All the Liquorverse stories are very personal
in how they deal with small moments in private lives, usually without a grand story arc or a ticking clock; PZB has always been good at showing how character development and Freytag's pyramid don't have to sync up simplistically. DUCK feels more personal than most, though, because it's intimately tied to PZB's personal experience of the Katrina disaster.
That connection is discussed in the forward and mostly disappears in the main action--a trip out of New Orleans for the Liquor crew to serve a 300 person banquet in Cajun country, but it return in full force at the end, rising slowly over the last chapters, and succeeded in choking me up. And I'm a cynical bastard who's never even been to New Orleans.
If you know and love the Liquorverse, you've got enough of a review already: Ricky has a new chef rivalry, they get roped into leaving New Orleans (always a sure sign of trouble), they prepare a large banquet (not their forte), it's a gimmick menu using a variety of wild-shot ducks Ricky and G-Man know nothing about, and they're cooking a gumbo for hundreds of Cajuns. To top it all off, Ricky's personal hero, former football star Bobby Herbert, is the guest of honor, leaving Ricky star-struck and nervous. That's the makings of a Liquor novel.
But if you're a PZB or Liquor fan, this is also a book that marks a turning point in the author's life, and PZB has been open about it, as usual. The book was originally titled Waiting for Bobby Herbert
but that got changed in the publishing cycle; a throwaway Robert Altman reference in the middle of the book became the theme for the new title and the cover art. Author/Publisher relations soured and the next book (Dead Shrimp Blues
) looks like it's gone.
And every author, like every other New Orleans resident, has had to deal with Katrina in some way. DUCK dodges the issue, because PZB was overwhelmed with the devastation and its effects of his own life as well as a period of severely deteriorating health. In fact, with the trouble with Dead Shrimp Blues and general life unrest, PZB indicated he didn't intend to write fiction again, or at least not for a long time.
So I put off reading DUCK for a couple of years, thinking it would be depressing no matter the content. It was mostly a mistake. The story, like most of PZB's career, is a love letter to New Orleans and the surrounding area, to its people, and to its cultures. This one is more culturally inclusive than most and it ends on a moment--entirely in character, yet surprising--of tolerance and patience from Ricky. Tolerance and patience are two major qualities PZB returned to in repeated blog posts after Katrina and they underly everything in the Liquor/Stubbs stories. If this is the last book in that world, it ended well.
But I hope it's not. PZB has published some short stories since DUCK (see Antediluvian Tales
), most of which are Stubbs stories plus a couple of Dr. Brite tales, but all were written before Katrina. I look forward to non-blog writing from post- or non-diluvian PZB.
[Before I get comments on pronouns: Yes, PZB is a biofem. Yes, PZB is a hot
biofem. PZB generally identifies as male, however, so that's the pronoun of choice.]