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Tall tale: 'Life Among Giants'

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Life Among Giants, a novel by Bill Roorbach

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In his novel “Life Among Giants” Bill Roorbach stirs up a potent blend of murder and revenge, madness and lust, that’s peppered with ballet, rock and roll, professional football, financial scandals, celebrities, sex, food and a perfectly dysfunctional family. What more could a reader ask for?

“Plenty of secrets in our family,” writes David “Lizard” Hochmeyer, the narrator of this tall tale. The 6’8” star of the Westport, Connecticut high school team’s relatively conventional suburban life comes to a screeching halt one day in his senior year, when his father and mother are murdered before his eyes. Decades pass, as Lizard and his brilliant but probably bi-polar sister Kate, seek to find out who really killed them and why.

Along the way, Lizard goes to Princeton and enjoys a mildly successful career as a Miami Dolphin, before returning to Westport to open a popular restaurant that’s presided over by a gay vegetarian chef and his transvestite lover.

The Hochmeyers live across a pond from the High Side, a mansion belonging to rock legend Dabney Stewart-Stryker, who will die in a tragic accident, and his wife and widow, ballet great Sylphide. David’s relationship with Sylphide is a kind of constant in his life. She, in turn, is at the heart of the mystery surrounding his parents’ death.

Lizard's dad Nick Hochmeyer had worked for Dolus Investments, a sketchy firm. Arrested for his involvement in some of their schemes, he had turned state’s evidence before being gunned down outside a restaurant. As he lay dying, he identified the gunman as “Kaiser.” Kaiser and Nick's boss Perdhomme visit Lizard’s restaurant one evening:

. . . they were there, definitely they, two devils who’d figured large in my imagination for over twenty years, my father’s old boss, all right, same old air of command, in his early seventies perhaps, erect and polished. And accompanied by the man my father in surprise had called Kaiser – really he, indisputably he, the very Kaiser, my parents’ killer, a perfectly nice-looking man in a very expensive suit. . . . But their appearance at my restaurant wasn’t a mistake, and it wasn’t a confession, either. Instead, it seemed a calculated threat: We know where to find you.

At the center of everything is the great Sylphide. Emily, a successful dancer and protégé of Sylphide’s who was Lizard’s high school girlfriend and lover, tells him years later:

We were the two. We were the ones who were different. With special talents, you know. None of our own doing. These capable bodies. Anyway. She picked us out. Sylphide picked both of us out. It was all choreography.

“Life Among Giants” is a perfectly choreographed tale. While it is a terrific mystery, it is also a compelling and brilliant account of a life lived large. Lizard opens the door to a world of excess and egos as he searches for the truth – and for love. This is one readers won’t soon forget.

“Life Among Giants” is available at amazon.com and at your favorite New York bookstores.

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