shifting perspective keeps things moving along as we move deeper into the muck. Wes Trench ponders whether there’s a future in shrimping when the hauls are getting smaller and smaller, and Bayou men like his father are broken down by the time they reach 40. There’s Lindquist, a one-armed shrimper who’s searching for the fabled treasure of pirate Jean Lafitte in the bay with his metal detector, and whom nobody takes seriously. Then there’s Cosgrove and Hanson, a couple of small-time cons, and Grimes, a BP lawyer poking around the Barataria region, asking the old-timers to sign away their claims. Add in some alligators, body parts, and hidden treasure, and this mélange begins to thicken into a roiling gumbo. Cooper’s novel is a blast; descriptions of the natural beauty of the cypress swamps and waterways, along with the hardscrabble ways of its singular inhabitants, further elevate this story. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"Sad, grotesque, hilarious, breathtaking...stands with ease among the work of such stylistic predecessors as Twain, Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard. One thing that gives “The Marauders” its own clear hallmark is its quicksilver prose. The book’s other standout aspect is how it demands and earns sympathy for all but its most evil characters and for the fate-blasted but nature-blessed locale they inhabit. You might not want to retire there, but you’ll savor this visit." - The Wall Street Journal

"Excellent, finely written and funny – an admirable novel from a very promising writer." - USA Today

“It’s always the voice, the singular sound of a place like none other, that draws you into a regional mystery. In Tom Cooper’s first novel, The Marauders, that beguiling music comes out of the Louisiana bayous, where a raucous chorus of shrimp fishermen, marijuana growers, treasure hunters, professional crooks and common thieves fight to be heard…It hurts to laugh at the preposterous get-rich-quick schemes of these swamp denizens, but laugh we must, if only to find some relief from the grim realism of Cooper’s portrait of life in these coastal communities.” – The New York Times Book Review

"The first great book of the 2015 beach season is already here...Tom Cooper’s début novel, “The Marauders,” certainly should not be confined to beach season or to the implication that it’s light or airless good fun, but it seems to be a book that should be savored on a deck overlooking the beach or pool with a cold beer nearby,,,an enjoyable and impossibly difficult to put down novel.” - Free Lance Star Review

“Tom Cooper has Louisiana dead to rights. Every aspect. Jeanette, the sleepy bayou town ravaged by man and nature alike, is rendered in Technicolor detail. Its residents, lifers and visitors alike, leap from the pages. The story rolls like a tide, handling triumph and tragedy alike with a dark, mischievous humor that Cooper wields expertly…There’s more than a hint of the Southern gothic here, more than a little Flannery O’Connor…It’s easy to forget this is his first novel. Some books require boxes of tissues. This one requires an, as Cooper writes, “an ass-pocket whiskey bottle.” Get you a drink and get comfortable. You won’t be moving until you hit the last page.” - The Advocate

"A debut novel that does nothing in half measures. It isn’t afraid to take risks, dabble in darkness and skirt the edge of ruin, and this is what makes it such an exciting read…The Marauders takes readers on a rollicking adventure deep into the heart of Louisiana’s marshes as well as some of the darkest corners of the human psyche…The plot is brisk, the characters are captivating and the writing is lush and striking. Cooper’s writing is the kind a reader can happily get lost in, and his depictions of the Deep South are so evocative that if he ever gets tired of fiction, he might give travel writing a try. But The Marauders is such an impressive offering from an audacious new voice in fiction that one can only hope it is but the first of many. As far as bibliophilic treasure hunts go, this one is literary gold.” - Bookpage

Cooper’s intricate, accessible weaving of his characters with each other, and his deep, delightfully eccentric descriptions of this area of Louisiana show that he’s just beginning what will hopefully be a satisfying career as a novelist - Bookbrowse

"The Marauders is so damned good you won't believe it's a first novel…and by the time you reach page 20, you won't care. It's rollicking, angry, eye-popping, and fall-on-the-floor funny, sometimes in the course of a single scene. The cast is winning, the post-Katrina bayou setting is richly evoked, the dialogue crackles, and the story rolls on a wave of invention. It's a little Elmore Leonard, a little Charles Portis, and very much its own uniquely American self. Basically, Tom Cooper has written one hell of a novel." - Stephen King

