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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
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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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Just when you think you've read it all.... March 27 2001
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 off, but there's one stolwart citizen who's out to find the truth. The catch is, the protagonist is Romulus Ledbetter, a former musical genius turned homeless schizophrenic. Called the caveman, he gets a nasty shock when someone dumps a body outside of his cave. Convinced this is the work of Cornelius Stuyvesant, the nefarious and imaginary source of all societies ills, Romulus sets out on a quest to find the truth in the heart of evil, civilization. Green's prose is colorful and funny, and he keeps his chapters short and sharp. Told mostly from the perspective of Romulus, the reader is never quite sure what is truth and what is the result of Romulus' paranoia. Still, Green's style keeps it real and draws the reader into this partial imagined world and although there are scenes when Romulus seems to function much better than one would expect from a schizophrenic homeless person, the suspension of disbelief holds and keeps this mystery going. A superb read, a must for murder mystery fans.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but also very, very misleading March 26 2001
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. These people experience a very high mortality rate in the streets and homeless shelter environment. They do not grow pumpkins, give hugs, borrow suits, or solve murders. Theirs is a life of physical injury and illness, misery, neglect and terror. Without medication, schizophrenia, especially the paranoid type that the book's hero suffers from, is a devastating, horrible disease. Rarely is homelessness an issue of freedom and independence for the mentally ill. It is an issue of being terrified of people - of bathrooms, or light bulbs, or having a bag of sacred newspaper clippings put in a locker, or having people deny you are the second Christ...and an impaired person may die from his poor judgement and self-neglect and delusions.
I speak from bitter experience. I brought a homeless mentally ill man into my home five months ago. I can tell everyone for a fact, he was very eager to have food and shelter - being on the street had NOTHING to do with independence, freedom or autonomy. His paranoia makes it impossible for him to think rationally, to have friends, or to be safe. Frostbite, gangrene, amputations, and constant terror are his companions.
The book encourages people to stand by while the homeless mentally ill suffer, in the mistaken belief that there is something good or ennobling about such a life. Such attitudes lead to more death and suffering.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best novels of the last 25 years
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2003 by Kevin G. Summers
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful thriller with a sense of humor!
This book is the most original Masterpiece of a Mystery thatI have ever read. And it is very funny also. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2002 by Teresa
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent mystery with an unconventional character
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... Read more
Published on April 13 2001 by Dan Seitz
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book...because the movie will never do it justice.
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. Read more
Published on April 1 2001 by "atticus99"
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
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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