Reddington’s First Novel a Breezy Mix of Mystery, Comedy

‘Misfits, Mayhem, Murder on Florida’s Treasure Coast’
By RICK MELLERUP | Oct 30, 2019

Little Egg Harbor Township — Write about what you know. That advice has been a decades-long refrain of high school English teachers and college creative writing professors when dealing with aspiring novelists. For good reason, because fiction is much more authentic when it is based on reality.

Tom Sawyer had a lot of a young Sam Clemens in him, and the fictional town of St. Petersburg where Tom, Huckleberry and Becky Thatcher lived sure looked a lot like Mark Twain’s childhood home of Hannibal, Mo. Herman Melville could accurately describe whale hunts because he’d been there and done that, sailing out of New Bedford to both the South Atlantic and South Pacific.

Linda Reddington isn’t likely be confused with Twain or Melville, but her first novel, Lucie’s Boys, is a fun read, and although some of her fictional plot twists are rather high flights of fancy, the book is solidly grounded in authenticity.

Reddington, for example, was a longtime editor and columnist for the Beach Haven Times and Beacon weekly newspapers published in Manahawkin. The central character in Lucie’s Boys, Lucie Justis, is a writer/editor for a fictional Florida weekly, the Port St. Lucie Eye.

In the book’s opening chapter, Lucie, the small paper’s newest employee, gets stuck with interviewing a man named Salvatore Feruzzi after all of the other reporters fled the scene when noticing his approach. It seems he brings giant vegetables into the newspaper’s office every growing season.

“I’m pretty famous around here,” he tells Lucie. “I grow the biggest gagootz on the Treasure Coast. ... Every year the Eye publishes my picture in the paper with my squash. This time I got a 12-pounder. Biggest sucker I ever grew.”

As a longtime writer for a weekly newspaper myself, I can attest to the authenticity of that scene. Over the years there have been several people who sent members of The SandPaper editorial staff running to hide in bathrooms or out the back door as they see a well-known gadfly or, to be honest, a straight-out nut, climbing the stairs. And, yes, pictures of giant tomatoes or zucchinis or, as Halloween approaches, pumpkins, are a staple of weekly newspapers across the country.

Lucie’s boys are mainly Tim and Sonny, a gay couple who live next door to where she resides with her mother, Nan, and mom’s brother-in-law Frank, who is battling creeping senility and the lingering aftereffects of a stroke. Tim and Lucie have a history – she was in love with him 15 years earlier before he broke her heart by coming out of the closet.

Reddington told this reviewer that “at least nine of the characters were inspired by real people – some of them close friends, who don’t mind at all.” It would seem the author has spent quite a bit of time around gay friends because she has their repartee down pat.

Lucie’s other boys include her publisher, Graydon Carter, a police officer named John “Jack” Law, and 8-year-old Joey Foley, who seeks refuge from a yelling-all-the-time family situation.

Her neighborhood is filled with quirky characters such as Agnes Day (think Agnus Dei), a religious zealot who thinks homosexuals are doomed to an eternity in Hell; Joey’s father Chuck, who loves trapping his neighbor’s cats; and Randy Naus, a Richard Simmons wannabe.

The rest of Port St. Lucie has some interesting types as well, including members of an environmentalist group called the I Love Lucie Coalition, who like to dress in alligator and manatee costumes. It also has real alligators galore and an even more dangerous reptile, a murderous pedophile.

Put them all together and Lucie’s Boys is breezy and enjoyable, part mystery, part comedy and, all together, a hoot. Come on, you have to give Reddington credit just for coming up with one of the most unusual weapons ever in a life-or-death fight scene.

Reddington lives in Little Egg Harbor, but she often vacationed in Port St. Lucie, has many longtime friends there, and can easily sprinkle in the names of local businesses such as Conchy Joe’s Seafood, Crawdaddy’s and the April Daze Boutique. Again, authenticity.

The author must also like to cook, because, a la Robert B. Parker’s private detective Spenser, she spends much of her time in the book describing dinner preparations. Like Parker, Reddington also isn’t afraid to pop out a pun.

If I have any criticism of Reddington’s writing style at all, it is that there is a dearth of fully developed paragraphs in Lucie’s Boys. Part of the reason for that is the book largely leans on dialogue instead of exposition. Another is that Reddington has a journalistic background, and editors and journalism professors have been pushing sentences instead of paragraphs for years in the interest of clear and easy reading. Still, they’re necessary for developing thoughts and characters. Oh well, don’t get me going on the death of the paragraph! And, as I already said, Lucie’s Boys is breezy, not heavy.

Reddington’s novel can be purchased online at Bookstore – lulu.com. A paperback version runs $12.56; an ebook will cost you $8.99.

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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