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The Mexican Tree Duck [Paperback]

James Crumley
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2001
Ex-private eye C.W. Sughrue has been depressed, jobless and living in the basement of a morgue, but now a job has come up. He sets off on an odyssey of liquor, sex and gunplay to find a missing woman who has eluded the FBI and cocaine dealers.

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From Publishers Weekly

While the often furious action of Crumley's latest mystery takes place in the West, from Montana to the Tex-Mex border, the novel's heart beats in wartime Vietnam. There private eye C. W. Sughrue (first met in The Last Good Kiss ) and most of Crumley's memorable cast spent their formative years, learning about arms, reconnaissance and dope, and forging the relationships that hold them together or, in this tale that turns on betrayals, tear them apart as effectively as an AK-47. In Meriwether, Mont., Sughrue is hired to conduct a private search for Sarita Cisneros Pines, the missing Mexican wife of a slick Texas politician. Sughrue quickly runs up against the FBI, opposing bands of Mexican outlaws and some smooth American bad guys. As the bodies fall in increasing numbers, Sughrue falls, too--into bed with various women and in love with one or two; he enlists the help of other vets, including an ex-intelligence officer who is now a lawyer famous for defending drug lords. Sustained by booze and cocaine, driven by loyalty and revenge, Sughrue and his company gradually unravel the threads of sex, drugs, oil-interests and politics that lead to a final paramilitary campaign with a high body count. The occasional melodramatic note doesn't trip up the juggernaut action or knock Crumley's hard-guy prose off key. 50,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Crumley's first novel in ten years is a blast from the past--and not the Eighties, either. Though there's a case and a client buried here somewhere--biker lord Norman Hazelbrook hires freewheeling Montana p.i. C.W. Sughrue (Dancing Bear, etc.) to track down his vanished mom, Sarita Cisneros Pines, wife of the Republican special envoy to Mexico--both C.W.'s investigative tactics (``Questions and answers don't mean shit to me,'' he says, preferring mind-altering chemicals and sincere, rapid sex with an informative bartender, Sarita's maid, and an undercover New Mexico sheriff) and the nature of the mystery (rival Mexican gangs swiping witnesses back and forth; links to everybody who ever served with C.W. in Vietnam; dirty drug deals and salted oil wells involving the DEA, the FBI, and lesser government agencies; a zillion double-crosses) give this manic, laid- back picaresque an unmistakably Sixties feel--like an MLA panel on Ken Kesey. Scruffy C.W. is obviously meant to be irresistible this time, and maybe he is, if he's what you've been waiting for. (First printing of 50,000) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not necessarily a triumphant return... Oct. 30 2002
Format:Paperback
Longtime readers of my comments may remember the previous Crumley that I read, The Muddy Fork and Other Tales, which was a collection of essays, interview, short stories, and unfinished novels. In my comments, I said that I would prefer the finished work. Lo and behold, here is one of those unfinished novels present and complete.
C.W. Sughrue from The Last Good Kiss is back, and hasn't really changed. That's part of the problem with PI and detective novels. In most novels, the lead character is expected to change-- it's one of those things they teach you in writing workshops. In fact, the Star Trek folks have managed to pin it down to two words: character arc. While it is horribly abused in Star Trek (it would probably make a great drinking game--first, identify the character who will "change" before the end of the episode, and then identify the "change." I put change in quotes, because in Star Trek the arc is only good for one episode--by the time the next episode comes around, the character seems to have forgotten their life changing episode. [Okay, I'm not being fair, there are exceptions.]), it is a "formula" that much great fiction follows--except the mystery genre (oh, all right, I'm pontificating. I know SF and romance has a tradition of not following it either, but I'm working a different argument at the moment.). I admire the work of Rex Stout, but it isn't character growth that brings me back. Nero and Archie are roughly the same in a book that Stout wrote in the 50s as they are in the 70s. Just as in some SF, where the readers return time and again to the same "world" (say, McCaffrey's Pern), readers return to the characters of Holmes, Miss Marple, and Perry Mason.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to the standards of his best work Feb. 10 2001
By Brian D. Rubendall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
James Crumley's "The Last Good Kiss" (1978) and "The Wrong Case" (1975) are two of the best hardboiled detective fiction novels ever written. With "The Mexican Tree Duck," Crumley brings back Private Investigator C.W. Sughrue from "Kiss." Alas, the results are not nearly as satisfying. Crumley is quite adept at creating effective moments. For example, there is a flashback here to Sughrue's service in the Vietnam War in which an officer is killed by a poisonous snake that I will not soon forget. There are numerous such moments in this book, but not enough to make up for a story that stretches credibility to the breaking point. The novel also lacks an effective villian, and many of Sughrue's foes here are the type faceless minions you'd expect in a James Bond movie.
Overall, "The Mexican Tree Duck" is not a bad novel. Crumley at his worst is still a literary force who can put to shame a lot of the lightweights writing mystery novels these days. But I wouldn't recommend this as a first Crumley novel. Read one of his classics and get familiar with his unique genius first.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the mexican tree duck Aug. 2 2000
By jack craft - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The first Crumley book I read was "the last good kiss" I have been hooked on crumley ever since. He is a chandlerisc writter who deftly out chandlers chandler. His black crime writting picks up in the 1970's where chandler left off in the fifties. What "the last good kiss" lacked in plotting focus came together completely in "the tree duck". a person simply has to love a guy whose cast of characters include :a drunk bull dog, a juke box with hank snow, twin fish peddlers who also have a sideline in gun running, and a filthy speed freak biker with a good heart and better woman.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Nam Vet's response June 7 2005
By Echo Recon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Okay, I gave you one credential. I served with E Recon 1/7th Cavalry. Crumley's a Nam vet too and in "One to Count Cadence" wrote one of the earliest novels that began to address that experience directly.

