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To be honest, I think that Robert H. Patton's first novel (after a number of terrific histories and nonfiction books), "Cajun Waltz," is misnamed ... but only because it reads like a driving, soulful blues number that explores the desperate souls and misplaced desires of three generations in the Louisiana bayou.

The great Ross Macdonald, once wrote about how "the past was filling the room like a tide of whispers," a quote that came to mind as I read "Cajun Waltz," a book that is thick with atmosphere and compelling in its description of both people and place; there were times that I could almost feel the humidity and storm clouds closing in on me. "Cajun Waltz" gives us characters who don't just commit their own sins, but are condemned by the sins of their forebears and the insularity of the place in which they live. Characters are always looking for an angle or looking for redemption - sometimes both - and Bob Patton gets inside their heads and hearts, peeling artifice away like the skin of an onion, and following them into the sometimes swampy darkness of their souls.

There are few things I admire more than the ability to write a novel. And when that first novel is a really good one ... well, that's enough to lift my spirits and give me hope. "Cajun Waltz" is just like that, and I recommend it to you.

During a brief stop in Minnesota this week, I did get the opportunity to visit a wonderful brewpub called Surly Brewing Co, where the Furious amber ale was absolutely wonderful and the Overrated west coast IPA was anything but ... there was nothing like sitting outside in the beer garden with friends after watching a Twins game, sipping beer and enjoying the summer weather.

By the way .... the chilaquiles, built on a base of pulled pork, are pretty outstanding, too.

I have two wines to recommend to you this week - both Albarinos, though one is from Spain and the other from Washington State. The first is the 2015 Alma Terra, which has a bit of spice and is great with pasta and seafood. The second is the 2015 Proprietor's Reserve from Maryhill Vineyards, which is just a touch more mellow but no less delicious. Enjoy...both a great during these hot August nights.

As you read this, I'm heading to Chicago, where we are going to celebrate the 30th birthday of our oldest son, David. He's built a good life for himself there - he works in the marketing department of a broadcasting/cable company, acts in lots of storefront theater productions, is writing and directing a web series, and is about to have a horror film, 2 Jennifer, in which he stars (and - SPOILER ALERT - is disemboweled ... just what every parent wants to see), released on iTunes and elsewhere.

So we're looking forward to dinner at Au Cheval, one of his favorites, and plenty of fun. I'll also have time to try to figure out how he possibly could be 30, which makes no sense since I'm only 35.

Happy Birthday, Dave.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.


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