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Big Maria

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,480 ratings  ·  176 reviews
2013 Anthony Award Winner

Imagine Chuck Palahniuk and Don Winslow’s love child—and that would be ribald author Johnny Shaw. His novel Big Maria is an unfiltered, wild romp in which three men get one chance to find a lost gold mine; the only problem is the Big Maria Mine is right in the middle of a US Army artillery range.

There’s gold in them thar hills—or more precisely,
Paperback, 331 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Thomas & Mercer
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4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,480 ratings  ·  176 reviews

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Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
This might be the most epic male buddy book I've read. Well, if all the buddies are somewhat lacking in the smarts dept.
You have Harry Schmittburger, a down on his luck loser who just gets by day to day in his job as a prison guard. Ricky, a hard luck guy with a wife and young daughter-he ends up causing heartbreak wherever he goes and Frank, an elderly Indian dying from cancer. When Frank tells the crew about his grandfather's stories about gold in the Big Maria mine, they all know their luck h
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lol. I had to take sporadic breaks from the three lunatics/main characters - and their run of bad luck. The three of them: Harry, Ricky and Frank, end up in the same hospital - for one reason or another.

A potential tryst at Boog's Hideout (Bar) goes horribly wrong for Harry Schmittberger (prison guard/corrections officer) - so he's hurting all-over, including his butt-hole, which he neglects to mention to the Doctors, as he doesn't want to know why he's hurting down there. And Ricky (bus driver
Dan Schwent
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
When three men with nothing left to lose go looking for a lost gold mine in the Yuma Proving Grounds, they have no idea the forces they will be up against...

Johnny Shaw is quickly blazing his way up my list of favorite authors. Big Maria is the tale of three losers looking for their big score. Frank is an old man with cancer. Harry Schmittberger (guess what his nickname is) is a prison guard. And Ricky was a bus driver until he wrecked his bus and became the defendent in a couple dozen lawsuits.
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Three men who are down on their luck go looking for gold in the mountains of a desert.

“Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!”

No, no, this isn't The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The characters in this have far more in common with Donald Westlake’s luckless thief Dortmunder than they do with Humphrey Bogart.

In a little shit splat of a town Harry is a prison guard scamming disability checks that he uses to finance his drinking. Frank
James Thane
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is Johnny Shaw's second novel, following his excellent debut, Dove Season. Again Shaw demonstrates his gift for weaving pathos with drop-dead humor and his ability to create memorable characters who are very sympathetic even though most of them are total losers.

Big Maria basically amounts to Treasure of Sierra Madre meets a Chevy Chase vacation movie. Harry Schmittberger is on medical leave from his job as a guard at the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. He is living on his disability checks
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Full of rowdy, raunchy, irreverent goodness, Johnny Shaw hits the ball out of the park with this one. A fat guy in a leg cast (Harry), a muscle-bound fireplug with a withered arm (Ricky), and a wise old Indian who is dying of cancer (Frank) hitch up their man pants and join forces to find the gold that legend tells is located in the lost Big Maria mine.

'If Harry was going to do something stupid, he was damn sure going to be smart about it.'

Never have I come across such dealings as with a man w
Sep 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Meet three lovable losers with nothing left to lose:

Harry - spends most of his time either drunk or hungover, and seems to be a magnet for bad luck

Ricky - has messed up badly and wants to win back the respect of his wife and daughter

Frank - an older man with not much time left, is bored with waiting around for death to find him

Frank's the fellow with the most common sense and also something of a "father figure" for the first two. BUT, before you go gettin' that Ozzie Nelson vibe, know that Frank
Blake Crouch
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For me, there are several variations on the "amazing reading experience."

1. When you can't put a book down due to perfect plotting.

2. When you find yourself caring deeply about its characters.

3. When those characters are people who in real life you would shudder to have as neighbors and yet you still care!

4. (and this is truly the rarest of all and nothing short of an absolute gift) When every few pages you stumble across a one-liner that makes you smile, laugh, shake your head, and wonder just
Silver Thistle {adores JAFF & TEOTWAWKI.  Oh, and accronyms :P}
I just loved this! Such a brilliant story, really well written and hilarious too. Everything about this just all adds up to a fabulous read.