"More fun than a book about the aftermath of an ecological disaster has any right to be" - Esquire

"Wade into moral muck with the pill-popping, treasure-hunting, one-armed hero of this finger-lickin'-good Louisiana swamp noir." - O, The Oprah Magazine

"A sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking "swamp noir" gumbo with echoes of John Kennedy Toole, Larry Brown and Daniel Woodrell…The Marauders is as grounded in the simple truth as it is awash in the outlandishly eccentric." - Shelf Awareness

"I can't wait for Cooper's next book. Nor can my wife, and she and I seldom agree about novels. He's fun to read--he keeps your head up and your eyes big." - Garden and Gun

"Self-assured and highly entertaining...Cooper’s writing is taut, his story is gripping, and the characters and their problems will stay with you long after you finish this book." -Library Journal, *Starred* Review

“This is one hell of a debut novel. Cooper combines the rough-hewn but poetic style favored by writers like Charles Willeford with the kinds of miscreants so beloved by Elmore Leonard, all operating in the tumultuous modern-day disaster that is New Orleans.. With crisp, noir-inspired writing and a firmly believable setting, Cooper has written an engaging homage to classic crime writing that still finds things to say about the desperate days we live through now. Somewhere, Donald E. Westlake, John D. MacDonald and Elmore Leonard are smiling down on this nasty, funny piece of work.” Kirkus Reviews, *Starred* Review
 
“Cooper offers a believable portrait of a bayou town and a cast of deeply engaging characters wrestling inchoately with the likely extinction of the only life they know. There is real substance and humanity in this fine debut novel.”Booklist, *Starred* Review

“Cooper’s novel is a blast; descriptions of the natural beauty of the cypress swamps and waterways, along with the hardscrabble ways of its singular inhabitants, further elevate this story.” - Publisher's Weekly
 
"Tom Cooper expertly maps a Gulf Coast of miscreants, romantics, and a severely beleaguered nature, digging at the old, weird south with his own enthralling voice. 'Marauders' is propelled by wonderful characters depicted with grace, humanity, and that rarest of talents: a truly hilarious wit. Mr. Cooper joins such talents as Twain, Portis, and O'Toole in mining the humor of the Southern freak show to deliver the universal news of the human heart." --Nic Pizzolatto, author of Galveston and creator of HBO's 'True Detective' 

"This is rare for me, very rare, that I was utterly unable, because of a novel, to get up from a chair and answer the phone when it rang or eat when I was hungry or go to bed when I was weary. Rare, but this book has left me hungry and sleepy and neglectful of somebody I hope will call back. That his book is smart and funny and dazzling in its prose is obvious. He also can tell a hell of a story. Tom Cooper is a newly-minted American literary treasure." - Robert Olen Butler

The Marauders, Tom Cooper's beautifully-written chronicle of the misadventures of the denizens of a dying Louisiana fishing village, pleases in so many ways. It's funny, sad, and wise, sometimes in the same sentence. An outstanding debut.
--Richard Lange Author of Angel Baby, This Wicked World
 

“The very best fiction transports us effortlessly to places we've never been and involves us deeply with characters we've never met; and though I've never lived in the Louisiana bayous, or shrimped all day with one arm in oil-polluted waters, or obsessed over a dead pirate's treasure while chewing up painkillers like candy, or been hunted by anyone as sadistic as the Toup brothers, Tom Cooper's brilliant, fast-paced first novel, The Marauders, took me there, set me right down in the miserable heat and the mud and the dread, and, though it might sound strange to say, I will be forever grateful to him for that. “ – Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff and the Devil all the Time
 
The Marauders is a novel so compelling, so unsettling, so scary and hilarious that you won’t be able to put it down. You might as well pour yourself a drink and settle into your comfy chair. Set in Louisiana’s Barataria swamp after the ecological disaster that was the BP oil spill, the novel chronicles the end of a way of life for Gulf shrimpers and explores a muddy world of greed, grit, and gumbo. Tom Cooper is an eloquent new voice in the extraordinary world of Southern fiction. And, trust me on this, the spectral and relentless Toup brothers will haunt your dreams.” - John Dufresne, bestselling author of Louisiana Power & Light
 
