Book Review by Roy E. Perry: “Ranchero” by “Rick Gavin”

Editor’s Note: What happens when a noted Southern literary artist takes a stab at writing a crime/mystery novel? In his latest review for “Underground Nashville,” Roy E. Perry concludes “it ain’t a pretty sight” (our words, his sentiment). Mr. Perry wrote book reviews for “The Tennessean” and “Nashville Banner” for thirty years.


Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1956, Thomas Reid (T.R.) Pearson is the author of thirteen novels published under his own name. Written under the pen name Rick Gavin, Pearson’s Ranchero (2011) is the first of three crime novels featuring a repro man named Nick Reid.

When Reid drives his Rachero to Percy Dwayne Dubois’ dilapidated shack in Indianola, Mississippi, to repossess a plasma TV, he meets with a painful reception. Percy Dwayne slams Reid in the head with a fireplace shovel, knocking him out cold. When Reid regains consciousness, Dubois, the plasma TV, and the Ranchero are all gone.

Accompanied by his fellow repro man and best friend—a 350-pound man named Desmond who is addicted to Sonic’s Coney Islands—Reid sets out on a convoluted journey through the bayous, swamps, and backcountry towns of the Mississippi Delta to retrieve the purloined Ranchero.

As much as any human character in this novel, the Mississippi Delta takes on a personality of its own. It’s an economically depressed area teeming not only with mosquitoes, alligators, and copperheads, but also with redneck crackers, swamp rats, “no-neck endomorphs,” and Delta trash. “Life in the Delta,” writes Gavin/Pearson, “demands sweet-tea existentialism, a view of the world narcotic at bottom and sugared over with courtliness . . . . Thievery had long since become as common in the Delta as blues tourists or biting flies.”

During Reid and Desmond’s peregrinations, they meet a dumb, mean policeman named Dale, who has ventured several steps into the shadowy world of criminality, and a meth lord named Guy, a runt who compensates for his lack of stature by being psychotic, diabolical, and volatilely dangerous. Guy now possesses the stolen Ranchero, and his lackeys cook up potent doses of methamphetamine.

I have read ten of T. R. Pearson’s thirteen novels, and have greatly enjoyed every one—especially his first published novel, a comic masterpiece titled A Short History of a Small Place (1985). The quality of Ranchero, however, falls distressingly below Pearson’s previous works. “Rick Gavin” is no Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I suspect Mr. Pearson himself was aware that Ranchero was not up to par, and so foisted this sub-standard writing experiment on poor “Rick Gavin.” My advice to Mr. Pearson: Return to the scene of your earlier, hilarious works—to the quirky, exasperating, lovable, and funny denizens of Appalachia.

For other book reviews by Roy E. Perry, please visit:

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at and Dave is also a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising / marketing / public relations writer.

Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit:

Do you want to help homeless people in Nashville learn culinary arts and other employment skills that provide a specific, effective path off the streets? Please visit (link below) and consider making a financial contribution. Any amount is very helpful and appreciated. Thank you.


Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew



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