Sunday, May 13, 2018
Book Review: "Noir" by Christopher Moore
"There are times in a guy's life when he finds himself floating facedown in a sea of troubles, and as hope bubbles away, he thinks, How the hell did I get here?"
It's 1947 in San Francisco. The country has just started putting all of its pieces back together following World War II. Sammy "Two Toes" Tiffin is the evening bartender at Sal's Saloon, and he spends his evenings helping the city's denizens bury their troubles with the help of cheap liquor. Sam always has his hand in some other scheme, either because he needs to make more money or he has connections that range throughout the city. (Most often both.)
Then one night, of all of the gin joints in the world, in she walksa flirtatious blonde, "a size-eight dame in a size-six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle in the door and shimmy onto a barstool with her back to the door." The dame, it turns out, is named Stilton (like the cheese), and she takes a shine to Sammy. And the shine is more than mutual.
As much as Sammy would like to do nothing more than romance "the Cheese" (as everyone refers to Stilton), he's got his hands full. His boss wants him to recruit a group of women to "entertain" a bunch of VIPs. He may have been inadvertently involved in the assault and kidnapping of a somewhat racist policeman. Oh, and he might have also brought a deadly black mamba snake into San Franciscoand the snake didn't waste time before inflicting some damage.
But is that why two dark-suited, sunglasses-wearing investigators are on his trail? Or is there something else?
When the Cheese goes missing, Sammy needs to take action. He recruits a motley group of friends and associates to help him follow her trail, and it leads them into the middle of one hell of a mess, with cross-dressing members of a secret club, government investigators bent on "taking care" of anyone that gets in their way, and, well, there may be a space alien in the mix as well.
Sammy doesn't know what to make of any of it, but he knows he wants the Cheese back, so he'll take on any enemy that comes his wayeven if it may be carrying a space blaster.
Noir is a wacky, corny, somewhat disjointed novel that is simultaneously funny, odd, confusing, and downright bizarre. But all of these adjectives perfectly describe the storytelling of Christopher Moore, author of books like The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove and Island of the Sequined Love-Nun, among others. As I saw in the description of this book, "Think Raymond Chandler meets Damon Runyon with more than a dash of Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes All Stars," but I'd throw in a little Men in Black as well.
I was a big fan of Moore's in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but after a while I found myself rolling my eyes more than laughing when I read his books. For some reason I expected something slightly different from Noir, and while it started out that way, by the end there were so many competing storylines, not to mention occasional narration from Petey the black mamba snake, that I just wasn't sure what I was reading.
This is a book that takes on its story with great gusto. I marveled at Moore's creativity, but all in all, Noir didn't quite work for me. However, if zany, no-holds-barred books pique your interest, definitely give this one a try.