Three lovable rogues. Harry, Ricky and Frank. Harry, Prison Guard on disability - trying to con disability payments from his employer. Ricky, unemployed - Drives the drug bus (driving the elderly from the seniors home across the border into Mexico to get cheap prescriptions) to make ends meet. Frank, elderly Native American - rides the drug bus. They team u
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, read_2013, kindle
BIG MARIA is a humorous adventure that bands three unlikely acquaintances together. The novel has some of the funniest and down to earth characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading including, old man Frank saluting death with a middle finger to the sky, Ricky a non conventional beef cake with a heart of gold and muscles of steel, and Harry, the requisite class clown who evolves from a simple minded alcoholic to explorer extraordinaire. Not to mention Franks crazy grandkids and certifiable daught ...more
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: humor
Thought I would give Johnny Shaw a second chance after finding Dove Season kind of average. I liked this one even less. Harry, Ricky, and Frank are three losers, down on their luck, but they form a friendship and seek to find a cache of gold in a long forgotten mine. If you like zany chaos, you may like this, but don't expect the Coen brothers. Funny at times, but not very satisfying, at least for me.
Gary Taylor
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Treasure of the Sierra Madre’ for a new generation

At the risk of teasing potential readers with an impossible comparison, no review of Johnny Shaw’s new novel, BIG MARIA, can be offered without a salute to one of American literature’s classic tales. Themes and characterizations from B. Traven’s 1927 novel and the classic 1948 movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre echo throughout Shaw’s story of three losers overcoming multiple obstacles in modern America to search for their lost gold mine. As a st
Thomas Todd
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Harry Schmittburger, AKA Shitburger, a corrections officer off work milking his medical leave and pay becomes friends with Ricky and Franklin. Ricky is self employed driving senior citizens to the Mexico border twice a day in his old blue bird school bus so they can walk to Mexico to purchase their prescription drugs much cheaper than in the States. Frank is one of Ricky's regulars as he frequents South of the border to purchase his cancer medicines. These three form the most unlikely friendship ...more
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When it comes to writing stores about losers, misfits, and just plain quirky individuals that band together in some hair-brained scheme, no one does it better than Johnny Shaw. In some ways, his escapades remind me of a good Don Westlake "Dortmunder" romp, but with more grit, profanity, and raw edge.

Big Maria refers to a long lost gold mine, and our story centers on three "amigos" who band together despite some rather daunting odds to recover what might turn out to be a major forgotten gold fin
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Is this Shaw's best book? I don't know, but it's a goddamn good place to start if you haven't read him before. It's got action, humor, characters you won't forget, and a hell of a set up. It was my first Shaw and it only got me started on a lifelong habit. Highly recommended.
This is one of those books that I'll recommend to my friends as a must read. Big Maria is fun. It's got great characters, a clever plot, and lots of heart.

Three men set out on an unlikely quest, with no magical powers, modest intelligence, and barely a whole body between them.
Harry Schmittberger (you know what they called him in school) is a man who goes where life takes him, and that's usually into a drunken stupor. He's not a smart guy, but then he's never given himself a chance. Why should h
Benoit Lelièvre
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
BIG MARIA is a very different novel from Johnny Shaw's debut DOVE SEASON. I can only qualify it of being an adventure novel for grownups. Nobody is seeking adventure for the thrill of seeking adventure. It's nobody's job to hunt treasures and yet Ricky, Harry and Frank are going for long lost gold and long lost dreams of carefree living and not worrying about the money.

I really bought into the positivity of BIG MARIA. It's a crazy, wild adventure novel, but it's fueled by the earnest and most si
Aug 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Big Maria is a long lost gold mine and three men, Harry, Ricky, and Frank are going looking for it. Each man has his own problems that cause them to make the decision.

Harry is an ex-prison guard on workman's comp and he's trying to nurse it as long as he can. His leg has already healed, but he keeps getting the checks. Now they want him to come in for an examination before any more government checks flow his way.

Ricky has a bus he uses to ferry groups of retired people twice a day into Mexico so
Cathy Cole
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
First Line: It didn't take much imagination to guess what the other kids had called Harry Schmittberger when he was a boy.

