If you have seen the ORIGINAL version of Mel Brooks’ movie “Blazing Saddles,” then you have a fair idea of what to expect from “Maximum Bob.” The time frames are different but the basic attitudes are the same. This book was published in 1992, over two decades ago as I write this review, and it was written by one of the masters of social satire and parody. Therefore, before you start this book, take your entire sense of political correctness and put it on the shelf. It might also be a good idea to stow all your righteous indignation regarding racial discrimination, sexual harassment and gender bias. If you are unable to do so or unable to read with historical perspective, I recommend that you never even open to the first page.
Maximum Bob is circuit court judge Bob Gibbs. Judge Gibbs’ actual nickname is “Big,” as he has a big ego, a big mouth, a big reputation and an even bigger eye for the lovely young ladies. In actuality, Bob Gibbs is a small man physically, with a small mind and a small powerbase centered in his courtroom. However, that powerbase has generated the “maximum” in his public nickname as he often imposes the maximum sentence possible for even the smallest of offenses.
But Bob Gibbs has more problems than those inspired by angry felons. Seven years ago, Bob met a sweet young thing that he saw in the mermaid act at Weekee Wachee Springs. He thought she was adorably cute with all those comments about auras and signs and positive energies. However, just before their marriage, an alligator slipped into the area where the mermaid act was in progress and Leanne panicked. Losing her air hose, she drowns. But before she can be pronounced dead, she has an out-of-body experience. In her mind, she encounters a 12-year-old black slave girl who, 130 years earlier, died from being eaten by an alligator. Wanda, the slave girl, tells Leanne that it is not her time and sends her back.
Unfortunately for Bob, Wanda comes back with Leanne and multiple personality disorder appears. At any given time, Leanne can channel Wanda and will begin talking like Butterfly McQueen out of “Gone With the Wind.” Wanda just loves to chastise Bob about his actions, his attitudes and his job. And, with Wanda so often present, Bob has come to fear having intimate relations with Leanne. Just the thought of hearing that child’s voice at the wrong time, so to speak, is horrifying to Bob. He may be a lecherous old goat, but he’s not that kind of pervert.
So Bob is to the point that Leanne has just got to go, but it has to be her idea so that the divorce proceedings will go in Bob’s favor. Enter Dicky Campau, a gator poacher and an upcoming defendant in Bob’s courtroom. Dicky is coerced into trapping a gator and bringing it to Bob’s country home for the purpose of scaring Leanne out of the last of her wits. Unfortunately, the gator is not as dead as it was supposed to be and the only thing to go right is that Leanne leaves.
But this is all just set-up for the real story. From the opening page, we have been privy to the thoughts and actions of Kathy Diaz Baker, a county probation officer who often appears as part of the prosecution team in Bob’s courtroom. While still in her twenties, she is from a law enforcement family and is quite street-savvy. She is just as adept at fending off Bob’s advances as she is at investigating her probationer’s activities. And through the activities of one of her charges, Elvin Crowe, recently released after serving ten years of a murder conviction, Kathy finds herself hip-deep in the alligator fiasco and a shooting spree at Bob’s house that shortly follows.
Teaming up both professionally and personally with Gary Hammond, the lead detective on Bob’s case, Kathy uses her eye for details to convince Gary that there is far more to the gator and the shots than a mere attempt to scare off an unwanted wife. But, as Gary often tells her, knowing that Elvin Crowe is the villain and proving it are two different things.
“Blazing Saddles” references, parodies of old Southern ways and often hilarious dialogue aside, this is no comedy nor is it a romantic suspense. This is a gritty and serious tale of perversion, addiction, murder and revenge. The intensity of it sneaks up on you and you find yourself at a point where you are absolutely scared to death for Kathy and Gary. You see what’s coming and you can’t stop it.
So, don’t think, even for a minute, that the end of this tale will have a traditional HEA and a sweet epilogue. It doesn’t even come close. What you will find, as the last scene unfolds, is a case of field justice dispensed with prejudice. You will witness revenge gone wrong and revenge gone right. And then, at the last words, you will reclaim your sense of righteous indignation, grit your teeth, clench your fists and metaphorically punch Maximum Bob’s lights out.
Cover Art from Goodreads