One axiom I use when evaluating fiction is that the author is allowed one Big Coincidence in a story. It’s that one unlikely event that turns a mundane situation into something worth writing about. In The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore, the coincidence is that the Old Bluesman who comes into town just happens to have a history with the sea monster that can alter people’s brain chemistry (and make them randy as bunnies in the springtime) which comes ashore just as the town shrink switches everyone from their antidepressants to placebos in response to the death of a patient while…
You get the idea.
There is, happily, an exception to the one-big-coincidence rule, and that’s farce. Farce is not as easy as it looks; you can’t just throw some new bizarre thing at the reader every time you lose momentum. Ultimately things have to hang together, to make sense in the farcical context, and come to a satisfying resolution. Characters still have to grow and change organically. Lust Lizard pulls off the farce in style.
The sea monster’s bunny-in-springtime effect begins to take hold before he even reaches shore, and unlikely pairings ensue. Alas, Steve the sea monster is not so fortunate in love. After an less-than-successful romantic entanglement with a gasoline tanker, the sea monster disguises himself as a trailer in a trailer park, where he is named Steve by the unstable b-movie actress who lives next door (and still works out with her big sword while dressed in her barbarian outfit).
Steve’s not a bad guy, really. Just hungry and lonely. And it’s not as if anyone liked the paperboy anyway…
Naturally the onus for figuring out what’s going on and doing something about it falls on the local law enforcement. That would be Theo. Theo is stoned most of the time, grows his own weed, and follows orders from the department in the big city. Those orders don’t always make sense from a law-enforcement standpoint, but Theo knows a good gig when he sees one. Only problem is, he’s on his own this time.
Throw in a colorful cast of side characters and this coastal California town is primed and ready for wacky hijinks. And hijinks there are aplenty. This book has its serious moments but even they shimmer with a surreal glaze, then off we go romping through the bizarroverse again. It’s a fun read that never loses its momentum.
I wonder, with books like this, which came first, the story or the title?
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