(Jump down to read a review of Tales from Margaritaville )
"A Salty Piece of Land"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark DEC 19, 2004)
"What are you looking for?" I asked.
As any Parrot Head would expect, Jimmy Buffett’s new and long-awaited novel is perfect sun-soaked, Caribbean island-hopping escape fiction. In this full length novel, Jimmy Buffett fills in all the rest of the details of the life of cowboy Tully Mars along with his horse Mr. Twain, whom we originally met in Tales from Margaritaville. As you may recall, Tully and Mr. Twain left Montana after his Uncle’s ranch is sold and the new owner, Thelma Barston, decides to convert it to a poodle breeding ranch. He’s about to turn forty and it is finally time to seek out his destiny on the seacoast and beyond.
In this new novel, Tully's journey quickly turns into a quest when he meets an octogenarian sailor named Cleopatra and her crew on a 142 foot sailboat (yes, love the fantasy!) off the coast of Mexico. Tully asks the right question and Cleopatra invites him aboard. It turns out that they both have a fascination with lighthouses and in fact, the quest is a search for a spare Fresnel light to install in a lighthouse on Cleopatra’s Cayo Loco island near Cuba.
But before Tully meets Cleopatra, he and Mr. Twain first hitch a ride out of Alabama with Captain Kirk Patterson on his converted shrimp boat, Caribbean Soul. Captain Kirk has found an easy and profitable alternative to shrimping by running supplies from the port in Alabama to Punta Margarita off the Mexican coast. He brings Tully and Mr. Twain to meet Bucky, the owner of Lost Boys, a new fishing resort that is about to open for its first season. Tully is offered two jobs in one day, either to stay on with Captain Kirk or to hire on as fly fishing guide for Lost Boys. The decision is made for him when Bucky has an accident with a biting fish, so Tully becomes a fishing guide and is teamed up to train with Its-nay, a Mayan shaman. Its-nay teaches Tully about the local waters, while Tully teaches him about fly fishing.
It’s on a day off that Tully meets Captain Cleopatra Highbourne. Tully is basically stranded in Playa del Carmen, after having lost the camp’s aging jeep to a crater-size pothole. Taking things in stride he leaves the jeep, accepts a ride to the crowded beach and manages "to find an unoccupied spot in the shade of the bluff. I laid out my towel, took off my shirt, got out my book, bought a hot dog and a beer from the beach vendor, and went on vacation." He enjoys the day putting off worrying about how he’ll get home until it is time. Meanwhile the tourists eventually leave bus by bus and he is alone on the beach when he sights the 142 foot schooner. They launch a tender to come ashore looking for Dr. Destin Walker who has been working on the Mayan lighthouse. Tully does and in fact know him and even has worked for him on occasion. When Cleopatra learns that Tully actually knows how to get through the short cut passage using the Mayan lighthouse she challenges him to show her in exchange for a ride back to Margarita Punta.
Though Tully doesn’t join Cleopatra and crew at this time, he eventually does need a quick escape from Mexico to avoid the threat of doing some Montana jail time and Cleopatra, among other good friends, are there for the rescue.
Tully Mars narrates his story from the first person, which is an appropriate choice for this type of novel, especially since the voice carries a sense of wonder and awe and thankfulness to be where he is. Tully is a very likable character and has a knack for meeting up with all kinds of interesting people from his singer-songwriter & seaplane pilot Willy Singer, his ex-girlfriend Donna Kay, the flamboyant entrepreneur Sonny Ray and the ex-patriot, former soldier Archibald Mercer. This adventure story is simply laden with tall tales, the kind that any Jimmy Buffett fan comes to expect – full of character and lots of Caribbean salt.
After finishing the book, I decided to search out my copy of Margaritaville to re-read the opening story that features Tully Mars. I wanted to see how the two stories mesh and whether or not it is important to first read the short story. The answer is not entirely, but it doesn't seem to matter. Buffett does a great job of taking all the key characters introduced in the short story and putting them in this novel. He also stays true to the general storyline and Tully Mars voice is consistent. Nevertheless, there are some deviations. I’m still trying to figure out how Tully stood up Donna Kay in Belize a year earlier if this is still his first trip with Captain Kirk. No matter. I’ll have another Margarita and think on it some more.
