Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?: A Novel by Stephen Dobyns

Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?: A Novel

byStephen Dobyns

Paperback | September 6, 2016

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Stephen Dobyns—whom Stephen King has described as "the best of the best"—is back with a comic suspense novel about a small-time con operation, a pair of combative detectives, and the pride, revenge, and deception that guide us all. Richard Russo meets Elmore Leonard.

In the seaport town of New London, Connecticut, newcomer Connor Raposo has just witnessed a gruesome motorcycle accident on Bank Street. At least he thinks it was an accident. A man sliced in half by a reversing dump truck could only be an accident, right?

But these days, Connor can’t be sure of anything—his entire line of work is based on games of artful deception. His days at Bounty, Inc., are spent soliciting funds for improbable, bogus charities; its last venture was Free Beagles from Nicotine Addiction, Inc. The new scam is Prom Queens Anonymous, Inc., dedicated to helping former high school celebs transition to humdrum daily grown-up lives; Connor’s target is Angelina Rossi—Pumpkin Queen of 1985, proud beagle owner, and ex-wife of a man named Fat Bob.

Meanwhile, Manny Streeter and Benny Vikström are the local detectives assigned to the Bank Street motorcycle wreck, and despite their shared interest of proving each other wrong, the two eventually reach the same conclusion: This death by Harley was Murder One, pure and simple. As the detectives begin asking their questions around town, Connor is looking for similar answers that will determine whether he lives or dies. Among them: Who is Fat Bob, and is he actually dead?

Sharply written and entertainingly absurd, Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? is packed with Stephen Dobyns’s trademark characters—whimsical, neurotic, puzzling yet familiar, and impossible to pin down. Dobyns again proves why he is an American master of the suspenseful, all-too-human land of the absurd.
Stephen Dobyns is the author of more than thirty-five novels and poetry collections, including The Burn Palace, The Church of Dead Girls, Cold Dog Soup, and Cemetery Nights. Among his many honors are a Melville Cane Award, Pushcart Prizes, a 1983 National Poetry Series selection for Black Dog, Red Dog: Poems, and th...
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Title:Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?: A NovelFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:368 pages, 8 X 5.3 X 0.8 inShipping dimensions:368 pages, 8 X 5.3 X 0.8 inPublished:September 6, 2016Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0399576347

