Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove


Christopher Moore writes a unique kind of humorous fiction. I first found him when I picked up a hardcover titled Coyote Blue, a novel about the Trickster of Native American legend paying a visit to a rich wheeler-dealer who's lost his roots. It's a rude, funny and bizarre little novel that reminded me of Tom Robbins.

After that I read Bloodsucking Fiends, about vampires in California. This one was more of a comedic horror novel, goofing on Anne Rice and the romance of vampirism by setting it in a supermarket where a slacker gets bitten and put under the spell of a sexy vampiress. I still wonder why a movie never got made of this one. Apparently his first novel, , got optioned by Disney but was never made into one. With his sense of humor I can imagine why.

In Coyote Blue, a man comes home to find a coyote fucking his Italian leather sofa. In Island of the Sequined Love Nun, a missionary and nurse have co-opted a cargo cult of islanders to pose as high priest and priestess. In Lamb, we learn the gospel according to Jesus's childhood pal, Biff. He has a gift for the absurd and making hilarious yet touching stories out of it. Anyone can write about the ridiculous, but it takes talent to make us care about the characters dealing with it, and to stick with the increasingly bizarre story as it plays out.

He manages this well with the book I just read, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. This one involves a picturesque village on the California coast where business revolves around tourists. The small town is over-medicated for depression by their one shrink, and order is kept by the stoner constable, Theo Crowe. They've also got a B-movie actress who's off her meds and starts to think she really is Kendra: Warrior Babe of the Outland. The harridan who runs the local watering hole hires a bluesman named Catfish Jefferson to try to make folks sad enough to drink, and many miles away, something crawls from the slime, at the bottom of a dark ocean trench. (No, not a Scottish loch.)

The sea beast is no Godzilla, he's lured by a twang of radiation from a nearby power plant and senses easy prey in the town's gaggle of depressoids, so he sticks around for a snack or two, but gets wounded when he tries to hump a tanker truck. Hey, it gets lonely at the bottom of the sea. Underneath all the humor is the mystery of whether the Mennonite Martha Stewart who's found swinging from a rope in her living room did herself in or not, and we've got a collection of likeable and humorous characters to help us along. Catfish Jefferson the bluesman was my favorite. The story of his buddy who never got the blues, and how Catfish tried to give them to him, had me rolling. Sometimes it's better to have the blues.

Molly, aka Kendra the Warrior Babe, is a lot of fun too. If you've ever watched the apocalyptic trash of the 80's, you can see where she was drawn from. Her interactions with the sea beast, who's entertaining as hell himself, get a little fanficky but don't make you feel dirty. If anything, that's my one peeve with Moore's work, that sometimes he does seem to cater to his fans. Thankfully, not too much.

If you've never read him, it's hard to say where to start. His books are so different from each other, I'd say read a blurb and go for what grabs you. Vampires, Jesus, Jimmy Buffet-alikes in Micronesia, a Native American yuppie dealing with Coyote, demons, whales, and Death so far. He's sort of like Carl Hiaasen for the fantasy/sci-fi crowd; funny, with a little bite to it, and loads of talent. Give him a try.

And if you're looking for a signed first edition of this book or Coyote Blue, send me an email.

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