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The Caveman's Valentine [Paperback]

George Dawes Green
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 1995
Romulus Ledbetter wasn't always homeless. He once was a devoted husband, father, and musician with a bright future. He now forages for food in the trash cans of the city's better neighborhoods and wages a strenuous one-man war against Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant, an evil -- and imaginary -- power broker who is responsible for society's ills, as well as the sinister Y- and Z-rays that are corrupting humankind. Then one wintry night, Rom finds a corpse at the mouth of his cave that rouses his well-defined sense of ethics and launches him on an obsessive quest for answers. Forced to reconnect with society, Rom leaves his world and journeys through a spiraling web of clues and hunches, straight into a sinister den of money, temptation, and murder--otherwise known as the "civilized" world.

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From Publishers Weekly

In this remarkable first novel, the caveman is Romulus Ledbetter, a Juilliard graduate, husband and father, former mental patient and current resident of a cave in Manhattan's Inwood Park. His valentine is the naked body of Scotty Gales, a homeless former photographer's model. The police say Gales simply froze to death, but Romulus knows that he was killed by agents of the evil Cornelius Gould Stuyvesant, who rules the world from his offices in the Chrysler Building. Sometimes aided--and sometimes humored--by everyone from his daughter Lulu (a police officer) to people he meets on the street, Romulus tracks Scotty's murderer, doggedly following his twisted vision of reality into a world of money and violence where things and people are never what they seem. Although Green's plotting is solid, the narrative draws its power from the superbly realized protagonist. Romulus is that rarity, a truly original character whose fits and rantings retain a dangerous edge and never become lovable tics. Green makes a wonderful debut with this gripping, well-written portrait of modern dislocation and homelessness--although Romulus would object to the latter term: he has a home; it just happens to be in a cave.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Romulus Ledbetter has seen better times. Once a gifted Juilliard student of jazz piano, he fell in love, married, and fathered a daughter who grew up to be a New York City cop. At some point, however, Romulus succumbed to the gremlin voices in his mind, dissolved his home life to inhabit a cave in Inwood Park, and was labeled a paranoid schizophrenic. An unlikely character to turn detective, he feels compelled to do so when the corpse of a beautiful, young homeless man named Scotty Gates lands at his front door. Early leads point suspiciously to the affluent art photographer David Leppenraub, who had adopted Scotty as a teenager and used him as his model. The meanderings of the plot collide and coincide with those of Romulus's confused mind, adding complexity and depth to a suspenseful, quirky, and well-written murder mystery. A first novel, this is recommended for mystery/thriller collections.
- Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels of the last 25 years Jan. 4 2003
I am a fan of Samuel L. Jackson. He is one of the few actors whose movies I will watch no matter what they are. That is how I stumbled on the film adaption of this book. I loved the movie, and so I went to read the novel. This book is fantastic. First of all, hats off to the film's director for making such a true adaption. And hats off to the author for writing such an increadible book. The character is hysterical and tragic and truely one of the most intriguing people I have ever read about. I wanted this book to go on and on. The characters are complex and the writing style is sharp and unique. The author made me care about what was happening, and that is rare in modern literature. I would recommend this book to anyone, and I am defiantly going to read more of the works of George Dawes Green.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful thriller with a sense of humor! Aug. 17 2002
By Teresa
This book is the most original Masterpiece of a Mystery thatI have ever read. And it is very funny also.Both his books are a wonderful formula of everything a Mystery/Thriller should be.I wish That I could write like that! Mr. Green please keep them comming as I know many cant wait for your next one.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback the US today--and over the past 30 years. Another in a seemingly endless series of novels, plays, and movies that exploit the suffering of the most neglected minority in this country for cheap effect--to make a dime, jumpstart a writing career. This is absolute dreck--obscene garbage--the moral equivalent of a mystery that uses lynchings and slavery purely as a plot device and to give a miserable piece of writing a facile sense of depth and character. I write this as a family member of someone who was homeless with schizophrenia and as an award-winning author who takes seriously--unlike Mr. Green--the social and moral responsibilities that come with authorship. For those reviewers who think this is art, harmless entertainment, and/or about the "human condition," look closely at the next homeless mentally ill man you see dying in front of you while you walk to work or shop for Christmas gifts. If you have any honesty and eyes that work--you should feel ashamed. As for Mr. Green, if there were justice in this world, he would wake up one day on the street, suffering from the disorder he has exploited so cavalierly.