ISBN - 13:9780399576348

Appropriate for ages: All ages

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Read from the Book

ONEIt’s an early spring morning in late winter, a welcome oxymoron with balmy breezes that send Connecticut College students back to their dorm rooms for shorts and flip-flops. Bare legs proliferate. Businessmen loosen their ties. One mad rogue, the owner of a coffee shop, moves two small tables with chairs out to the sidewalk. Motorcycles emerge from winter hibernations. It would be wrong to say it’s a good day on which to die, but surely one can imagine worse days.This is Bank Street in New London, Connecticut, the name referring not to commercial activity but to the curving riverbank of the river Thames, which the street follows. We can see the river if we look across the cellar hole next to the Salvation Army thrift store, where a dozen rusty pilings rise from the ground. The lot contains a depressing collection of broken glass, plastic bags, plastic bottles, and decrepitating cardboard boxes, but we can ignore that. Down the slope and dividing the back entries of Bank Street enterprises from the train tracks is Water Street: more of a wide alley with pretensions than a street. Then comes the river with a few pleasure piers and the coast guard’s three-masted, 290-foot cutter, the Eagle, which is a wonder to see under full sail. Across the river in Groton, those great gray square buildings flanked by yellow cranes are part of the General Dynamics shipyard where submarines are made, though few get made nowadays.Bank Street is a hodgepodge of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century buildings, ranging from the beautiful to the ugly, granite Gothic Revival to redbrick Victorian to the brick-and-tin Salvation Army thrift store, a small-box version of a big-box store next to the granite Custom House. In an early version of urban renewal, Benedict Arnold and his Hessians put prior Bank Street buildings to the torch in 1781.Back by Firehouse Square is where the historic district begins as modern streetlights change to retro streetlamps and Bank Street changes to one-way, heading downtown. The Greek Revival–style F. L. Allen Firehouse is now an art gallery, while a sign on the three-story granite house of Captain Benjamin Brown across the street advertises a Chinese-medicine practitioner. A bucket truck squats by the traffic island, and high in the air a service technician fixes the streetlight. Two traffic lights hang below an arm extending from the same pole; they sway slightly as the fellow in the bucket does his work.If we could take his place for a minute, we’d have the chance to inspect the nature of this Monday morning in early March: cloudless sky, men and women carrying their coats over their arms, kids already in shorts, one fellow parked in front of the Firehouse Art Gallery has put down the convertible top of his blue Mazda Miata, people pause to address friendly remarks to one another as they go about their business, sunlight reflects off the river where we see seagulls, and from an open window we hear one of those older rock tunes heard mostly in supermarkets: the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac. It’s a day that feels like unexpected forgiveness.Beneath us a blue Mini-Cooper waits at the light. The driver’s elbow, hidden in a brown leather sleeve, pokes from the open window. He makes his left turn from Tilley and drives slowly down Bank Street, looking for a parking space. There, he’s found one. Gingerly, he pulls up behind a four-door Chevrolet Caprice sedan, which has to be twenty years old. The original dark cherry paint has faded, giving the big car a mottled aspect. The trunk is held shut with a length of rope, and a busted-up teardrop spotlight hangs down the side of the driver’s door. The man climbs from his Mini and glances at the Caprice with mild interest, but before he can cross the street, he’s startled by a blast from a train’s air horn. About forty passenger trains come through New London each day, and two-thirds stop—Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and the Acela Express, as well as a commuter line between New London and New Haven. And each blasts its horn. As if in response, the Mini goes beep-beep as the locks click shut, and the man continues across the street to a shoe-repair shop. The Greek shop owner has been there for more than thirty years and prefers to be called a cobbler.The man is on his way to pick up a pair of shoes, new soles, heels, and a good polishing for his black Bruno Magli slip-ons, a rush job because he only took them in on Saturday. The shoes were a gift from his older brother, Vasco; actually they’re hand-me-downs that Vasco found too tight. Vasco has rich tastes, and over the years his brother has benefited. Another item taken from Vasco is a purposeful stride, leaning forward and walking quickly, which, when a teenager, our friend liked enough to copy and which makes any destination seem the only one possible.The man’s name is Connor Raposo, though his Portuguese parents baptized him Juan Carlos and into his late teens everyone called him Zeco. But just before college, he decided he needed a new identity and changed his name to Connor. He’s in his mid-twenties—thin, six feet tall, straight nose, chestnut eyes, moderately handsome, black hair that grazes the collar of his jacket, though if we were really looking down from a cherry picker, we might see an incipient bald spot, which in twenty years, if he lives that long, will overspread his dome. Besides his purposeful walk, he has a purposeful face. Connor will appear somber even when telling a joke. But his expression derives from the shyness he felt as a kid; it discouraged people from talking to him. You know that bromide “He’s laughing on the outside but crying on the inside”? Connor’s just the opposite.Unlike the pasty winter faces of others on Bank Street, Connor’s face is tanned, which is no surprise, since he left San Diego a week ago, and yesterday, dropping off his shoes, was his first visit to New London. What else? He wears jeans, running shoes, and a brown leather jacket he’s had since college.But to move along: Connor has given the elderly cobbler his claim ticket, and the cobbler has held up the black Bruno Maglis for Connor’s inspection. He sets them on the counter, where they glisten like anthracite. The leather soles are a change for Connor. Usually he wears soft, rubber-soled shoes and he walks as softly as a wink, whether to sneak toward something or sneak away, he can’t be sure. The cobbler counts out a fistful of one-dollar bills—Connor’s change—while apologizing for having nothing bigger.“You want a bag?” The cobbler has gray tufts of hair sprouting from his ears, woolly entanglements to snatch the oncoming words one by one.“Never mind, my car’s right across the street.” He stuffs the bills into his jacket pocket.A sound grows audible, a distant purr, which leads the cobbler to shake his head. “The first of the season, just like robins.” Then, seeing Connor’s blank expression, he adds, “Harleys—spring, summer, and fall they come roaring past.”The distant purr changes to a low rumble that increases in volume and reverberates off the stone buildings. It’s an intrusion that loosens the mind from previous thoughts. Indignant seagulls flap away toward the water.“We have noise restrictions in California.” Connor had a noisy Harley in college and loved it. “Can’t you make a complaint?”Before the cobbler can answer, the Harley flashes by, twin headlights, a blur of candy orange, Stinger wheels, Tommy Gun pipes, lots of chrome, a growl like a brontosaurus. It’s a snapshot shooting past the window. The plate glass shivers.Then everything gets faster yet: the roar of a second motor rises above the roar of the Harley, a woman screams, a squeal of rubber to make Connor brace himself. Next comes a packed combination of noises: a collision of metal against metal, a wrenching shriek, glass breaking, the crunch and clatter of hundreds of little bits scattered across the pavement; a window shatters, and hidden within the variations of smash is the sound of a speeding biker striking an immovable object.Connor hurries to the sidewalk. A large green dump truck has backed out of an alley and across Bank Street, ramming a parked BMW 300-something, shoving it over the curb into the now demolished display window of a music store. The guy on the Harley has hit the side of the dump truck.But it’s worse than that. The truck’s dump box rides high on the axles, and the lower part of the Harley—wheels, V-twin engine, transmission, chrome pipes—has passed beneath, while the top part of the Harley—twin headlights, handlebars, gas tank, and half of the biker—has not. They’ve been separated. The rider has been ripped in two, so his bloody torso lies in the street, while under the truck at the end of a red smear are the legs, one with a boot, one not. The head has been detached from the neck and has vanished. Connor turns away so as not to lose his breakfast.Blood and body fragments paint the nearby cars and windows of shops. The street is a mess of color. The truck has continued to roar; then the driver cuts the engine and climbs from his cab, his face creased with astonishment. A young man in a formerly white shirt stands across the street from Connor with blood streaming from his shoulder. It’s a little after ten o’clock. Connor smells gasoline mixed with the smell of the river at low tide. For a nanosecond the scene is without movement or sound, except for someone retching.Then, as if a lever were yanked, all becomes noise and action. Pe