“Tom Cooper has written a first novel with sustained, top-drawer prose, and that is a beautiful and uncommon thing.” – Pete Dexter, national book award-winning author of Paris Trout

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-11-20
Rumors of lost pirate treasure in the Gulf of Mexico drive hard men mad in the sweaty, desperate days after the BP oil spill.This is one hell of a debut novel. Cooper combines the rough-hewn but poetic style favored by writers like Charles Willeford with the kinds of miscreants so beloved by Elmore Leonard, all operating in the tumultuous modern-day disaster that is New Orleans. Our chief troublemaker is old Gus Lindquist, a one-armed drunk who believes that a hard-to-find island off the coast still holds the buried doubloons of French pirate Jean Lafitte. He hires Wes Trench, the troubled teenage son of a local shrimper, to accompany him on his so-called adventure to find the loot. Unfortunately, the site in Louisiana's Barataria region is also home to a patch of particularly potent weed farmed by Reginald and Victor Toup, two dangerous scumbags who think up stunts like delivering an alligator to Lindquist's bedroom in an attempt to scare him off. Other comic moments come from the efforts of slick BP representative Brady Grimes to convince the hardheaded and suspicious locals to take a paltry, token payment over the massive settlement everyone knows is coming. Lastly, Cooper throws in a pair of wild cards in Nate Cosgrove and John Henry Hanson, unlikely allies who meet on a road crew while serving out their community-service sentences. When Cosgrove and Hanson decide the Toup brothers' ganja is worth ripping off, it all comes boiling over in a conflict not everyone will survive. With crisp, noir-inspired writing and a firmly believable setting, Cooper has written an engaging homage to classic crime writing that still finds things to say about the desperate days we live through now. Somewhere, Donald E. Westlake, John D. MacDonald and Elmore Leonard are smiling down on this nasty, funny piece of work.
The Barnes & Noble Review

Here's a familiar refrain: "If life had gone a certain way, which it had not, he could have been a doctor or a lawyer or a college professor. One thing he was surer of every day: all you needed in life was a good start." In Tom Cooper's irresistible novel The Marauders, most characters reach the same conclusion, sooner or later. There is Cosgrove, for instance, a roofer and drifter, arrested for brawling in a New Orleans bar, then teaming up with weasly Hanson to raid a Louisiana bayou marijuana crop. Bad idea. The growers are the Toup brothers, twins with " . . . mineral-gray eyes full of cunning." They already have old man Lindquist — one-armed and addicted to pain pills — in their rifle sights whenever they spy him on the shoreline, digging. For buried treasure, as it happens. There is shrimper Bobby Trench, bitter and unbending since Hurricane Katrina took his wife, and young Wes Trench, still building his own shrimp boat, despite the BP oil spill having destroyed Gulf Coast fishing. And there is Brady Grimes, son of the bayou turned oil company employee, trying to con fishermen into settling for ten grand: "In their parlance, a liaison to minimize liability. Some such horseshit."

This sounds like a Carl Hiaasen caper, but The Marauders, with all its humor and snap, is also a subtle elegy: for the Barataria, a fragile Louisiana waterland, and for the working lives of its ornery inhabitants. Not that Cooper romanticizes either one. "By forty, they were drinking whiskey every night to keep the pain at bay," Wes knows, "scoring Oxycontins from their doctors and friends just to make it through another day of trawling." In a series of alternating chapters so compressed and finely drawn that any one could be a short story, (Cooper's first discipline), each skewed character and gimcrack dive emerges with the tactile clarity we expect from Elmore Leonard or Annie Proulx. We can picture the shrimp buyer's teeth, " . . . fake and over-large and country-club white," and the sheriff settling his hat " . . . on top of his mastiff head"; the motel room whose " . . . cinder-block walls were painted shiny beige with hardened drips like veins" and the roadhouse vibrating with "the mortar fire of music in the bar."

