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Pokergeist

After poker champion Clutch Henderson drops dead after losing the International Series of Poker, his ghost haunts wannabe player Telly Martin, touching off an uproarious adventure in which both the living and the dead discover their true selves.

Cash (Witches Protection Program, 2015, etc.) assembles a cast of eccentric characters, from sepulchral hoodie-shrouded Adam “the Ant” Antonowski to Clutch’s drunken ex, Jennifer, who gets arrested for using crooked dice in the casino. Much of the humor derives from the confusion of Telly responding to ghostly Clutch while others, who don’t see or hear Clutch, stand by to misinterpret. Though it’s a well-worn premise, Cash proves to be highly capable of juxtaposing the absurd and the mundane, creating a thoroughly enjoyable comic ghost story along the lines of The Canterville Ghost (1891) or Topper (1926). Clutch, for instance, is a spirit with an eye for the ladies. As he wanders the Las Vegas Strip, he inserts himself within a group of drunken women, one of whom vomits on him. When he later sees the same thing happen to Telly—the proverbial nice guy who always finishes last—a connection is made, and the ghost decides to help this poor soul. The writing is sharp, with pointed imagery foreshadowing events to come. Dumbfounded when he finds out the ghost is Clutch, “Telly opened and closed his mouth like a hooked trout.” An out-of-work casino IT specialist, Telly has always dreamed of making his living at poker. Despite their dire straits and his girlfriend Gretchen’s pregnancy, she grants him the opportunity before insisting he take a job driving a cab (a secret tidbit of which Clutch is aware). But Telly is an awful player, and even with Clutch’s cheating, he’s too honest and guilt-ridden to pull it off. Meanwhile, the ghost himself has issues with his exes, father, daughter, and his own angel guide. Despite Telly’s reluctance and Clutch’s rather callous and selfish approach to spiritual guidance, Telly eventually makes it to the tournament, where he faces off against the mysterious Ant in front of an audience featuring every whacky character in the book.

Bet on this funny, well-written tale of second chances.

Pub Date: July 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5120-7496-3

Page Count: 266

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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