In Which My Affection for Christopher Moore Leads to a Surprising Discovery

I don’t do much book reviewing anymore. During the 20 years I spent in newspapers, I did quite a bit more. It was a good education, not only in book publishing, but literature in general. I’m an omnivorous reader, ever since I started on the back of the Captain Crunch box, so I was happy to give my opinion on authors as diverse as Henry James (brilliant at times, but required close reading), Rita Mae Brown (whose novels and mysteries made me cry, but for different reasons), and, today’s subject, Christopher Moore.

It’s a truism that dying is easy, comedy hard. This is most apparent when you’ve read and experienced the greats like P.G. Wodehouse, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, the old Mad Magazine, Monty Python, “Calvin and Hobbes.” Those are awfully high bars to reach.

I’ve read books that aim to be amusing diversions and hit it. I’m in the middle of two indie books now that are trying to hit the mark. One copped the format of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and if you don’t mind that, it’s working. The other is trying for satirical high fantasy with one of the characters breaking the fourth wall and bantering with the writer, and enduring that is reaching the same pain threshold as shin splints.

Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore and friends

Then there’s Christopher Moore. He’s his own cat. He doesn’t do the “three jokes per page” that Wodehouse favored. He’s closer to Adams, but much more disciplined and consistent. He comes up with big ideas, like in “Good Omen,” and runs with it. He’ll write about the best friend of Jesus and his adventures (“Lamb”) then one about the jester in “King Lear” (“Fool”). He even wrote one about a whale that’s not “Moby Dick” (“Fluke”). He’s consistently inconsistent.

He’s got a novel coming out in April called “Noir,” and judging by the description and my affection for mystery novels, UFO conspiracies, and general American weirdness, I’m looking forward to it:

San Francisco. Summer, 1947. A dame walks into a saloon . . .

Noir book coverIt’s not every afternoon that an enigmatic, comely blonde named Stilton (like the cheese) walks into the scruffy gin joint where Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin tends bar. It’s love at first sight, but before Sammy can make his move, an Air Force general named Remy arrives with some urgent business. ’Cause when you need something done, Sammy is the guy to go to; he’s got the connections on the street.

Meanwhile, a suspicious flying object has been spotted up the Pacific coast in Washington State near Mount Rainer, followed by a mysterious plane crash in a distant patch of desert in New Mexico that goes by the name Roswell. But the real weirdness is happening on the streets of the City by the Bay.

I already put in a request to review the ebook. We’ll see.

Funny thing, I remembered that I had reviewed Moore’s last book, “The Serpent of Venice.” In my request, I mentioned to it, and hunted up the link to my website and reread the review.

That’s when I discovered I had written poetry. A sonnet to be exact. Which is appropriate, because “Serpent” is a mashup of Shakespearian proportions.

I just don’t remember writing a sonnet. Over my lifetime, the number of poems I wrote could be counted on one amputated hand.

I so didn’t remember it that I thought I must have plagiarized it from someone else. So here it is.

The ghost of the Bard might rise and cry “hold!”
And file a copyright suit with menace,
But Christopher Moore created a mash-up,
Of Othello and the Merchant of Venice.
““The Serpent of Venice”” is a sequel,
To “Fool” starring that foul-mouthed clown,
Seeking revenge for his queen foully killed,
And breaking his love, his life and his crown.
The stories unfold along Shakespeare’s lines,
Iago plots, Portia whines, Othello rides stallions,
Fool rescues his friends in motley and tights,
As a snake snacks on red-shirted Italians,
“Serpent” takes stories many find a chore
And make us rise from our chair crying “Moore!”