9 Feb 2005
Waldo Chicken Wakes the Dead” features both the most unusual title I’ve seen in awhile, but also a most unusual amateur detectives. Constable “Connie” O’Toole is a newspaper cartoonist who not only draws Waldo Chicken — a Mutt-and-Jeff duo of a sarcastic walrus and the flighty fowl who roosts on his head — he also talks to them. They talk back as well, mostly about the comic strip, but also about the small mysteries O’Toole is asked to look into. It was while searching for Mr. Woo, the neighborhood’s reigning cat, that O’Toole and his long-suffering wife discover a skull, the marble statue of Waldo Chicken that had been stolen at a seance a year ago and an earring that belonged to Becky Thatcher, the hot Mississippi Amazon who came into town searching for a man who loved and abandoned a decade ago, and who may have died several times since.
And then it gets really weird.
Published through a small press in Idaho, “Waldo Chicken” is a funhouse ride through a world that combines Southern eccentrics with David Lynch-style weirdness, such as a bull named Elvis who’s worth millions, a black detective with a fixation on “Amos and Andy” and a seance in which the spirit speaks through a blow-up doll. Alan Goldsmith, a retired ad exec living in Atlanta, keeps this carousel of crazys chugging along merrily, adding weirder complications that raise the stakes for O’Toole. It’s only at the end that “Waldo Chicken” runs out of steam, with an extended evilogue that collapses the plot under the weight of its complications, but until then, it’s great fun.