When Joe Randall and Chad Dablusie, two former best friends, find themselves in the same hotel in Disney World, they quickly renew acquaintances. Reminiscing about their high school hi-jinx growing up in the Elvis era, the 52-year-olds realize how much time has passed them by. At the suggestion of their wives, they visit a store called Turn Back Time. Coming out newly coiffed and dressed in couture, they set out on the town. Trying to recapture their youth, they are soon in major hot water on the sunny beaches of Florida.
This book is at once, goofy and far-fetched, and yet somehow an enjoyable amusement park ride. Joe and Chad witness a crime and are forced to go on the lam and outwit both cops and robbers. As in old madcap movies, the main characters are written with so much good humor that readers can’t help but root for them, even as they head pell-mell from one fantastic adventure to another.
That said, the book could have used some sharper editing; the New York natives suddenly slip in uncharacteristic phrases like “straightaway,” and “two stone in weight,” and there are times when the action could have been streamlined. In one scene, for example, the characters are forced to cross a makeshift ladder that extends from one apartment building to another to escape the bad guys. The misadventure lasts an overlong 14 pages. More significantly, Clark brings the reader up short by shifting gears at the end. Abruptly, it’s some18 years later and Joe is 70. In Clark’s attempt to wrap up his thrill ride with one more loop-de-loop, the author overreaches for a surprise ending that just doesn’t work.
This isn’t a fatal flaw, however, because Clark’s characters are his strength. If you can go along for the ride, you’ll find this a nostalgic paean to the friendships of youth, as pleasurable to remember as a day at Disney World.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.