Editorial Reviews

“Stephen Dobyns pulls off a neat misdirection in this brazenly titled comic crime novel. On its face, “Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?” is a frivolous romp through an underworld of solecism-spouting thieves and doltish enforcers. But…there’s surprising depth here, as Dobyns convenes an ensemble cast whose thwarted ambitions suffuse an antic storyline with an air of poignancy.” —The Washington Post"This crafty, witty, hilarious novel by award-winning writer Stephen Dobyns…views life as whimsical and capricious, or as one character describes it, “tradiculous,” a mixture of tragedy and the ridiculous." —Providence Journal"A uproariously entertaining comic thriller that evokes Elmore Leonard and Donald E. Westlake but adds several layers of absurdity and a narrative voice that suggests metafiction meets a Greek chorus meets Jane Austen… Yes, it’s absurd; yes, it’soutrageous; but here’s the thing: somehow, amid all the craziness, there’s a beating heart, too.” —Booklist (starred review)  "The latest offering from veteran novelist and poet Dobyns (The Burn Palace) delights with quirky characters, absurd situations, language play, and keen insights. Recommended for those who enjoy dark humor and complicated plots in their mysteries." —Library Journal"Gold Dagger Award-finalist Dobyns'' genius for dark comedy makes this intricate crime novel a triumph that will appeal to Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiassen fans." —Publisher''s Weekly (starred review)"Stephen Dobyns is what the baseball scouts call a five-tool player: he writes with ease and insight, he can make you laugh in one paragraph and rock you back on your heels in the next, and he tells stories that you can’t put down. All those talents are in full flower in IS FAT BOB DEAD YET? I loved it, and so will you." —Stephen King“Another darkly comic whodunit from veteran novelist Dobyns…a lively, laugh-out-loud winner.” –KirkusFrom the Hardcover edition.