If portraiture is Cooper's strength, plot may be his weakness. Fleshing out the handful of individuals around which the novel revolves and setting them on an intersecting course, he makes the theft of Lindquist's artificial arm the catalyst for most of what follows. The resulting comedy is fine but too flimsy a hook for the weight of the characters he has created. And the buried treasure subplot leads The Marauders toward a predictably gothic denouement. "Smaller alligators were now hemming in," a petrified Toup brother observes. "A dozen of them swam off with glistening pink hunks of meat. Reginald glimpsed a floating length of organ?" After all this mayhem, the novel's final scene is oddly, even hollowly redemptive. "They crossed the narrow hem of shoreline," Cooper writes of Wes's neighbors, "and in their clothes waded into the water with the boat on their shoulders like venerators in a solemn rite."

Anna Mundow, a longtime contributor to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications.

Reviewer: Anna Mundow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804140560
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Publication date: 2/3/2015
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 72,691
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

TOM COOPER has been published in dozens of literary magazines and journals, most recently in Oxford American, Mid-American Review, Gulf Coast, Boulevard, and Willow Springs. His stories have been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize. He lives in New Orleans.
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Read an Excerpt

The Marauders

A Novel


By Tom Cooper

Random House LLC

Copyright © 2015 Tom Cooper
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8041-4056-0


CHAPTER 1

THE TOUP BROTHERS


They came like specters from the dark maw of the bayou, first ghostly light in the fog, then the rasp of a motor: an aluminum powerboat scudding across lacquer-black water. From a distance the figures looked conjoined, Siamese twins. As the boat drew closer the bodies split in two under the moth-flocked floodlights. One stood fore, the other aft: the twin brothers Reginald and Victor Toup. When they were kids even their mother had trouble telling them apart. That was long ago, half their lives, and now their mother was dead. Shot through the temple in New Orleans's Roosevelt Hotel before their father turned the gun on himself.

Tonight they motored under a three-quarter moon, thirty pounds of marijuana hidden under a tarp in the bait well. Reginald trolled the boat and Victor crouched on the prow, surveying the bayou through night-vision binoculars. They'd made this run so many times they could tell you things about the swamp that no map could. You rarely came across anyone out here. Not after dark, not this far, not outside shrimping season.

This of course was the point.

A flicker of motion ahead drew Victor's eye. On an islet a half mile distant a small light bobbed and shimmied like fox fire before sputtering out.

Victor held up his hand and Reginald cut the engine and lights. They were plunged into dark, moonlight banded across the water, the only sounds the insects and frogs singing in full chorus, the soft slap of waves against the hull.

"What?" Reginald asked.

Victor said nothing. He peered through the glass and waited. Reginald stepped behind him, black rubber hip boots creaking. Side by side, the brothers' resemblance was uncanny. The same side-parted black hair and hard-bitten faces, the same mineral-gray eyes full of cunning. The same way of leaning slightly into the night, torsos angled stiff, like bloodhounds scenting a rumor of prey. But there were differences, slight. Reginald had the beginnings of a gumbo paunch but Victor did not. Reginald had no tattoos, but Victor had them on his arms and on the side of his neck: the head of a gape-mouthed Great White shark, a mermaid and trident, a spiderweb in the crook of his right arm, a black widow spider in the middle.

Any other differences between the twins a man would have to delve deeper than the surface to discern.

For a time nothing moved. Stars were strewn horizon to horizon, bands so tangled and thick they looked like white paint flung on a black canvas. Ursa Minor and Cassiopeia and Orion like puzzles you had to make out.

Victor shifted on his boots and adjusted the focus of the binoculars. The light winked on again, skeltering among the trees.

"Thinks we left," Victor said.

"Who?" Reginald asked.

Victor didn't answer, only watched. Anchored a hundred yards from the islet was a ramshackle shrimp boat, on the islet shore a beached pirogue and a Coleman lantern dimly glowing. A man in hip boots waded in the bracken, sweeping a metal detector coil over the ground. In his other hand was something that looked half scoop, half shovel.

The man heard something in his headphones and halted. He passed the metal detector coil a few times over the same spot and then dug for a minute with the shovel-scoop. He stepped to the shore edge and shimmied the shovel in the water and hunkered down, sifting through the dirt like a gold panner.

Victor lowered the binoculars and shook his head.

"Tell me," Reginald said.

"A guy," Victor said. "Digging holes."

"Why?"

"Fuck should I know? Burying his wife."

Reginald took the binoculars from Victor and squinted through the glass. "Got a metal detector," he said.

