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Scotch on the rocks
Browne, Howard, 1907-1999.
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New York : St. Martin's Press, 1991.
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Booklist Review

On the side of a dirt road in rural Texas, the Dawson family, recently the victims of a farm foreclosure, find salvation in the form of a bootlegger's bounty of single-malt Scotch (more rare than gold in these Prohibition times). Meanwhile, con man extraordinaire Lee Vance finds the Dawsons--his latest batch of prime suckers--and they set out together for Kansas City, where the scotch can be sold for sixty-thousand dollars. But first they must avoid the perils of the road: bouts of infighting, Dawson's wife's wanton desires, a crooked cop who tries to shanghai the booze, a bank robbery in a town where they stop, Vance's various detours for gambling, and an auto mechanic with a savage thirst. It's a lot of aggravation, but sixty thousand is a lot cash, especially in 1932. Browne's first novel, Pork City, also utilized period set pieces to tell a compelling crime story; Scotch is set in the same era but with a different locale--less urban grit, more rural dust. Pork City was just fine; Scotch on the Rocks is even better. ~--Peter Robertson

Publisher's Weekly Review

During the depths of the Depression, the Dawson famiy is forced to sell their Texas farm and nearly all of their possessions. En route to Corpus Christi and the refuge of relatives, the Dawsons--Ambrose; his wife, Ruby; and his mother, Emily--happen upon a bullet-riddled truck carrying a dead driver and a load of bootleg Highland scotch. The illicit cargo seems to provide the key to the Dawson's financial security until they encounter Lee Vance, a con man with his own designs on the liquor. With the promise of a big cash payoff, Vance convinces the Dawsons to sell the whiskey to his mob connections in Kansas City, Mo. The ensuing journey through stifling heat and wicked dust storms, revival meetings and occasional shootouts is hair-raising. The well-paced story benefits greatly from Browne's cinematic use of cutting between characters in alternating scenes within a parallel time frame. Though not deeply insightful, the characterizations are clearly and colorfully drawn with appropriate, homespun dialogue. Browne ( Pork City ) successfully evokes a hot and gritty Prohibition-era Texas where Pretty Boy Floyd and his gang run from the law and two tankfuls of gasoline cost five dollars. Ironically, the Dawsons' plight has unfortunately once again become timely reading. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved