If you have had even minimal or intermittent exposure to Tim Dorsey’s Serge A. Storm novels, then it’s understandable that you might hear a phantom but diabolical chuckle when you crack open ELECTRIC BARRACUDA. These books, under Dorsey’s crazed hand, are formalistic in the wildest, most wonderful way possible. As with its 12 predecessors, it sets Storm, literature's most lovable serial killer, and Coleman, his constantly inebriated partner, down at some geographical point in Florida, and let them rip, tailing various assorted and sundry individuals who need killing for one reason or another, even as they themselves are pursued by law enforcement in the form of the dogged Agent Mahoney.
Storm, of course, keeps a running encyclopedic commentary going that concerns the historical background of wherever they happen to be, interspersed with jokes and insider references, and frequent acts of vandalism and mayhem. Think of Louis Armstrong playing “You Go to My Head”: I have several versions of this classic, all of which are the same great song, yet each of Armstrong’s solos are different. It’s the same deal here. If you read one Dorsey book, you will want to read them all, and if you're new to this particular stretch of insane beach, ELECTRIC BARRACUDA is as good a place as any to start.
What is the hook to ELECTRIC BARRACUDA? Well, for starters, that should be hooks, and it has more of them than a Tampa bait and tackle store. Storm’s latest project is to pretend that he is a fugitive from justice, being pursued from town to town by law enforcement, which is just one step behind him and Coleman. What Storm does not realize --- or perhaps he does --- is that he indeed has people after him: law enforcement, ex-girlfriends and others, if he would take the time to notice. Storm is having a great time, though, reserving multiple motel rooms to throw his imaginary pursuers (who are not imaginary at all) off the scent, doubling back and forth across the Tamiami Trail and heading southward, to the very tip of the state he loves, stopping only to diabolically execute the occasional child molester, poacher, and modern-day robber baron.
We learn along the way of the ties that Florida had to a gentleman named Al Capone, and that in turn is about to intersect with Storm as well. We also become acquainted with a relative who Storm never realized he had, an event that may well constitute a major turning point in in the series. And, of course, an attorney is involved. Please be warned that Dorsey has christened the attorney with a name that should be familiar to fans of genre fiction. Oh, and you will never think of Elvis Presley in the same way again.
If you are a child of the 1950s and 1960s, and your family vacations consisted of road trips to Florida, traversed on state routes and supervised by overworked, under-appreciated and grumpy parents who refused to stop at tourist traps touted by smiling B-List celebrities on billboards that were scattered on the side of the road like dead carrion, these books are for you and anyone else fascinated by history, geography and the oddity of the human race in all its diverse forms. If you’re familiar with Dorsey, you have already jumped in; if he’s a new taste, tip a toe or two, slowly at first, into the fictional waters for maximum enjoyment and prepare to lose it to an electric barracuda. Great stuff. And I want an introduction to Ranger Jane ASAP.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 28, 2011