"Know him?" Victor asked.

"I've seen him. I think."

"Metal detector," Victor said. He shot a scoffing breath through his nose. "I've seen it all."

"What's he, with the oil company?"

Victor didn't answer. He unshouldered his semiautomatic Bushmaster and got the man's face in the crosshairs of the reticle scope. He looked in his late forties, early fifties. Deeply pocketed eyes, shaggy hair winged out from beneath a yacht cap. And look, he was missing an arm, in its place a prosthesis.

"Missing an arm," Victor said.

"I know who that is," Reginald said.

Victor asked who.

"The redhead? Crazy big tits. Got stoned at our place a couple times. Renee?"

"Reagan," Victor said. "Oh, yeah."

"Reagan. That's her daddy."

Victor lifted the rifle again and squinted through the scope, his finger resting in the curve of the trigger.

"The hell you doing?" Reginald said. He'd always been the more diplomatic of the two, Victor the more hotheaded. Maybe it was because Victor was the firstborn, the alpha, a full hour longer in the world than Reginald. This was one of Reginald's theories, anyway.

"Too close for his own good," Victor told Reginald.

"We'll talk to him."

Victor could squeeze the trigger right now and the man's life would be over in an instant. He'd done it before. Out here. But he lowered the rifle and said, "Luckiest day in his life, son-bitch doesn't even know it."


LINDQUIST

His arm was missing. Lindquist was positive he'd left it in his pickup two hours before. He wasn't in the habit of misplacing his thirty-thousand-dollar myoelectric arm or of leaving his truck unlocked, catchwater bayou town where everybody knew everyone or not.

A few other pickups sat under the bug-flurried sodium vapors. Nothing else but cypress lisping in the night breeze, a bottlefly-green Buick bouncing on the blacktop past Sully's bar. But Lindquist kept looking wild-eyed around the oyster-shell parking lot as if his arm had wandered off on its own volition. As if he might find it standing next to the blue-lit tavern sign, thumbing a ride.

Lindquist went back into Sully's. Sully was wiping the bar with a hand towel and peered over the top of his wire-frame glasses. At one of the back tables three men were gathering cards and poker chips, and they looked up too.

Lindquist stood in the doorway, lips pressed in a thin pale line, some dark emotion building behind his face like a storm front. "Somebody took my arm," he said.

"Took?" Sully said.

"Stole," Lindquist said. "Somebody stole my fuckin' arm."

A stymied silence fell over the room, for a moment the only sound the jukebox: a Merle Haggard song, "I Wonder If They Ever Think of Me," playing faintly. The men glanced at one another and shook their heads. Finally one of them, Dixon, began to laugh. Then Prejean and LaGarde, the two other men at the table. Their teeth flashed white in their sun-ruddied faces and soon the narrow pine-planked room filled with their laughter.

"Screw you guys," Lindquist said.

The laughter stopped as quickly as a needle lifting off a record.

"You joking?" Dixon asked.

Lindquist joked a lot, so it was hard to tell.

"Probably left it at home," Sully said.

"Like hell," Lindquist said.

"Call Gwen," LaGarde said. "See if you left it at home."

Lindquist stared stiff-jawed at LaGarde. LaGarde put his hands on the tabletop and looked down. Gwen was gone, had been for months. Most likely she was at her parents' house in Houma, where she usually fled when she and Lindquist were arguing. She always returned after a few days, but not this time. The men didn't know the full story, but the gist was probably the same. A quarrel about money, about bills, about their daughter, about God knew what.

Sully stepped from behind the bar and the men got up from the table. They searched under stools and chairs, kicked open bathroom stalls. Then they went outside and canvassed the lot. Lindquist stooped and peered under the trucks. Dixon went to the edge of the lot and passed his boot back and forth through the sedge. Prejean did the same on the other side. LaGarde walked out to the blacktop and looked in both directions.

Afterward the men stood under the sodium lights, batting mosquitoes from their faces.

"Why didn't you just wear it?" Dixon asked Lindquist.

"You wear it in this heat," Lindquist said.

Twenty minutes later the sheriff arrived. Villanova. He picked up his khaki cowboy hat off the passenger seat, got out of the cruiser, sat the hat on top of his mastiff head.

