Where Is Joe Merchant?: A Novel Tale

Overview

Where is Joe Merchant? Five years ago, the rock star committed suicide, yet he keeps popping back into the tabloid headlines like a piece of toast. Could he actually be alive? That's what his sister, hemorrhoid-ointment heiress Trevor Kane, wants to know. Journalist Rudy Breno cares only that Merchant gets bigger headlines than Elvis. And for renegade seaplane pilot Frank Bama, the mystery is turning his life upside down. Once again, Jimmy Buffett cooks up an irresistible gumbo of dreamers, wackos, pirates, and ...
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Overview

Where is Joe Merchant? Five years ago, the rock star committed suicide, yet he keeps popping back into the tabloid headlines like a piece of toast. Could he actually be alive? That's what his sister, hemorrhoid-ointment heiress Trevor Kane, wants to know. Journalist Rudy Breno cares only that Merchant gets bigger headlines than Elvis. And for renegade seaplane pilot Frank Bama, the mystery is turning his life upside down. Once again, Jimmy Buffett cooks up an irresistible gumbo of dreamers, wackos, pirates, and sharks, as he leads Trevor and Frank on a wild chase through the Caribbean to a place where anything can happen ... and everything does.

Will Frank Bama ever be able to talk with a woman? Will Trevor Kane succeed in calming a deadly storm by taking off her clothes? Why did the Jet Ski Killer cross the road? Who is that weirdo with eyes tattooed on his eyelids so he can see while he sleeps? And where is rock star Joe Merchant? Find out in Buffett's modern-day pirate story.

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Editorial Reviews

Atlanta Journal and Constitution
Jimmy Buffett scores another hit. . . You don't even have to be a parrothead to enjoy this wacked-out tale. .
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Entertainer Buffett's second blockbuster (after Tales from Margaritaville ), an 18-week PW bestseller, involves the search for the eponomyous missing rock star. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
The relaxed and reigning king of beach music, who most recently told Tales From Margaritaville (1989), tries his hand at a relaxed and rambling novel. It's about seaplanes, a pretty girl, a vanished rock star, the curse of jet skis, a magic scepter, disrupters of paradise, and conch burgers. Joe Merchant, of the title, is the missing, presumed dead rock star whose sister Trevor Kane has returned to Florida to enlist her old lover Frank Bama to check out rumors of Merchant's survival. Trevor left Frank, a Vietnam vet who would rather fly than get serious, years ago because he seemed to love his ancient seaplane more than he loved her. Frank's doughty seaplane, however, is just what she needs to go in search of someone named Desdemona, who might be somewhere in the Caribbean. There is a Desdemona, and she does have a psychic link to the missing musician. She's been getting extrasensory messages for months. Also on the trail of Mr. Merchant and Desdemona are trash journalist Rudy Breno and one- armed, archvillainous soldier-of-fortune Colonel Cairo. Colonel Cairo is obsessed with the restoration of his missing arm, a task requiring a missing crystal. Desdemona might know something about that. The searches are Florida-intense, which is to say that there is plenty of time for subplots about Frank's chum who has been blowing up the jet skis that make paradise too noisy, and about a coldblooded killer with eyeballs tattooed on his eyelids who's not, after all, a subplot. So laid-back and rambling it's perilously close to sloppy, but Buffett's considerable charms as a performer and goof-off artist keep things afloat. The uninitiated may be baffled; his fans will be enchanted.
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR WHERE IS JOE MERCHANT?
"A roisterous romp, a novel Elmore Leonard might have written if he made Key West and the Caribbean his home . . . Part soap opera, part Saturday morning cliffhanger and all fun."
-The Philadelphia Inquirer

"A high-jinks lark and a breezy read . . . An oddball combination of a wild adventure story and a wacky whodunit."-The Boston Globe

From Barnes & Noble
Rock star Joe Merchant committed suicide 5 years ago, yet keeps popping back into the tabloid headlines. A novel by the singer & author of Tales from Margaritaville.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780151962976
  • Publisher: Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/1/1992
  • Edition description: SGND/LMTD

Meet the Author

Singer/songwriter/author Jimmy Buffett has become a legend of popular culture as the composer of such classic songs as "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise." He has recorded more than thirty albums, most of which have gone gold, platinum, or multiplatinum, and his sold-out concert tours are an annual rite of summer for his fans. In addition to his musical credits, Buffett is also one of only six authors who have had number-one New York Times bestsellers in both fiction (Where Is Joe Merchant?) and nonfiction (A Pirate Looks at Fifty).

