By Yankee Rose
It is a rare occasion when you find an author who you can’t get enough of, so rare in fact, it’s almost like finding the perfect man. He makes you laugh out loud, you can’t bear to turn away from his voice, he touches your soul, and stays on your mind for days on end. Oh yeah, and you can’t stop telling your friends about him.
Following months of literary induced quasi-depression after reading (and reviewing) Fool, Christopher Moore’s latest book (and the last one I hadn’t read), I found my sunshine hidden deep down in the Decatur Library vaults. (Okay, so I found it online, got on the waiting list, and it was delivered in a week or so.) It was a lost treasure! His second novel, Coyote Blue, which I had overlooked while absorbed in his recent years of extraordinary work, was there to save me from my Moore withdrawl.
I had a lot of anxiety about actually reading Coyote Blue. I thought it was sure to disappoint after his later novels involving interwoven characters and historical jokes. Published in 1994, this book looked nothing like the others from the description on the jacket. But within pages of opening it, I was immediately back in Moore’s familiar world. Within chapters I was impressed with his introduction of characters, some of whom do not reappear in his work until 2006! By the end of the book, I was absolutely floored by his ability to weave together almost a dozen unrelated novels. If I wasn’t convinced before, I am now. Christopher Moore is a once in a lifetime author.
Just in case you have never read Christopher Moore, his books are not a series per se. His characters simply have a way of reappearing in such a way that when the connection becomes apparent you feel like you are the only one in on a secret joke. He allows the characters to develop slowly, over several books, and we are treated to little updates on what our favorite past characters are up to. Let me tell you about this one I just pulled off the shelf.
Coyote Blue is the tale of Samson Hunts Alone: an Indian-turned-insurance salesman who’s been on the run from the law, and his Crow heritage, longer than he hasn’t. Samson is enjoying his bachelorhood when he suddenly finds himself being stalked by an Indian. (In the Native American sense; it was not as politically incorrect in 1994.) The Indian is actually Samson’s rather lazy spirit guide who has reappeared after years of neglecting him. The spirit guide tosses aside his lackadaisical and selfish ways to help Samson find love and family, despite Samson’s insistence that he wants no part of it. In the end, the uneager Samson is able to face the events that forced him off the reservation as a teenager and accept who he really is. The hole he never quite realized that he had was finally filled.
Moore has a special talent for taking his plain jane characters like Samson into the realm of supernatural fantasy without losing the readers’ identification with them. Whether it is a field scientist, a young widower, a used record storeowner or a detective, Moore can take them to the edge of his vast imagination while they remain an amiable old friend in the eyes of the reader. Even when there are spirit guides, giant lizards, or morphing Indians, you feel like the story could be happening to your best friend. The character of Samson epitomizes that ability. Maybe being thrown headfirst into love isn’t such a supernatural thing after all.
Coyote Blue has all the signature traits that give Christopher Moore’s books the addictive quality we love. Unlike some of his later work, Coyote Blue is devoid of the vulgarity that often holds me back from blindly recommending him to people. This is a must read for anyone who has already burned through Dirty Job, Bloodsucking Fiends, or You Suck. For new Moore readers, it is where you should start. It left us anxiously awaiting Bite Me (the third book in The Love Story series), due out next April.
Until next time we’ll be here, reading the books so you don’t have to.