“Adam only felt comfortable pretending to be someone he was not.” Not that the hapless, alcoholic businessman sets out to deceive people; it just happens and he rides along. He owns land in central Florida in the mid-1960s and stumbles upon evidence that a faceless corporation is secretly buying up property.
Are Commies behind it? It’s only been a couple of years since the Cuba business. What does a paperwork reference to an “experimental prototype” mean? Adam also longs to reunite with his ex-wife, Evelyn, though there’s a small obstacle in the form of his fiancée, Lily, to be gotten around. He borrows some loose diamonds to stage a dramatic scene for Evelyn to persuade her to take him back. But when the diamonds get misplaced, Adam and son Addison go on a chase that lets Adam’s talent for impersonation (doctor, priest, reporter) solve everyone’s problems but his own.
The author has been compared to Carl Hiaasen, and some readers may view Paradise Dogs as a slapstick romp through pre-Disney central Florida. A description of Lily’s space-age repast made me laugh: “Her breakfast contained nothing unsanctified by modern chemistry.” And of an angry Evelyn, “Seldom had coffee been poured in a manner of such unspoken rebuke.” The minor characters were colorful, and I learned something about old Orlando, on the verge of being steamrollered by the Disney behemoth.
Yet possibly due to a personal distaste for alcoholic heroes, the end result for me was the story of a deluded sad-sack of a man I couldn’t identify with. Still, I finished the story desiring to know more about Adam and Evelyn’s younger days running their titular hot dog stand. If the measure of a book’s success is leaving the reader wanting more, then Paradise Dogs succeeds.