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

When My Ship Comes In, I'll Be at the Airport

I was watching the Cubs game and eating a fried shrimp platter at Bobalou's when Rudy Breno burst through the door like Geraldo Rivera on a drug raid. I had met Rudy at the Chart Room Bar in Key West, and I wasn't a fan. I had no fondness for him or the accusing, fabricated stories he published in his father's paper, a yellow journalism rag called the National Lighthouse.

Rudy Breno was one of those middle-aged men who looked into the mirror and refused to buy the hard truth of the aging process. His squatty frame carried about forty extra pounds above his "fighting weight" in the form of love handles and a pot belly that spilled over the waist of his Sansabelt slacks. He insisted his pants still fit perfectly although the fly would never zip up all the way. Rudy had no ass at all, and from the side it looked as if somebody had flattened his butt with a two by four. Yet when Rudy looked at his physique in the morning, he saw himself as a Tom Selleck look-alike.

He strutted up to me as if he were Marshal Dillon.

"Frank Bama, I need to talk to you in the bathroom, now."

In the fabulous Florida Keys, words like that either announce your sexual preference or your line of work. I waited until Harry Caray finished his unrivaled rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" before my curiosity got the best of me, and I followed Rudy into the bathroom.

"I need to charter your plane. I've got to get to Havana. Do you know how to get to Cuba?"

"Yeah, take a left at the southernmost point of Florida and keep going till you run into something. That'll be Cuba."

"This isserious business, Bama. I've gotten permission from the Cuban government to make this trip, but I have to let them know the name of the pilot and the serial number of the plane." He leaned over to me and whispered, "Captain Bama, Joe Merchant was spotted yesterday at a baseball game in Havana. There's a man who has pictures. This is the story of the century."

"Right up there with landing on the moon, I'd say."

Rudy wasn't listening. "Joe Merchant not dead at all but alive and well, an expatriate rock star living in a communist country-wow. Well, I need to know-can you take me?"

"Why did we have to come into the bathroom to have this conversation?" I asked.

"It's part of the story. I like the intrigue of taking a seaplane to Cuba and meeting the blond, handsome, maverick pilot-that's you-in a place like this."

"My shrimp's getting cold, Rudy."

"Well, Bama? Are you in?"

"It's two hundred dollars an hour flight time, and forty dollars an hour on the ground."

Rudy nodded his approval.

I took a pen out of my pocket and wrote down my phone number at the hangar. "The serial number is N40SB. I'll call flight service and file a flight plan to Havana. You call me at that number by five and let me know that we do, in fact, have clearance to enter Cuban airspace."

"Right-o, Captain.'

Rudy dropped two quarters in the rubber machine and slipped the aluminum-foil packets into his pocket. "Can't be too careful these days, you know. Say, you went out with Joe Merchant's sister for a while when she lived down here, didn't you?" The words oozed out of Rudy's fat mouth like sludge, and all of a sudden I felt dirty and began to wash my hands.

I yanked on the towel machine. "That's old business, and none of yours. There's weather moving in tomorrow, so I want to leave early and be back as soon as we can. Understood?"

"Aye, aye, Captain."

"And bring cash. Five-hundred-dollar deposit, and I'll expect the rest when we get home."



