Gritty Underbelly

The Long Drunk - Eric Coyote

I decided to review this at the request of the author who sent me a free copy quite a while back. My first impression was that the cover is awful. [Checking recently, I noticed it had been changed.] The book’s description seems to pander to a particular audience segment, “Set in the gutters, bars, and alleys of Venice, California, this darkly comic crime/detective saga is filled with sex, violence, booze, and plenty of foul street talk,” a segment that wouldn't necessarily exclude me, but it’s not a description that would make the book leap on to my TBR list either.

OK, now putting aside all that crap. I liked this book. The premise is that Murphy, a homeless drunk (“I’m not stupid, just a drunk,”) former NFL player with a Super Bowl ring suffering from multiple concussions and numerous injuries, is swept up in a police raid to discover if any of the homeless in Venice, CA, might have seen something of use to them in their investigation of a car shooting. Murphy is forced to leave his companion Rottweiler, Betty Bonaparte (because she can take bones apart,) while he’s in jail. After his release he searches frantically for Betty Just as he sees her across a highway, the dog runs to him and is hit by a lady in an SUV (talking on a cell phone, of course) who runs the light. Gathering up Betty into a shopping cart, Murphy runs four miles to the nearest vet hospital he knows of where he learns that Betty might survive but will need hip surgery. She also has lymphoma that will require chemotherapy, all to the tune of $15,000. (The scene with the compassionate vet and Murphy is very well done.) Learning that a $25,000 reward has been posted for the killer in the drive-by, Murphy figures he has to solve the crime to earn the reward so he can pay for his dog’s surgery.

Coyote uses Murphy's homelessness to poke not so gentle fun at the foibles of the rich that surround him. Using Raymond Chandler's books as a guide, he detects by asking questions. It was interesting to read some of the negative reviews on Amazon, which focused on the rather sad aspects of Skid Row and “the depths to which people can sink.” Ironically, it’s the “bums” and unfortunates that have more character than those in the book who haven’t had to resort to living off society’s detritus. How realistic the portrayal might be I don’t know. 

The second volume of a proposed trilogy has yet to appear. Not for the squeamish.

“Interview” with the author at