4.5 Stars, Poppy Z. Brite, Three Rivers Press

Liquor: Rickey & G-man #2 by Poppy Z. Brite

Well, no one warned me there was going to be a decade time span between The Value of X and Liquor, but that’s okay; that made it feel a lot like I was getting to spend some time catching up with good old friends I hadn’t seen in a really long while, and it was so good to be with them again.

Rickey and G-man were reunited after Rickey’s failed attempt at culinary school, which nearly tore these two boys apart, but they’ve been inseparable ever since Rickey arrived back in NOLA, moving in together, working together, loving each other. These two guys seem to be “it” for the other. I mean, sometimes fate gives you one chance at happiness and when it does, you sit up and pay attention. If you don’t, it’ll knock you on your arse and make you pay for that mistake. They’re smart boys, though, and found the value of what they’ve got with each other.

Some of their history is retold in this installment of the series, easily making Liquor a standalone read if the teenage angst of coming out and falling in love with a best friend isn’t really your cup of tea. John Rickey and Gary Stubbs are all grown up now and dreaming of owning their own restaurant someday—well, mostly Ricky is. G-man’s more like his dad, Elmer: go with the flow—but all they’ve had so far is a long series of crap jobs in other people’s kitchens that have barely helped them to make ends meet. But inspiration strikes like lightning, sometimes only once, and when it does, yep, you sit up and pay attention. And you also use whatever resources are available to you, though sometimes that means taking the bad with the good.

I’m not a foodie, far from it. I’ve never cared how a restaurant kitchen runs or what it takes to get a restaurant up and running from ground zero. Mostly I just want my food hot and palatable and free of other people’s hair, (blech) but darn it if Poppy Z. Brite hasn’t created two characters who’ve made me care…a lot. The writing in this book is so descriptive that I’d swear I gained five pounds, reading it. It makes me want to hop on a plane to New Orleans and eat my way around the city, because though this book isn’t really a romantic chronicling of Rickey and G-man relationship, it is very much a love affair with food and with the city and the people who live there.

The cut-throat ambition, superstitions, and stress that is the restaurant business are all lovingly detailed by an author who has firsthand experience there, and it shows in the ease with which Poppy Z. Brite draws you into the story. This may not be the most deeply plotted book I’ve ever read, (there’s a paranoid coke-head nemesis out to get Rickey) but it is one of the most genuine depictions of a partnership I’ve ever read. These men drink, smoke weed; they make mistakes with each other and go weeks at a time putting work and life ahead of their relationship; they aren’t cookie cutter characters and they charm with their authenticity and imperfections. Rickey and G-man are what make these books irresistible to me, and I love them in all their realism.

Buy Liquor at Amazon and other major Etailers.

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