Rudy Breno rushed out of the restaurant, leaving a trail of bad will behind him. I finished my shrimp and thought about what had just happened. Rudy was about as pleasant as a root canal, but the job couldn't have come at a better time. I'd been wanting to hightail it out of Key West and escape to a new, debt-free life in the Alaskan wilderness, but I'd been too broke to do it. I figured the trip to Cuba would bring me at least a thousand bucks, and I knew Rudy was good for the money. His old man was loaded and ran the paper as a hobby. His real source of income was hazardous-waste disposal.

I was smiling when I left Bobalou's, and I checked the sky as I headed for my Jeep. A low-pressure trough was moving into the area, and the air was getting thicker as the moisture built up. Squalls out on the Gulf Stream lit the distant horizon, and there wasn't a breath of air stirring.

"We have work!" I shouted to Hoagy, my golden retriever, who sat in the front seat. He sniffed the air and eyed the small brown bag in my hand.

"Oh, it's the noble dog look. What a champion," I said. I opened the bag and tossed a hushpuppy into the air. Hoagy caught it, chewed it once, licked his mouth with his long pink tongue, and waited for the second launch. "It's a high pop-up," I yelled and tossed the second hushpuppy high into the sky. Hoagy bolted from the seat into the parking lot and ran under the hushpuppy, positioning himself for the catch like a confident outfielder. He opened his mouth a split second before the ball of fried cornmeal fell directly down his throat.

"Load up," I called, and Hoagy sprang across the driver's seat to the passenger's side. I tossed him the last hushpuppy and patted his head, and Hoagy barked and gave me a big lick. Where is Joe Merchant?. Copyright © by Jimmy Buffett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xxi
Prologue: I Fly Boats 1
Squalls Out on the Gulf Stream
1 When My Ship Comes In, I'll Be at the Airport 15
2 See You in C-U-B-A 19
3 The Blind Leading the Blind 25
4 Under the Lone Palm 32
5 Let's Blame It All on the Weather 40
Doin' the Hemisphere Dance
6 That's My Story, and I'm Stickin' to It 49
7 Fins to the Left, Fins to the Right 59
8 The Lady I Can't Explain 61
9 Want What You Have 66
You Can't Hide Your Mayan Eyes
10 Desdemona's Building a Rocket Ship 79
11 Fruitcakes in the Galley, Fruitcakes on the Street 84
12 Where Has All the Time Gone? 92
Anchovies and Antonyms
13 I'll Be Your Pizza Tonight 109
14 You've Got the Wrong Man 111
15 Shelter in the Storm 116
The Wind Is in from Africa
16 Beyond the Low-Water Mark 127
17 Housekeeping 137
18 I'm Clean 140
19 Colonel Cairo 145
20 Who's Eating Who? 150
21 Skating with the Devil 153
22 It's Better in the Bahamas 158
23 The Day Cain Slew Abel 163
24 Suntans and Percodans 171
Tickets to Ride
25 Stand by Your Passenger 179
26 What Has Four Eyes and Two Barrels? 189
27 The Ferry of the Dead 191
Livin' on Island Time
28 Friday Was the Coolest 201
29 No Plane on Sunday 204
30 Paradise Lost 207
31 Tell It Like It Is 212
32 I'm a Mayan 216
33 Raw, Naked Fear 221
34 Bless Me, Father 227
Where's the Party?
35 It's Time 235
36 We Do Have a History 242
37 I Must Confess, I Could Use Some Rest 248
38 Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Two Hundred Dollars 253
39 I'd Rather Watch Paint Dry 256
40 No Bird Flies by My Window 265
Rolling with the Punches
41 Somebody Else's Troubles 271
42 Where Is Joe Merchant? 282
43 The Price of Tea in China 292
44 Old Habits Die Hard 294
45 The Things We Do for Love 300
Beach Music, Beach Music, Beach Music Just Plays On
46 The Skeleton in the Closet 307
47 Time to Come Home, Cowboy 310
48 Revenge Is a Volatile Fuel 317
Quietly Making Noise
49 That Time-Bomb Look 323
50 No Ticky, No Laundry, No Mechanics 329
51 Changing Channels 335
52 Blame It on the Stones 343
53 You're a Mayan 346
54 Fly-Boy in the Ointment 354
Cabbages and Kings
55 Mambo on the Wind 359
56 At Arm's Length 363
57 Jalapeno Hollywood 369
58 Is There Anybody out There? 371
59 Matador in the Broken Mirror 375
60 Feeding Frenzy 378
61 Save the Last Dance for Me 381
Commander's Moon
62 Que Pasa? 391
63 Propeller Talk 392
64 Quail Talk 397
65 An Appointment with the Moon 399
66 Who Are You? 403
67 Out of the Picture 406
68 Mermaids in the Night 410
69 Bones on the Beach 415
Don't Touch That Dial
70 The Snakes Are Talking 419
71 Back to the Drawing Board 422
72 So You Want to Play Pirate? 426
Waiting for the Sails to Fill
73 Happily Ever After, Now and Then 439
74 The World Is My Oyster 446
75 Changes in Latitudes 446
76 Store in a Cool, Safe Place 450
Epilogue: Further Adventures in Restless Behavior 455
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 25, 2011