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Romulus Ledbetter is the undiscussed relative of his upper-class black family. He's a paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave and is a brilliant pianist, able to make the "Mr. Clean" jingle touching (whoever is scoring the movie is going to go through hell pulling THAT one off.) He also lives in a cave. He's a homeless man with pride.
This mystery is some really sharp stuff. Green writes with a great skill for placing words and creates some often hysterical vignettes and exchanges, but he's very careful, burying clues, motivations, and other crucial information in the text in such a way that it doesn't seem important until you finish and realize there are no cracks in the armor. It's meticulous and excellent.
This is definitely worth a read. It's off the beaten path and a good example of technique, well worth the money.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quite good -- some flaws -- a fast read. April 9 2001
By A Customer
This is an entertaining and well written first novel, which is very reminiscent of Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem -- if you enjoy this, you will also like that detective story about a similarly unreliable narrator (in that case the narrator has Tourette's syndrome). Both books struggle with the same problem...with such an interesting and unreliable lead character, how do you keep the plot moving along, and allow the reader to "solve" the mystery along with the narrator. The problem is that the narrator must be relatively coherent in order for the reader to tag along, and this coherency occasionally seems at odds with the narrator's disease.
Also, I had to put this book down a couple of times--there are some descriptions of torture, needles, and AIDS that are disturbing...I think the author could fairly be accused of exploiting homophobia for dramatic purposes (the purported villain is a Mapplethorpe-like character)--I don't know -- if you are one of those people who think that when the Indians are the bad guys it is an anti Native American movie, then that logic applies here as well. Or you can see his approach as an even-handed look at the unfairness and irrationality of these same fears, etc, etc. I thought it was more on the exploitative side myself, but that is just my opinion.
One final thing--I think every new author wants to try his hand at writing a sex scene, and Green is no exception. He isn't that good at it.
However, I am being too critical...this was definitely an enjoyable read...perfect for an airplane.
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I stumbled onto this book when searching for good mystery authors...I heard that this book won the Edgar award and so I found it at my library. Now I hear that it has recently been turned into a movie with Samuel L. Jackson...all I can say is, you need to read this book because the movie cannot possibly do it justice. A unique twist on a protaganist and a poetic writing style make this book far different from most formulaic detective novels. I was reminded of the beautiful poetic style of Ray Bradbury combined with the twists and turns of a Jeffery Deaver mystery. Most of the book revolves around the fascinating, and almost sane, interior ramblings of the main character, which could never be duplicated on the silver screen. An excellent first novel.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Just when you think you've read it all....
Just when you think you've read it all, George Dawes Green comes up with something completely new. This is your basic murder mystery, where someone finds a body, the cops write it... Read more
Published on March 28 2001 by Alex Kalb
3.0 out of 5 stars grossly misleading
this book grossly misleads the public on the plight of the homeless mentally ill. it makes it seem as if it is a lifestyle choice or a matter of freedom. Read more
Published on March 26 2001 by susan canaday
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but also very, very misleading
This book is entertaining as it involves solving a murder. However, it is extremely irresponsible and misleading on the subject of the homeless mentally ill. Read more
Published on March 26 2001 by susan canaday
4.0 out of 5 stars an unusual hero
The "Caveman" of the title is Romulus Ledbetter, once a gifted black piano prodigy at Julliard, then a struggling musician, husband and father, now a paranoid derelict,... Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2001 by Orrin C. Judd
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating tale on the human condition
At one time, talented musician Romulus Ledbetter was a loving spouse and father until he went insane. Rom now lives in a cave in Upper Manhattan's Inwood Park. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2000 by Harriet Klausner
4.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Mystery with a Hero like no Other
This debut novel, set in modern day New York City, is a very unique mystery with a protagonist, Romulus Ledbetter, who is unique to say the least. Read more
Published on July 17 2000 by J. Mullin
5.0 out of 5 stars The most unique mystery premise you'll ever read...
This is a wonderfully crafted mystery. Perhaps more importantly though, in these days of you-gotta-have-a-gimmick mysteries (quilting mystery,cooking mystery,Jane Austen... Read more
Published on June 27 2000 by K. Denny
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