Sunday, March 2, 2008
I don't buy nearly as many books for myself as I used to. Working in a library, there just doesn't usually seem to be much point in actually purchasing them. If I come across a something that looks interesting, I check it out. If I ever need to refer back to it for some reason, I always know exactly where to find the library's copy. If I'm looking for a book in my home, its location is usually much more indeterminate. There have, of course, been exceptions to this trend over the years, and Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job is one. I feel compelled to disclose, however, that this particular book has already been blogged about here. Twice, in fact. At any rate, this post isn't about the plot of the book itself as much as it is about some of its characters and where else they've been. Suffice it to say, however, that Charlie Asher awoke one morning to find himself transformed into a Death. And he's also a single parent who owns a second-hand shop. It's a funny book about death that also manages to fit in a little wisdom. But mostly it's very funny.
So when I first finished this book a couple of years ago, I told some of my friends about it, and one of them went on to read several of Moore's other books. When she reported back to me that an earlier incarnation of one of my favorite Dirty Job characters, the Death Merchant named Minty Fresh, shows up in Coyote Blue, I knew I'd have to read that next. Coyote Blue is about an insurance salesman who gets tangled up with an ancient trickster god and comes to terms with his own past. When they pass through Las Vegas they encounter a casino bouncer who is only known by his initials, MF. The important part is that even though this character's story is contained in two separate books published over ten years apart, each book reads as complete in and of itself. If you only read one, you'd have no idea that you were missing anything. Reading them both, however, gives the character added depth.
As I read more Moore, I quickly found that these connections between books run throughout his work, and A Dirty Job seems to be a particularly rich nexus of characters. Inspector Alphonse Rivera, a San Francisco police detective investigating some of the deaths that seem to take place all around Charlie, first appeared in Moore's first novel, Practical Demonkeeping. Rivera also plays a major role in Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck: a Love Story, a pair of novels following the lives of the Vampire Jody and her assistant Flood. You Suck even seems to take place at roughly the same time as Dirty Job, with Jody wandering into Charlie's store, and the friendship between Charlie's assistant Lily and Jody's assistant's assistant Abby Normal. The Emperor of San Francisco and his troops also feature in all three books. Even though You Suck is a direct sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, it can also stand completely on its own. The person who reccomended Coyote Blue read and enjoyed You Suck without ever suspecting that there was anything that came before it.
Other connections in Moore's universe: The village of Pine Cove is the setting for Practical Demonkeeping, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, and The Stupidest Angel: a Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror. Stupidest Angel also features characters (including Roberto the talking fruit bat) from Island of the Sequined Love Nun, and the titular angel was first seen in Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.
So, whenever I read one of these other books and encountered a familiar character, I'd always want to go back to A Dirty Job and reread the sections with that character just to appreciate the interconnectedness of it all. It eventually got to the point that I wound up buying a copy for myself. It probably won't be too long before I wind up buying all the others, as well, but for now I'll just rely on the library's copies.