Targeted by drug addicts, a carnival taco vendor must defend his fortune
After years playing professional poker, Axel Speeter knows not to trust people. Retired from the table, this no-nonsense old salt makes ends meet by selling tacos at the Minnesota State Fair, and he’s got two things on his mind: developing a state-of-the-art burrito, and keeping an eye on the $260,000 he’s got squirreled away in coffee cans inside his room at the Motel 6. He’s so busy perfecting his Bueno Burrito that he doesn’t even notice when James Dean walks into the carnival. This James Dean isn’t famous, but he’s certainly wild. A drug addicted ex-con with a taste for mayhem, he’s got his eye on Speeter’s coffee cans, but quickly finds that the old hustler is not as brittle as your average taco shell. When a crook meets a carny, someone’s bound to get hurt.
Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard fans who have yet to discover Hautman's wryly comic, warmly human characters and madcap plots are in for a treat. Septuagenarian Axel Speeter, former roving gambler, now star taco entrepreneur at the annual Minnesota State Fair, lives at the Motel 6 despite having squirreled away $260,000 in cold cash inside coffee cans. Bucking the doubts of two pals from his swashbuckling gambling days-auto mechanic and junkyard proprietor Sam O'Gara (returning from Hautman's Drawing Dead and Short Money) and pint-sized Tommy Fabian, the fair's mini-donut king-the sentimental but streetwise and ever-libidinous Axel sends for Carmen, the sexy daughter of his mistress and business manager. Carmen, a med-tech student in Omaha, may be wild and possessed of a larcenous heart, but Axel knows that she sells tacos like no one else. Following her to the fair this year, however, is her skinhead lover and drug-dealer, Valium-hooked ex-con James Dean, who plans to steal Axel's coffee cans and head for Baja. When he can't find Axel's cache, Dean's interest turns to the midget donut king and his stash of cash. Mayhem ensues, inevitably. This is about as offbeat as a comic crime novel can get, and entertaining enough to win Hautman a whole passel of new admirers.