Here in "Mexican Tree Duck" he creates the emotional landscape that is shared by many of us who "also served."

Detective fiction has a subgenre that I might call "My Best Friend did it." Here that genre is mined to create the sense of abandonment and betrayal that many who served in Vietnam are ultimately heir to.

My favorite scene is that of Serita's rescue.

All the now old farts get it together and do exactly the tacticaly correct thing to do for what turns out, (for them), to be the inevitably wrong reason. Worse they fail to protect their unprotected flank and CW loses his love.

Doing what your supposed to and getting screwed for it....

Well every Nam vet I know understands that.

On top of that, (the not quite Masters in English is now speaking), what a technically proficient read!

Crumley knows how to use this genre and spin his good tale. He has slipped in other books, but this was not one of them, and I will still read them every one.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not necessarily a triumphant return... Oct. 30 2002
By Glen Engel Cox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Longtime readers of my comments may remember the previous Crumley that I read, The Muddy Fork and Other Tales, which was a collection of essays, interview, short stories, and unfinished novels. In my comments, I said that I would prefer the finished work. Lo and behold, here is one of those unfinished novels present and complete.
C.W. Sughrue from The Last Good Kiss is back, and hasn't really changed. That's part of the problem with PI and detective novels. In most novels, the lead character is expected to change-- it's one of those things they teach you in writing workshops. In fact, the Star Trek folks have managed to pin it down to two words: character arc. While it is horribly abused in Star Trek (it would probably make a great drinking game--first, identify the character who will "change" before the end of the episode, and then identify the "change." I put change in quotes, because in Star Trek the arc is only good for one episode--by the time the next episode comes around, the character seems to have forgotten their life changing episode. [Okay, I'm not being fair, there are exceptions.]), it is a "formula" that much great fiction follows--except the mystery genre (oh, all right, I'm pontificating. I know SF and romance has a tradition of not following it either, but I'm working a different argument at the moment.). I admire the work of Rex Stout, but it isn't character growth that brings me back. Nero and Archie are roughly the same in a book that Stout wrote in the 50s as they are in the 70s. Just as in some SF, where the readers return time and again to the same "world" (say, McCaffrey's Pern), readers return to the characters of Holmes, Miss Marple, and Perry Mason. When mystery writers stray from this prediliction, as James Ellroy did in The Black Dahlia and as Crumley did in The Last Good Kiss, the result is often quite pleasurable and breathtaking.
So it is with trepidation that I approached a novel in which Sughrue takes the stage once again. My fear proved true: this isn't a great novel like The Last Good Kiss. It's not bad, but it ain't got that same sort of swing. Sughrue continues his worldly self-destruction, and Crumley mixes in some wonderful Vietnam vet knowledge, but the centre does not hold. Crumely is still a wonderful writer, and while the plot may not be sliced bread, some of the descriptions are certainly tasty enough to be eaten and enjoyed.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary beginning but loses steam... Aug. 22 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I'd enjoyed Dancing Bear and after about 50-75 pages of Mexican Tree Duck was ready to annoint Crumley the most audacious talent on the crime-writing scene. The early chapters introduce a cast of characters so promising that it only makes my disappointment with the rest of the book that much more keen. Essentially, the story dissipates into an uninvolving and sometimes confusing tale of drugs, guns, and money.
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