Harry Schmittberger has gotten the short end of the stick all his life. He's convinced that his name started that whole bad luck ball rolling. Frank Pacheco is Native American, old, and has cancer, but he feels that he has one more fight left in him. Ricky McBride is young, strong, and not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. All he wants is to give his beloved wife and youn
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Full of WTF moments, profanity and wisecracks. Big Maria is a moving adventure novel with quirky and endearing characters.
Nov 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012

synopsis taken from the back cover of the book

Somewhere is Arizona's Chocolate Mountains lie the Big Maria Mine and a wealth of gold lost for a hundred years. There's only one problem: those mountains are now the home of the US Army Proving Ground, the world's largest active artillery range. But for Harry, Ricky, and Frank, three down-at-the-heels guys with few dollars but plenty of dreams, the gold offers each of them a chance for a new life.

Are scuba diving through an underwater ghost town; fa
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, funny, man-book
I'm not the kind of person who laughs at the tragedies in another person's life. I would never make fun of someone because they weren't intelligent. I don't care for low-brow humour or slap-stick comedy. That said, I couldn't help laughing at the bumbling idiots in this story. Johnny Shaw couldn't have done a better job writing it if he had've invested an extra couple of years into it.

This is the story of Ricky, Harry and Frank. Unlikely friends who were brought together by destiny and kept tog
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this one on audio and it was really great. The narrator absolutely nailed it. The tone. The pacing. The characterizations were spot on and the punch lines were delivered with skill and comedic timing.

A trio of down and out misfits band together and bond together, as they go on a quest to find a hidden treasure of gold somewhere in the Big Maria Mine. Unfortunately for them, they aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer. Unfortunately for them, the mine they seek is smack dab in th
Dan Maguire
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
First thing first. There is a lot of scatological humor, profanity, and sexual innuendo in this book, yet it is also funny and clever. Or maybe that’s what makes it funny and clever.

Three men – an old Native American, a young guy and a middle-aged guy – all more or less losers, decide to investigate a legend told to the Native American by his grandfather: that there’s gold for the taking in the Big Maria mine. Turns out that the Big Maria mine is smack dab in the middle of a vast Army ordinance
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three men, each in their own difficult circumstances got together (whether the difficulty was of their own making or not does not matter) for an adventure to find the "pot of gold".

For me, Big Maria is not so much about finding the gold as it is about true friendship. No one would have thought the three of them would end up as friends, but the unlikely happened.

This is a well written novel that would come across as intended for a male audience (in my book, at least)... But amidst the adventures,
Catherine Mullarky
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a proper story. I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates good writing. I was given this book as a good reads giveaway and was completely drawn in to the lives of the characters. The story shocked me at times, made me laugh out loud in places, and cringe in pain at times. Even while I wad still reading it I was thinking about who I would lend it too next. There are few books I have read that I have enjoyed more. I must get a copy of Dove Season!
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Entertaining story about three guys whose lives are nothing to write home about and their quest to get gold out of an old mine. The fact that the mine is in the middle of an army range is one of the lesser problems they face! Not too deep but it will make folk smile (& wince). Fans of Carl Hiaasen will find the humour in this quite appealing I think.
Ryan Kendrick
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it

The perfect amount of humor and an excellent story of redemption and humanity. The author is an excellent writer and produces some one-liners that had me laughing more while reading this book than any other I've read.
Dec 30, 2012 rated it liked it
A humorous good-hearted adventure tale of 3 men on the downside of life.
Brandon Nagel
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Loved it. Some of my favorite characters of the year. Hilarious and touching at the same time. One of my favorites of 2012.
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Johnny Shaw was born and raised on the Calexico/Mexicali border, the setting for his award-winning Jimmy Veeder Fiasco series, which includes the novels DOVE SEASON and PLASTER CITY. He is also the author of the Anthony Award-winning adventure novel, BIG MARIA.

His shorter work has appeared in Thuglit, Crime Factory, Shotgun Honey, Plots with Guns, and numerous anthologies. He is the creator and ed
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“Should've known when I met her mama. The big, fat acorn didn't fall too far from the big, fat tree.” 4 likes
“i ain't got the energy to argue. i'm an old man and i got to take a shit.” 3 likes
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