I read Drinks for the Little Guy over an extended layover in O'Hare airport, and the subsequent flight home. The book is neither fluffy nor short, but the pages just seemed to whiz by. The juxtaposition of the book's setting -- Brevard County, where I've lived for the last dozen or so years -- and homesickness after an extended leave made for an interesting read, almost a preview of what was waiting for me on return.
The protagonists of Drinks are your familiar Brevard working stiffs, twenty-somethings content to work construction jobs in between bouts of surfing, drinking and generally passing the time. Our central character, Chris, seems to up and vanish one day, and though his actions tell he knew it was coming, the reasons behind the disappearance are left as a mystery for both the reader and Chris's friends. The seasons change, and the crowd pretty much comes to accept the absence, seeming to miss Chris yet relishing the many theories they propose about the disappearance. Loose threads seem to weave in and out of each other without forming solid knots, but by the time the book's grand finale transpires, it seems that the explanation was right in front of your face the whole time.
Drinks for the Little Guy is a solid read, with well-developed characters and settings and more than a little bit of detective-story plotting. Carswell nails down the peculiarities of the Brevard roustabout -- the passive territorial musings of the Florida natives as they contemplate the intrusion of strangers from the North, the Sunday morning barbeque breakfasts. Space Coast beach culture is a unique mix of sophistication and earthiness, the intersection of good ole boy beer drinking, devil-may-care surf attitude and multiple Space Program recessions. Even disregarding the local color, Drinks is a well-paced whodunit, full of interesting characters and situations. Very recommended.
Gorsky Press, P.O. Box 320504, Cocoa Beach, FL 32932