We all run across them sometimes. Some of us even manage to buy them once in a while, either because the blurb on the back was enticing enough, or because someone we trust recommended it. Fortunately for me, both of these books were gifts given so long ago I'm not even sure where they came from.
Desperate for something to read, I gave them both my very best shot, but really couldn't stomach more than a third of each one. What books am I ranting about?
The first - Puerto Vallarta Squeeze by Robert James Waller
This book is about an author, Danny, declining in popularity. An ex-journalist, he turned to fiction with a brief flair of success and moved to Puerto Vallarta to indulge his depression with the best looking girl in town and a lot of sex, partying and of course alcohol.
His life takes a turn toward the interesting when he witnesses a professional hit. The hit man had gone to great lengths to go unnoticed; if Danny hadn't been looking in exactly the right spot at the right moment, he'd have missed it too. In the excitement of the two suddenly dead people out in the street, Danny and his really good-looking girl decide to go somewhere else.
Coincidentally, our professional hit man decides to follow our American to ask if he could take him to the American border. With the right amount of money incentive, plus Danny gets the brilliant idea to grill the guy with the thought of his next stab at fame in mind. And so began their journey. I didn't get much further.
There was all manner of back story concerning the hit man, really a rather sad case, but rather than have it come out for some reason during the interaction between him and Danny, this information was completely disconnected from our author and his thoughts, for that's pretty much all we got from him, that and his impressions of the so very dangerous man riding in the car with him.
As a completely background character, the girlfriend was nonetheless everyone's eye-catcher. She rode in the back seat playing no bigger part than to be an extra thread of actions, someone to wait for upon occasion, someone to make a comment now and then, certainly not a source of local information. Her biggest attraction was the occasional head-hop where someone admired her ass in passing. Really annoying if you ask me.
Now I've never been to Mexico, but rather than taking me on something of a tour, seeing this or that point of interest along the road, we got road numbers and miles to the next intersection, and the occasional comment on a choice of roads that would lead them to this destination or that one. This story was such an opportunity lost. I couldn't take anymore.
The next book I tried was Wild Animus by Rich Shapero
This book opened up at a college protest it sounded like some time in the 60s but I'm not at all sure; it was a minor issue to me. My brother went to college during that time, so for me it started out as something of a curiosity into the time. That didn't last long. Right off guy main, Sam, and girl main, Lindy, spent most of their time as high as they could get, likening their trips to touching god, and when that wasn't enough, they focused on an Alaskan magazine with a ram on the cover. This ram, the description of which waffled from that of a Dall Sheep to that of a Mountain Goat, soon became Sam's 'totem'. Now I'm all for totems; I happen to believe mine is a cat, a tiger or a mountain lion, but that's beside the point. Sam went so far as to become completely obsessed with the creature, and of course the illegal drugs made sure the two of them did little else, even forsaking friends and family.
Eventually, authorities started cracking down on the drug trade, so Sam and Lindy left town and college and headed west. Now bereft of whatever funding they used to have, they had to get jobs. There was little mention of this other than the fact that Sam couldn't keep one, leaving the burden of supporting them and their habit up to Lindy. To her credit, she seemed to be growing up, but she couldn't manage to say no to Sam, even when he spent all their money on mountain climbing and camping gear.
On one such 'trip', Sam changed his name to Ransom for no reason I could determine, but he also decided he and the ram were so united, he was now the ram's prophet or something of that nature - in other words, Sam decided he was about as close to godly as it was possible for a two-legged human could be.
Eventually, Sam traveled to Alaska so he could get to know his god, and at some point Lindy was able to go too. Up in Denali park they got their wish. They also had another revelation. Upon hearing the call of the wolf, Lindy came to the conclusion that the wolf was her totem. The reasoning behind this was that the wolf always followed the sheep and she was always following Sam/Ransom. Weird but okay - whatever floats your boat. But then they decided to consummate this revelation with sex right there on the mountain, doggy fashion. If you mix their totems in there, and how could I not, that's just freaky to me.
I did a little skipping ahead and not much changed. Sam/Ransom ended up following his ram up to the edge of some active volcano where he died, while Lindy tried to rescue him having drummed up a helicopter somewhere somehow, I didn't read that part. There is a disclaimer of sorts on the back, the very last sentence, where it says "Shapero's focus has been on the exploration within. The real goal, he maintains, is a fresh discovery of ourselves."
While some drugs may spark this 'exploration within', I have my doubts. I will not go into my thoughts on illegal drugs. I never tried any; I never saw the logic in skewing reality, but reading a 300+ page book of drug-induced delusional haze was way too weird to be interesting.
As I walk back to my bedroom after posting this, I do believe these two books will end up in the trash. And I never throw books away - until now.