The men stared, faces malefic in the red and blue bar-light.

Lindquist told Villanova about the poker game, about how his arm was missing when he returned to his truck. Villanova fished a small spiral notebook out of his shirt pocket and scribbled down the names of the men who'd left earlier. Lindquist insisted whoever took his arm had to be a stranger. A lowlife drifter so drug-addled and devoid of moral compass he'd steal a prosthetic arm from someone's truck.

"And you're sure you didn't leave it home," Villanova said.

Lindquist narrowed his eyes. "You leave your arms at home?"

Your thirty-thousand-dollar arm, he wanted to say. Without his wife's insurance from her job at the bank, Lindquist could have never afforded the prosthetic or the months of physical therapy after his accident. And even with Gwen's insurance, Lindquist had to pay fifteen grand out of pocket, money he put on a high-interest credit card he paid only the minimum on every month. A debt he'd take to his grave, but he couldn't exactly shrimp with a five-dollar hook arm from Kmart.

Villanova wrote something down. "You have the serial number?"

"The serial number?"

Villanova pinched the bridge of his nose. "The serial number for the arm, Lindquist."

Lindquist shook his head.

"Well, you can always call the doctor. Call wherever you got it. That might make sense."

The men scattered their separate ways, Dixon and Sully back into the bar, LaGarde and Prejean off to their trucks. Lindquist stood beside his truck door, jangling through a wad of keys. A full minute passed before he found the right one. Then for another half minute Lindquist jabbed the key around the lock, scraping metal. Finally he scrunched one eye closed and slipped the key inside.

Villanova watched from across the lot. "What you doing?" he asked.

"Driving home."

"Like hell. You're drunk."

Lindquist squinted at Villanova, head listing as if to music only he could hear. "Just a little," he said.

"It's late, Lindquist. Get in the car."

For a time the men were silent as Villanova drove along the traffic less two-way. They passed a palmetto grove, a field of saw grass. A nighthawk winged across the moon, its silhouette like an emblem on a coin.

"Knock knock," Lindquist said.

"Still at it with your jokes, Lindquist."

"Knock knock."

"Loses an arm and tells knock-knock jokes."

"Anita."

"Anita who?"

"Anita big ol' pair of titties in front of me."

Villanova shook his head. The police radio popped and hissed with static.

"So you all were playing poker," Villanova said.

"Yeah."

"For money?"

"What you think?"

"That's illegal."

Villanova kept both hands tight on the wheel, both eyes on the road.

"Knock knock."

"It's late, Lindquist."

Villanova didn't need to ask him for directions because he knew the way. He'd driven Lindquist home from the bar a few times because he was too wrecked to drive himself.

"You worried about the oil?" Villanova asked.

Lindquist said he was. Everybody in Jeanette was. Hell, folks were in a shithouse panic.

"Could be better than they're saying," Villanova said. "But I got a feeling it might be worse."

Soon Villanova bumped onto a gravel driveway that cut through wild privet to a brick ranch house with a gray-shake roof and satellite dish. A birdbath, its basin filled with scummy water and leaves, stood in a dead flowerbed.

Awkwardly, Lindquist reached his left arm across his lap and opened the door.

"You okay, Lindquist?" Villanova asked.

Lindquist stooped and looked into the car. "Yeah. You?"

"Yeah. Favor? No crusades just yet."

Lindquist nodded.

"Got your keys?"

"Yeah."

"Check for me."

Lindquist took his keys out of his jeans pocket, jangled them, gave Villanova a thumbs-up.

"Still know how to use them?"

"So long, Villanova," Lindquist said. He shut the door and stepped aside as Villanova turned the car around. He watched the taillights jitter like fireflies down the driveway, one pair and then two and then one again when he squinted an eye.

Lindquist opened the front door, flicked on the light, sniffed. A sweet-sour stink, of rancid bacon grease and chicken fat, wafted from the kitchen. And the den was littered with grease-mottled takeout bags, empty beer cans, month-old newspapers still in their cellophane bags. Lindquist wondered what his daughter, Reagan, would think if she dropped by for a visit, what his wife would think if she came back.

Like that was going to happen.

