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The author of five funny, fast-paced novels of intrigue set on the Texas Gulf Coast, Miles Arceneaux is a one-of-a-kind writer. Or, more precisely, he is three-of-a-kind—an irreverent persona that is the product of three friends, lifelong Texans, and Gulf Coast aficionados sharing a typewriter and one nom de plume.
Brent Douglass’ inspiration for Miles’ tales stems from his family’s deep Texas coastal roots, and the iconoclastic characters he crossed paths with growing up there. James R. Dennis’ intimate knowledge of both sides of the law (he’s one of the good guys, it should be mentioned) and his deep appreciation for Texas Rangers lore helps keep Miles’ protagonists on the side of the angels. As a longtime journalist covering Texas and Texans, John T. Davis has sometimes been accused of writing fiction, but this is the first time he has set out to do it on purpose. Together, Douglass, Dennis and Davis make “Miles Arceneaux” truly more than the sum of his parts.
Charlie Sweetwater comes from generations of fishermen and shrimpers on the Gulf Coastal Bend of the Texas coast. Returning home from Mexico, Charlie arrives to find the Coast Guard has discovered his brother Johnny’s shrimp boat drifting abandoned in the Gulf. Is it “death by misadventure” as the authorities presume, or something more sinister?
Meanwhile, Fulton Harborand its Vietnamese immigrant fishing families have come under the thumb of Col. Nguyen Ngoc Bao, who aims to recreate his Asian criminal enterprise in a New World setting.
Confronting Bao and his thugs are Charlie and a mismatched group of good guys including a salty cast of “Third Coast” barroom regulars, a handful of courageous Vietnamese émigrés, and a misplaced Texas Ranger who discovers a slice of the Lone Star State that the cowboy movies of his boyhood never prepared him for.
Along the way, Charlie finds himself falling for his brother’s girlfriend, whose zealous desire to see justice served tests his own limits for loyalty and commitment.
Suddenly, the Sweetwaters’ thin slice of life on the Texas Gulf Coast has never seemed so tenuous, or so perilous.
Drifting alone at night on the Gulf of Mexico, Charlie Sweetwater hears a man swimming toward him from the middle of nowhere. His name is Julien Dufay, the wealthy French scion of a Houston petrochemical dynasty. Charlie saves the man’s life, but, of course, no good deed ever goes unpunished.
As Charlie is drawn deeper into Julien’s erratic orbit, he discovers that Dufay is consumed by his vision of discovering the site of Fort Saint Louis, the famed—and doomed—17th century settlement of French explorer, Robert Cavelier de La Salle.
Thanks to Julien, and his own restless curiosity, Charlie is pulled into a web of obsession, murder, danger and greed. Julien wants to find the long-lost colony (and the treasure of artifacts buried with it) as a legacy for himself. But the Julien's sponsor and brother, Jean-Marc Dufay, is hell-bent on getting at the rich natural gas resources hidden beneath the site. Standing in the way is the stubborn old man on whose South Texas ranch Julien and Jean-Marc are converging, along with the rancher’s trio of scurrilous sons, who have their own covert agenda.
Charlie struggles to make sense of it all, with the help of the beautiful marine archeologist who is excavating La Salle’s shipwreck La Belle in nearby Matagorda Bay. But as he digs deeper into Julien Dufay’s danger-fraught quest, he discovers that history has a way of repeating itself, and that some ghosts just won't stay buried.
It’s 1953 and life is good at The Shady Boat and Leisure Club, the Sweetwater brothers’ ancestral fish camp, dance hall, and beer joint on Ransom island. The little spit of land between Port Aransas and Corpus Christi offers day fishing for anglers, cold beer for the eccentric cast of Shady’s regulars and Saturday night dances for any and all. Rupert Sweetwater and his brothers have carved out an idyllic little kingdom on the Texas Coast, and don’t expect things to change. Why would they?
The biggest event in the island’s history is coming up—an integrated dance featuring Duke Ellington. It’s a daring idea for Fifties-era Texas, and not everyone is happy about it. The local sheriff is fuming, the Ku Klux Klan is rumbling, but all Rupert sees is a chance to host his musical idol.
