Also, here's a review that was supposed to run elsewhere this week but didn't. We don't normally run this sort of thing here, but, hey, it's Christmas:
The Stupidest Angel:
A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
by Christopher Moore
275 pp.; $14.95
The Stupidest Angel is what's known as a "quickie." The decent page count is made possible by the small page size, plus a bit of stuffing. In lieu of chapter 13 (omitted "for luck") we get an eight-page description of snapshots of the characters. Most of the actors are taken from several of Moore's previous novels, including Island of the Sequined Love Nun, Practical Demonkeeping, and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff -- Christ's Childhood Pal.
The plot of The Stupidest Angel is your basic boy sees Santa Claus get killed with a shovel, boy prays for Santa to be brought back to life so that he can get presents, God dispatches angel to grant a special Christmas miracle, angel botches it and awakens a graveyard full of brain-eating Ikea-shopping zombies who terrorize a Christmas party sort of tale. As the jacket copy puts it, "Move over, Charles Dickens -- it's Christopher Moore time."
The story is set in the small town of Pine Cove, Moore's favorite fictional haunt someplace along the California coastline. We meet up with the towering stick-figure Constable Theophilus Crowe in a supermarket, taking a call on his cell phone about a spat between a divorced couple that's occurring right out in the parking lot. Before he can get it open, the phone plays "eight bars of 'Tangled Up in Blue' in an irritating electronic voice that sounded like a choir of suffering houseflies, or Jiminy Cricket huffing helium, or, well, you know, Bob Dylan."
The parking lot spat is a sign of things to come. Most adults in Pine Cove are either having marital spats or have recently had relationships fall to pieces. Theo and his wife Molly "Warrior Babe" Michon (a former B movie star who sometimes confuses herself with her most famous character) are engaging in a reverse Gift of the Magi scenario. Both are reverting to their old vices to try to raise money to buy the other the perfect Christmas gift, and the side effects are driving them to distraction.
Molly and Theo's struggles are almost dignified when set against the other sad-sack cases. Biologist Gabe Fenton is experimenting with electro shock therapy to try to cure himself of his attraction to the fairer sex. Pilot Tucker case -- hero of Island of the Sequined Love Nun -- wants to find someone to spend the holidays with after his marriage to a Micronesian trollop ended in divorce. The confrontation that occasions little Joshua Barker's prayer is an after-hours reprise of the parking lot fight that goes horribly wrong.
Moore's principal gift as a storyteller lies in getting readers to buy into the characters and the scene so that we can swallow the absurd supernatural comedy without too much indigestion. In this story, the joke or the premise is that nothing promotes togetherness like a harrowing night fighting with your loved ones against a graveyard full of murderous, brain-eating zombies. The book finally manages to deliver a Christmas miracle in a way that will almost make you believe.