He moved to pick up one of the bags but his arm wasn't there. He went to the kitchen and got an Abita out of the refrigerator and then he sat at the cluttered dining room table. Bills, all months overdue. Mortgage, credit cards, diesel, insurance. And books stacked four and five high: The Story of the American Merchant Marine. The Pirates Lafitte. The Journal of Jean Lafitte. The Pirate Lafitte and the Battle of New Orleans. Biogeochemistry of the Wetlands: Science and Applications.

Among the books were time-yellowed maritime maps as stiff as parchment, marked with red felt-tip pen in Lindquist's hieroglyphic hand. A metal detector lay across the table with its circuitry box open and its wiring sticking out. Gwen used to bitch when he left these things on the table, but now he could keep them where he goddamn well pleased.

Lindquist leaned on one ass cheek and took out a Pez dispenser from his pants pocket and flicked the head. Donald Duck spat out an oblong white pill: Oxycontin, whittled by Lindquist with a pocketknife so it fit perfectly into the dispenser. With the bottom of his Abita bottle he pummeled the pill on the dining room table until it was crushed to dust. Then he plugged a nostril with his forefinger and leaned over and snorted the powder, tipping his head back and rubbing the dust off his upper lip.

Lindquist unfolded one of the maps over the table, a fraying map in hachured black and blue ink of the Barataria, its serpentine waterways and archipelagos of barrier islands. Over time Lindquist had made his own adjustments to the cartography, crossed out cheniers succumbed to time and tempest, drawn new islands and hummocks sprung up overnight. One was shaped like a tadpole, another like a paw track, another like an Egyptian udjat. Over some of the islands he'd drawn X's, over others question marks.

He uncapped a purple felt-tip pen with his teeth, studying the map, marking over one of the islands. He reached for his beer, but his right arm still wasn't there. He dropped the pen and clutched the bottle, thinking of the last thing Gwen had told him before she left.

You're in a bad place, she'd said. You need help.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Marauders by Tom Cooper. Copyright © 2015 Tom Cooper. Excerpted by permission of Random House LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Interviews & Essays

Q: Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, The Marauders. You set this story in New Orleans, from where you hail. What true-life aspects of the region did you deem most important to revisit in your novel?
A: Thank you. I’ve lived in New Orleans for about half a decade. That’s true. But I’m very careful about saying I’m “from” here, because “Where are you from?” generally means “Where have you lived in the last several years?” in other places. Here it means, “Oh, what high school did you attend?” Or, “Remember little Nicky Dufrene, the kid who shoved the railroad spike in his nose?” That’s big in New Orleans: what high school you went to. Or what characters you know.
I came to New Orleans during a very unusual and turbulent time, right in the middle of the B.P. oil spill. And I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to New Orleans during the summer, but that’s our “off season.” A sluggish pall settles over the city. Not as many festivals or activities, a decline in tourism, all the Tulane and Loyola students gone, four thousand degrees out, face-melting Death Valley heat. On top of everything else that summer, Louisiana was contending with several million gallons of oil. That put a little cramp in the city’s strut.

Q: How much of your character creation was based on real people?
A: It’s an alchemical process. You take a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Like Victor Frankenstein. You invoke a phrase, a mannerism, an idiosyncrasy, a haircut, a facial expression, an accent. But I never write about a specific person, no. Not because of any sensitivity toward persons living or dead. Everything’s fair game. Ha.
Only, part of fiction’s excitement, for me, is allowing us to live a little bit with people we don’t know. And if it’s really good fiction, then we live vicariously through them.

