Suppose you quit your job, took out a second mortgage, and borrowed every penny of your in-laws' nest egg to start up a surefire new business. What if your partner ran off with all your money? What if you caught up with him? These are the questions Pete Hautman's hero faces in Rag Man, a wryly funny, Faustian tale of a good man going bad.
Mack MacWray's new clothing manufacturing company was wildly successful -- until the day his charming, street-savvy partner, Lars Larson, disappeared with all the assets, leaving Mack stuck with nothing but debts and shattered dreams. Devastated, Mack thinks he has nothing left to live for until, at the edge of a cliff on the idyllic Mexican resort of Isla Mujeres, he comes face-to-face with his former partner. Mack discovers something about himself that fateful afternoon -- that maybe he's not such a nice guy after all. After push comes to shove, Mack must live with what he has become. Mack returns to the U.S. with his moral compass demagnetized and discovers a world of opportunity. Without the ball and chain of guilt and accountability, making money is all but guaranteed. He transforms himself from bankrupt loser to hard-nosed success story -- but at what cost? His wife wants the old Mack back; her best friend wants Mack in bed; Lars's widow wants money (or revenge); and Detective Jerry Pleasant wants answers -- or maybe more.
As the pace quickens and tensions rise, these characters begin to surprise even themselves. Pete Hautman treads the line between psychological darkness and laugh-out-loud funny as he asks tough questions about the nature of good and evil -- and offers some unexpected answers.
Can a man who has existed for years as a passive, unassuming plodder undergo a midlife epiphany and turn into a hard-charging, winner-take-all executive who no longer feels bound by the rules Mack MacWray, a clothier from Minneapolis and the protagonist of Hautman's snappy new crime comedy, finds such a transition possible, but at a high cost. Mack's business has just gone belly up. Its downfall was Lars Larson, the velvet-tongued partner who absconded with all the company's cash, leaving Mack with debts, lawsuits and shattered confidence. He finds Larson in Mexico and watches, without lending any aid, as his former partner falls off a cliff and dies. The incident chills Mack, yet it also fills him with a strange sense of power: he no longer feels the need to meet any of his responsibilities or obligations. Mack emerges as a shark, pulling his company out of bankruptcy through a rough mix of selfishness, force and charm. He also cheats on his wife, steals when the opportunity arises and resorts to violence when necessary. When he finally realizes what he has become, it's too late for redemption. Enlivening his tale with deadpan humor and crisp dialogue, Hautman (Mr. Was; Drawing Dead) keeps things witty and light, but ultimately confronts the darkness that the plot promises. He draws on his talent for creating characters with quick strokes and scenes that move with lightning (if at times predictable) efficiency, and gives voice to a desire the ability to cast aside societal conventions that many of us secretly harbor, but few have the nerve to fulfill. Agent, Jonathon Lazear, the Lazear Agency. (Oct. 3) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
September 25, 2001
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Excerpt from Rag Man by Pete Hautman
Esperame, por favor." Teddy handed the taxista a hundred-peso note. "Ahorita vengo."
The driver took the note, held it up to the light. "No problem, amigo. I wait for you."
Teddy got out of the cab, ran his hands down the front of his guayabera to smooth it, brushed the brim of his panama with his fingertips, and entered Plaza Flamingo, an indoor conglomeration of shops and restaurants thick with U.S. franchises. Why anyone would travel thousands of miles to eat a Big Mac or a Domino's pizza was a mystery to Teddy, but they did. There was even a Planet Hollywood.
Plaza Flamingo did an enormous amount of business during the winter and spring, when hundreds of thousands of U.S. tourists descended upon Cancin, but this time of year the tiendas were quiet, free from the jittery crowds of pallid vacationers. Teddy passed a jewelry store, a gift shop, and a Subway sandwich shop -- all with their gates open but few customers. He crossed the atrium with its chronically malfunctioning fountain. Today it was dry. Several people sat around its perimeter smoking cigarettes and speaking rapid Spanish. Strolling, window-shopping families from Mexico City or Marida, spending a weekend in Cancin to escape the inland heat, dominated the sparsely populated corridors. At the moment, Teddy was the only non-Mexican in sight. He liked it that way.
The clerk at La Casa del Habano was cleaning the glass countertop with a blue rag, polishing with slow, circular strokes, a distant smile on his placid face.