Meanwhile, 200 miles up the Texas coast, sinful Galveston Island is running wide open. Gambling, women, illicit booze and numbers rackets—the “Free State of Galveston” has them all, thanks to the ruthless Ginestra brothers. But too much ain’t enough, as they say, and the Ginestras are looking to expand.
Back on Ransom Island, a scared young stranger named Sally Rose materializes under the strangest of circumstances and finds an unlikely refuge with the Sweetwaters. The only trouble is, Sally Rose’s last name is Ginestra, and, unwittingly, she draws Ransom Island and the Sweetwaters into the crosshairs of her lethal Galveston family.
Soon, getting blacks and whites dancing peacefully in the same room together is the least of the Sweetwaters’ problems. Galveston’s top mobster—Sally’s father—has Ransom Island in his sights. He wants his daughter back, and the Sweetwaters under his thumb. And God help anyone who gets in his way.
Suddenly life on sleepy little Ransom Island becomes crowded, complicated…and very, very dangerous.
The Texas Gulf Coast is an idyllic place for a boy to grow up, especially in 1962 when most of the country is enjoying prosperous, upbeat times. The Twist is all the rage, America’s sweet ride is a Corvette Stingray, and the USA is kicking Russia’s ass in the Space Race. Charlie Sweetwater is like most 15-year olds—happily oblivious to the world’s problems. His main concerns that summer revolve around qualifying for an upcoming Golden Gloves boxing tournament, ducking a local bully named Karl McDevitt, and, with any luck, stealing a kiss from Carmen Delfín, a pretty ballet dancer two years his senior.
The gritty world of amateur boxing in Corpus Christi is an escape for Charlie and his older brother, Johnny, from their familiar boyhood haunts of Rockport and Ransom Island. But it is a peek through the doorway into impending adulthood, and life beyond Top 40 radio and surfing the days away at Bob Hall Pier.
All at once, the outside world comes crashing through Charlie’s last innocent summer when his boxing coach is murdered, and his friend, a black Cuban boxer named Jesse Martel, is falsely accused of the crime. Charlie and Johnny believe Jesse is innocent, but a crooked cop wants to make sure it’s an open-and-shut case, no matter what the cost.
Jesse’s problems are compounded when he becomes a political pawn in a high-stakes contest between Cuba and the CIA—a contest that intensifies when the Cuban Missile Crises begins and the world’s two superpowers come within an eye blink of mutual destruction.
Through it all, Charlie is determined to find the real murderer—a remorseless killer who is stalking more victims--and clear Jesse’s name before time runs out. Suddenly the Sweetwater boys find themselves navigating through a world that is suddenly much bigger, more complicated and far scarier than they ever imagined.
Charlie Sweetwater saw Mexico—especially the Mexican Gulf Coast—as a spiritual second home. He’d worked, played and lived there for much of his life, and thought the country suited him better than anywhere this side of his home on the Texas Coast.
But now a worrisome and potentially dangerous development has shown up on Charlie’s radar. Young Augustus Sweetwater, affectionately known as Augie, hasn’t reported in after completing a south-of-the-border sales trip for Sweetwater Marine. Raul, Augie’s father and Charlie’s nephew, is worried sick. Drug cartel violence in Mexico has reached epidemic proportions and Augie’s path took him through the heart of the narcotraficantes’ territory.
Charlie figures Augie just went off the grid to do some well-deserved fishing, surfing and beer-drinking at the end of his trip. He’d done the same in his time. But as Augie’s unexplained absence grows, Charlie and Raul become increasingly alarmed and set off for Mexico to bring their boy home.
What they unearth is far more than the sum of their fears. The familiar and friendly Gulf of Mexico has turned into a hidden sea plagued by smugglers, human traffickers, crooked politicians and even pirates. And Augie is lost somewhere in the middle of it all.
Charlie and Raul must summon an unlikely cast of characters to aid them, including a hilariously dissolute ex-pat musician, a priest whose faith struggles against the rising tide of refugee migration, a Mexican tycoon who may have secrets of his own and a beautiful maritime “repo man”. At the end of their quest, as the deepest secret of all is revealed, Charlie Sweetwater learns that neither Raul and Augie, nor the Gulf of Mexico, nor even himself, will ever be the same again.