This is a fun read and is nonstop story telling with an overall simple message: good friends make for a good life. And if you are not ready to to leave this paradise when its all over, then pop in the CD that comes with the book and listen to the song. Indeed, as I write this I'm ready to turn up the heat, put on my shorts and dream of my own salty piece of land.
- Amazon readers rating: from 105 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from A Salty Piece of Land at TimeWarner.com(back to top)
"Where is Joe Merchant?"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark MAR 4, 1998)
This is a light hearted, but surprisingly good, novel from the famous Florida Keys singer-songwriter.
Joe Merchant, a rock singer, is missing. His sister Trevor Kane, asks her ex-lover Frank Bama to find him. The book is about seaplanes, noise polluting Jet Skis, dolphins, crystals and lots more. There is a precious scene with Bama landing his seaplane in Cuba, leaving it unguarded while Castro takes it out for a sneak flight. I have to assume that if you are true Parrothead you have read this and Margaritaville until you've memorized the words. Even if you are not Jimmy Buffett fan, but like a book that romps around the Caribbean, then I think you'll enjoy this one a lot! Read it on a cloudy day and you feel much better.
- Amazon.com reader rating: from 87 reviews
"Tales from Margaritaville: Fictional Facts and Factual Fiction"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark JAN 16, 2000)
Reading Tales from Margaritaville is like being at a love-fest for the CD recordings Songs You Know By Heart and Off to See the Lizard. In the story Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, we meet Tully who is leaving Wyoming with his horse. Then there are the Heatwave Alabama tales: Off to See the Lizard, Boomerang Love and then finally the Son of a Son of a Sailor story.
I read this book a long time ago but it hasn't left my collection. When I run across the book while rearraning the bookshelves (i.e. hunting for another book), I sometimes stop and read a story again just for the fun of it. I'm not a parrot head, but I have been exposed to enough Buffett from sailing that I think its fun stuff, always great memories. Kate, a friend at work, is a fully qualified parrothead having attended at least twelve concerts AND she's still in her early twenties. Of course, she doesn't have her mother to blame for this. It is all in one's upbringing, I guess. Kate's opinion about this book? "enough already of the old stories." Well, I liked them.
Amazon.com reader rating: from 51 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Tales from Margaritaville: Fictional Facts and Factual Fictions (1989)
- Where is Joe Merchant? (1992)
- A Pirate Looks at Fifty (1998)
- A Salty Piece of Land (November 2004)
- Swine Not? (March 2008) (illustrated by Helen Bransford)
Some related music:
- Songs You Know By Heart
- Off to See the Lizard
- Changes in Latitudes Changes in Attitudes
- Son of a Son of a Sailor
- Meet Me in Margaritaville: The Ultimage Collection
- License to Chill (July 2004)
- JimmyDOTcom : The Evolution of a Phan by Jackson Quigley
- The Jimmy Buffett Trivia Book: 501 Questions and Answers for Parrot Heads
- Desiring Paradise... a true story of succumbing to the dream by Karin W. Schlesinger
- Jimmy Buffett by Mitchell Uscher (2001)
- Jimmy Buffett - Live By the Bay (1985) (VHS)
- Jimmy Buffett - Tales from Margaritavision (2000) (VHS)
- Jimmy Buffett - MiniMatinee #1 (2003)
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- Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett's Official Site
- Links for Parrotheads Only
- The Feeding Frenzy Page at Buffettnews. com
- BookPage interview of A Pirate Looks at Fifty
- Salon Magazine review of A Pirate Looks at Fifty
- The New York Times review of A Salty Piece of Land
- BookPage review of A Salty Piece of Land
- ReviewOfBooks.com review of a Salty Piece of Land
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About the Author:
Jimmy Buffett has been telling stories all his life. He was born on December 25, 1946 in Pascagoula, Mississippi and raised in Mobile, Alabama, he is best known for the tales he tells in his songs and over twenty recorded albums. Several of these albums have had gold and platinum sales, and for more than twenty years Buffett has toured the US and other countries. He is a strong advocate of environmental preservation and has worked to save the Florida salt marshes and manatees, as well as other endangered areas and species.
Buffett's non-fiction has been published in the Miami Herald and number of other magazines, newspapers and journals. In 1988 he collaborated on the The Jolly Moon, a widely acclaimed children's book. He lives in Key West, Florida.