In terms of setting and mood, Bill Roorbach’s novel Life Among Giants contains no shortage of creative derring-do. It largely takes place in the 1970s, when the Miami Dolphins ruled the National Football League. In fact, the narrator of the novel, David “Lizard” Hochmeyer, spends time in a Dolphins uniform as a backup quarterback to Bob Griese.
By the time Lizard describes his stint in the NFL, he has already written about his unusual path to adulthood, notably one night in late adolescence when he stood by helplessly as his parents were murdered in a restaurant. Lizard knows that his dad was caught in a financial scam and that his parents’ fate somehow connects to goings-on at the mansion across the pond from the Hochmeyer residence. This mansion is inhabited by the ballerina, Sylphide, and her English rock star husband, Dabney Stryker-Stewart. The setting and mood at the mansion might have been conjured by Oscar Wilde, Raymond Chandler, and Scott Fitzgerald, if the scribe could have assembled them for dinner, supplied them with spirits, and stashed a recorder behind the Victrola.
The perpetrators of the restaurant crime elude justice, which leaves Lizard in the position of trying to escape questions about the past by pressing on with the future. He attends Princeton and plays football. During his career in the NFL, he collects a pair of Super Bowl rings.
But questions about the past haunt Lizard throughout the book. In a novel replete with noir that scores more points for poignancy, Lizard searches for a way to reconcile events on that fateful night in the restaurant.