Floating In and Out of LagOOnieville

LagOOnieville, Volume 1, by B.R. Emrick. Rogue Publications, © 2005. Paperback, 154 pages. ISBN 1-932560-72-6. US$12.25

If you ever hung out at the old Larry’s Poor Man’s Bar at Benner Bay lagoon in St. Thomas, USVI, you’ll get the concept. And if you didn’t hang out there because Larry kicked you out, you probably won’t.

This first novel of Bert Emrick’s epic 12-book series Lagoonieville opens at what has to be modeled on Larry’s as it was when I first bellied up to the wrecked-boat-turned-bar in the early 1980s: “A beer joint twelve hundred miles southeast of Miami and only five feet from a little backwater lagoon was, like most Caribbean waterfront bars, an open-air and authentically grubby little place.” If you had the appropriate vibe, odor or aura for his establishment, Larry would “welcome” you with a gruff insult and a greenie. Otherwise, it was hit the road, toad.

The author tells us, “Lagoonieville is a state of mind shared by a small segment of society whose members live aboard boats in lagoons scattered throughout the tropics.… Lagoonieville books appeal to those with a little salt in their veins, those who wish to be carefree and adventurous, and to Caribbean tourists. We’ve also received cheers from prisoners and military personnel.”

This is a guy’s book — a “real sailor”, shoestring cruiser, hard-drinkin’, ready for anything or nothing, decrepit-old-wooden-boat-owning dropout, sea-going maverick, guy’s book — in other words, a Lagoonie book. But these salty characters don’t just sit at the bar and fantasize about treasure maps. They pry themselves off the well-worn barstools at the boatyard and get underway to tackle high adventure, derring-do, true romance, villainous crime, outrageous storms (“Hurricane Bunny”?!?), knuckle-biting suspense, smugglers, thrills, mystery, horror, humor — you name it.

In this volume, our heroes Pete and Tom ramble from the shores of the Virgin Islands to the jungles of Costa Rica, initially searching for buried treasure but ultimately fighting just to save their own lives in the face of bad guys, bad girls and worse weather. There’s fun, excitement and humor, but also plenty of bloody violence, damsels in distress, raw language and a soupçon of overwrought writing — hey, it’s a guy’s book. If you’ve got a taste for this kind of reading, it’s just the tome for a few idle hours in the cockpit or the beach.

I won’t give away the plot or the ending, but will say that it’s best if you enjoy this boisterous read enough to want more — because the ending sets you up for Volume 2, Colombian Secrets. Then there’s Volume 3, Smugglers, Pirates & Voodoo Meanies, in which US Marshal Maloney, who ran into a few Lagoonies while tracking a criminal in Colombian Secrets, becomes a Caribbean cruiser. And then our old buddies Pete and Tom show up again in Volume 4, Marooned on Spook Island — and so on. Emrick explains, “[The] characters… float in and out of Lagoonieville, as each novel is a stand-alone story; the characters’ roles change with each book… most get their fifteen minutes of fame as protagonists, or antagonists, in an adventure or two, and then serve as background characters in other stories.”

The author, a screenwriter and sailor who lives with his wife and pets aboard a sailboat in the Virgin Islands, has done a marathon job in creating this collection of action adventure novels that take a typical crew of Caribbean characters and vault them into full-sail summertime fiction.

The LagOOnieville books are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, Baker and Taylor and many on-line and local bookstores. For more information visit www.lagoonieville.com.

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