By Kelsey Langlitz
Where can you find a vampire, Jesus’ childhood BFF, a reaper, and a fool based on late night talk show hosts?
No, this isn’t the opening to a bad joke. These are actual characters in author Christopher Moore’s fiction.
Christopher Moore is a New York Times bestselling author of fifteen novels, short stories, and a graphic novel. He writes in the world of “comic fantasy,” a macabre mix of satyre and soul, of glib gravitas. Moore’s work typically involves conflicted everyman characters struggling through supernatural or extraordinary circumstances.
Interestingly enough, with the exceptions of Fool, The Serpent of Venice, and Sacré Bleu, all his novels take place in the same universe and some characters appear in multiple stories. If that isn’t enough to convince you to pick up one of his works, how about all of his tongue in cheek references to history, politics, and literary fiction?
One of his characters is Moore’s version of King Lear’s fool, inspired by talk show hosts like Stephen Colbert and and Jon Stewart. Another side character, the Emperor, is based on Emperor Norton I. Sacré Bleu opens with the suicide Vincent van Gogh. One entire novel, The Serpent of Venice, is a mash-up of sorts, combining Shakespeare’s plays Othello, The Merchant of Venice and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.”
As you can tell, Moore covers a lot of ground in his works—from vampires in San Francisco to zombies at Christmas, and everything in between. With that being said, you might wonder where exactly to start when reading Moore for the first time. When I first envisioned this blog post, I thought of suggesting a reading order. Funnily enough, while researching the correct order, I stumbled across a “Goodreads poll” of the same question. Among the answers, were nearly every single title, followed by the line “…got me hooked.” So, while a few of the novels have recurring characters, you can really start anywhere and know that you’ll be in for a wild, can’t-put-it-down, ride.
My own first taste of Moore’s talent was Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story. And to quote all those Goodreads members, I was hooked. This novel is the first in a series of vampire books that began in the early 90’s, back before vampires sparkled or had ten television shows. It’s paranormal romance meets horror meets documentary. I say “documentary” because it feels real. It’s not all blood, boobs and boners—though there’s no shortage of those either. These two main characters, vampire and human, are just trying to figure out how to live and be together. As one reviewer put it: “It’s a love story—but not your standard Laurel Hamilton/Anne Rice gothic evil that seduces you and brings out your naughty Catholic girl side love story. It’s a love story where there’s an awkward moment with the yuppie mother, where Tommy curses his vampire girlfriend as a ‘Bloodsucking, day-sleeping, turtle-hating, creepy-crawling, no-toilet-paper-buying, inconsiderate bitch!’ and where she reads Kerouac to him while hanging naked from the ceiling.”
Moore’s descriptions, from his characters to his setting, are so incredibly vivid and beautifully crafted—yes, even the awkward and grotesque—that they immerse the reader into the world Moore has built. Sex scenes between the protagonists range from erotic to blundering, both illustrated so realistically, with definitely unsexy sticky sweat and post-coital embarrassment, I wasn’t sure whether to blush or laugh.
Even side characters, like the Animals—the night crew at the local Safeway that work with one of the protagonists—are granted their own unique physical descriptions, personalities, backstories, hopes, desires, and voices, all while never taking away from the main story or becoming cumbersome. I wasn’t even a paragraph in before I knew I was in love with this book, and author. Want proof? Check out the opening of Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story:
Sundown painted purple across the great Pyramid while the Emperor enjoyed a steaming whiz against a dumpster in the alley below. A low fog worked its way up from the bay, snaked around columns and over concrete lions to wash against the towers where the West’s money was moved. The financial district: an hour ago it ran with rivers of men in gray wool and women in heels; now the streets, built on sunken ships and gold-rush garbage, were deserted — quiet except for a foghorn that lowed across the bay like a lonesome cow.
Hooked? Moore’s newest work, Noir, drops on April 17th, just days before UntitledTown opens.
FREE tickets are available for Christopher Moore’s reading and signing at UntitledTown on Sunday, April 22 at 6 p.m.