By the time he retired in 1986, Everett Hoyt Turner had served 28 years, more than half his life, in various law enforcement positions with the U.S Border Patrol, Customs Agency Service and Drug Enforcement Administration. Somebody who spent that much time chasing illegal aliens and smugglers surely has tales to tell. And Turner tries in the wonderfully titled Let Me Finish This Beer And We’ll Go Catch Somebody.
This is not a meticulously documented history of Turner’s career. It’s more of a litany of stories, folksy reminiscences in a breezy, sometimes-disjointed style — sort of like the stories Uncle Ernie might tell after a few drinks at a family barbecue. People come and go, time lines get a little fuzzy, stories start out with seemingly great potential, then peter out. Just like listening to Uncle Ernie.
Let Me Finish This Beer has a cast of thousands. Well, hundreds. Agents, friends, family, wrong-doers . . . it’s almost impossible to keep them all straight because so many make one- or two-sentence appearances. Interesting characters, some of them –like Mocho, a one-legged horse trainer and street food vendor – but they’re on stage only briefly.
Turner sometimes lapses into jargon – mentions of “sign-cutters,” “205-section ranch leases” and somebody’s “I-50” – that may befuddle the reader. (Thank goodness he thoroughly explains the “poke and puke” method of searching a suspect for contraband that might be hidden internally.) And he likes to use commas, whether they’re called for, or, not. Also worth noting are some gaps in the book. A dozen pages, plus two pages of the Index, just aren’t there.
All that said, Let Me Finish This Beer is interesting if for no other reason than it’s a first-person account of the day-to-day life of a law enforcement officer. Just as letters or diaries can help us get a better picture of a time in history, so too with Let Me Finish This Beer.