A frantically comic tale of guys and dolls that shoots and just misses.

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NOIR

A regular joe stirs up a whole pot of trouble when he meets a damsel in distress.

Renowned satirist Moore (Secondhand Souls, 2015, etc.) offers up a soft-boiled take on the hard-boiled tradition personified by the likes of Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler in this messy, comic mystery that often goes off the rails. The book does offer a fascinating setting in San Francisco circa 1947, a throwback to a city the author clearly knows and loves. Our palooka of a protagonist is Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin, a partially lame grifter who tends bar at Sal’s Saloon between various schemes. Sammy gets more than he bargained for when a spectacular blonde “tasty bit of trouble” named Stilton wanders into his joint. Before you know it, Sammy has the hots for “the Cheese,” a jones that brings him all manner of trouble. The book employs no end of snappy dialogue straight out of a Jimmy Cagney movie, but the device can’t save it from its meandering, distracted plot. In addition to the Cheese, we meet General Remy, a conspiring bureaucrat on leave from Roswell Army Air Field; “The Kid,” a profane rug rat Sammy employs from time to time; Eddie Moo Shoes, Sammy’s entree into Chinatown’s underworld; Lone Jones, a good-natured boxer who insists he’s not black; a dirty cop named Pookie O’Hara; and an assorted mix of gangsters, cabbies, drag queens, and other denizens of San Francisco. Moore’s introduction of an interrupting, semiomniscient second narrator between Sammy’s first-person tale can be jarring, even if it is explained late in the book. The novel finally coalesces in its back half as Sammy invades a shady cabal called the Bohemian Club to rescue the Cheese, pretty much from herself, and they both get a surprise when they run across General Remy’s secret, all while being chased by mysterious “men in black.” What results is a kindred spirit to Richard Brautigan’s Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942 (1977).

A frantically comic tale of guys and dolls that shoots and just misses.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243397-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some white people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only white avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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