Q: If you were to describe present-day New Orleans as a person, what would you say?
A: Nicky Dufrene.
This is a tough one. Interesting.
I’m working on a new character now. More of a sketch at the moment, or an audition, to see if he ends up being someone who figures in a new story. I’m sure he’ll pop up eventually. Sooner or later.
And I guess this dovetails nicely with your previous question.
A bit:
You saw him from time to time strolling the cobbled streets of the French Quarter, the paunchy middle-aged man in his many-pocketed fishing shirt and fedora with the robin’s feather tucked in the band, his kindly drinker’s face flushed with rosacea. Sometimes tourists mistook him for somebody they knew. Hey, is that what’s-his-name, the guy? Meaning an actor, one of those jolly giants with a slight air of melancholy, like John Goodman or John Candy. He always said hello when he passed. Good morning, darling, he said in his bourbon baritone, whether you were a man or woman, an acquaintance or tourist. Good mawnin dawlin: definitely local, that accent. Like a New Jersey accent, but with the burl of the South in it, the muddiness of the Gulf. Sometimes he’d tell you an off-colored joke, slightly obscene but good-natured, and as he was walking away would chuckle low and hoarse. His name was Bert Castle and he was fifty-four and his body – his knees and his lower back and his battered hands – was from a lifetime of working in restaurants finally going to seed. He was known in this neighborhood for getting enormously drunk and suffering bouts of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
I’m not sure what else about this guy I should say. I’m still getting to know him, as strange as that sounds. He went to Catholic school, but only for a few years. He is a widower. He is foul mouthed almost to a fault. He is nostalgic. Sentimental. A little hedonistic. Wary, but with a strain of almost irrational optimism. He holds onto things, objects, almost to the point of being a hoarder.
Enough about Bert, except to say he has a friend in the story named Ernie. A cruel coincidence.

Q: You’ve written short fiction fairly extensively for various literary publications. What was the impetus for switching to long form at this point of your career?
A: Well, I don’t know if you can call it a career. It’s only one book at this point, some stories, but I hope it’s worthy of being deemed such down the road.
My intention was always to write a novel, from the beginning. Only, I didn’t have the chops. It requires a different kind of finesse, novel-writing. In the end, I guess the answer is very simple. I wanted to be read by more people. I wanted to write something a little more immersive and detailed. Something that would linger with readers. And the story I wanted to tell demanded something of novel-length.

Q: What will you be working on next?
A: I’ve been a blabbermouth about this stuff in the past, so I should keep the muzzle on, lest I steal any of my own thunder, such as it is. But I’m always working on something and I have several projects in various stages of development, most of them very early. A few screenplays, a few novel ideas.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 8, 2015

    more from this reviewer

    I have never visited Louisiana but I¿ve often wanted to. Seeing

    I have never visited Louisiana but I’ve often wanted to. Seeing the land on television and learning about it from such shows as Swamp People and True Blood, does nothing to truly show the kind of life the people of this great state live. After Katrina, there was so much devastation and a lot of people were put in the position of having to rebuild their entire lives. The BP oil spill was another devastation that caused families that relied on the waterways as their income to have to come to terms with moving into the lowest realms of poverty. 




    Tom Cooper’s book not only shows an in depth picture of the lives of some of these people in a fictional manner but it also contains a storyline that is suspenseful and somewhat horrifying. I would definitely put this novel on the level with the amazing works of Stephen King and others, though I would not compare this writer directly to King, as he definitely has a syntax all his own. True life horror and suspense is some of the scariest as we realize that this could happen to anyone. These characters lives are played out in vivid reality and this is easily one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’d give it 10 Ravens/Stars if I were able, but in the land of Amazon, 5 Ravens/Stars will have to do. 




    I received this book from the publisher for an honest and unbiased review.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 23, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Chaos In The Gulf

    A tale of life in the Barataria. After the oil spill by British Petroleum, a way of life that was centered around the bayous of the Louisiana Gulf Coast is thrown into chaos. Oil slicks, sludge, and even the chemicals used to break up the spill, spoil the life and livelihood of the people of Jeanette, La. Many people pull up stakes in search of greener pastures, but those who stay must find ways to eke out a living until the promise of renewal in the Gulf becomes a reality. Some turn to dishonest means such as the Toup brothers. These identical twins are of a like mind when it comes to making money. Their present scheme involves an out of the way island, lush with the growth of marijuana and the promise of easy cash. Some would turn to the ethereal promise of treasure hunting, like Gus Lidquist, submerging himself in the legends of Jean Lafitte and his supposed buried treasure that pervade the history of the Barataria. Some turn to the cause of their problems seeking relief, as Barry Grimes. A one time child of the bayous, he returns to his roots carrying the hollow promises and quick rewards offered to his hometown folks by his bosses in B.P. Still others like Wes Trench, estranged from his father, but sharing in the hope of continuing to squeeze out a meager living, hoping against hope for a return to normality. Book provided for review by Random House.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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