Let's hear it for Tubby Dubonnet! I first met this charming New Orleanian bon vivant under less than ideal circumstances. He'd chosen to stay in his Garden District home despite dire weather warnings about an oncoming hurricane, and soon enough he was stranded. That hurricane turned out to be Katrina, and following the breakdown of the New Orleans levee system, he soon found himself in a surreal world of stranded survivors, including, of course, an escaped convict.
I should explain here, Tubby is a fictional character, the creation of author Tony Dunbar. But "Tubby Meets Katrina," which a friend gave me, was my introduction to the charming gent, a true hero laboring for justice (and for the survival of friends and neighbors) in a hellish situation. I've since gone back and am working my way through Dunbar's Dubbonet novels, and in the spirit of Patti Abbott's
Friday Forgotten Books
project, I'd like to point readers toward his 1994 mystery debut, "Crooked Man,"
the first of the six previous Tubby Dubonnet novels, which now seem to be out of print. While these books evoke a more innocent epic, one of fishing and long lunches at Antoine's, they are also sly, funny, and very, very good.
The Dubonnet we first meet in "Crooked Man" does not have a strong work ethic, preferring instead to let his partner handle the heavy lifting. But he does feel a loyalty toward his roster of oddball clients – such as the Monster Mudbug, in trouble again because his Rolling Boiler parade float isn't licensed; Sandy Shandell, a transvestite stripper with a malpractice claim against her dermatologist - so when Monique, a sweet waittress/hooker who has gotten in over her head walks in, he gets involved. The ensuing story is madcap, silly, but logical enough to float, and Dunbar's local references are done with subtlety and style, with Dubonnet's relish of food and fishing woven neatly into the text, rather than the "He turned left on Decatur to get to Esplanade" variety.
Look for this book used or in your local library. Bring back New Orleans, and bring back Tubby Dunbar!