    You gotta go for this book!

    Where is Joe Merchant couldn't have been written by anyone else but Jimmy Buffett with a story and characters that could only have been spawned by the tropical troubadour himself. A first novel by Buffett, it reflects a wandering imagination and fondness for his characters that is usually expected of first time novelists and as such the characters themselves become the paramount appeal of the book. The book takes you for a ride around the Caribbean and sings like a Buffett song, and indeed, for all those true Buffett fans out there, it includes numerous references to same such as a certain eccentric lady who is building a rocket ship to take her into space. If you're a Parrothead you'll know who that is. I put Joe Merchant above Buffett's other novels and recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2010

    Easy exciting reading

    I read the other Jimmy Buffet books first i/o this one,Salty piece of Land, Pirate at Fifty, but it was still a nice read since it has been awhile since reading the other books. They are all great books for anytime reading!!!

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  • Posted October 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Where is Joe Merchant by Jimmy Buffett

    This is truly an enjoyable reading adventure. Mr. Buffett has a gift
    for use of details and making the reader believe that he or she is
    with the characters every step in the adventure. The question of
    "where are we going today?" with each character kept me coming back
    for more. The plot was so interwoven around the characters that
    I enjoyed each detail of each chapter. Thanks for a fun adventure,
    Mr. Buffett.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Thoroughly Enjoyable Experience

    Buffett's talents hardly end at making music. He has a marvelous way of combining characters and locales to make you feel you're as versed in the areas he's describing as he, a native of these areas, is. You can picture every characters face, see every palm tree and wave and taste the rum on the bottom of every umbrella stick you remove from every magnificent drink concocted at beachside. If there is a downside it's that Buffett doesn't write nearly enough novels to satisfy our desire for the tropics.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2008

    A great, fun read!

    A friend passed this book onto me and I reluctantly decided to read it when short on material for a long flight. Wow, am I ever glad I did! This was surprisingly a clever, fun read. Buffet's writing style is immediately engaging and the story line is fun yet still fanciful. A great read poolside or when you just wish you were able to be near the beach!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    Desdemona - We've all met her

    This is a great read, especially in the winter. So many of Buffett's characters and stories from his songs and 'Tales from Margaritaville' come to life in vital detail and depth. We've all known a Desdemona in our lives - she's an everyman's Earth Mother.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2006

    Cant wait to read but how original is this?

    It sounds like an amazing book, with some decent reviews however after reading the synopsis I have to say that this tale sounds strikingly close to the old movie Eddie and the Cruisers, about a rock star who drove off a bridge in Jersey before hitting it bigtime and became popular then ever and surrounded with the myth that just maybe Eddie faked his own death. Just sounds like a strange similarity

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2004

    The book that got me reading.

    I never liked to read until I read Where is Joe Merchant?. Something in it camptured my intrigue and for the first time ever everything else came second to what I was reading. I've been an avid reader ever since and have even started a novel of my own due to Buffets capturing writing style.

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