Noir (Moore)

Christopher Moore, 2018
352 pp.

The absurdly outrageous, sarcastically satiric, and always entertaining New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore returns in finest madcap form with this zany noir set on the mean streets of post-World War II San Francisco, and featuring a diverse cast of characters, including a hapless bartender; his Chinese sidekick; a doll with sharp angles and dangerous curves; a tight-lipped Air Force general; a wisecracking waif; Petey, a black mamba; and many more.

San Francisco. Summer, 1947. A dame walks into a saloon …

It’s not every afternoon that an enigmatic, comely blonde named Stilton (like the cheese) walks into the scruffy gin joint where Sammy "Two Toes" Tiffin tends bar.

It’s love at first sight, but before Sammy can make his move, an Air Force general named Remy arrives with some urgent business. ’Cause when you need something done, Sammy is the guy to go to; he’s got the connections on the street.

Meanwhile, a suspicious flying object has been spotted up the Pacific coast in Washington State near Mount Rainer, followed by a mysterious plane crash in a distant patch of desert in New Mexico that goes by the name Roswell. But the real weirdness is happening on the streets of the City by the Bay.

When one of Sammy’s schemes goes south and the Cheese mysteriously vanishes, Sammy is forced to contend with his own dark secrets—and more than a few strange goings on—if he wants to find his girl.

Think Raymond Chandler meets Damon Runyon with more than a dash of Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes All Stars. It’s all very, very Noir. It’s all very, very Christopher Moore. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—August 5, 1958
Where—Toledo, Ohio, USA
Education—Ohio State Univ., Brooks Inst. of Photography
Awards—Quill Award, 2005 and 2006
Currently—Hawaii and San Francisco, California

A 100-year-old ex-seminarian and a demon set off together on a psychotic road trip...

Christ's wisecracking childhood pal is brought back from the dead to chronicle the Messiah's "missing years"...

A mild-mannered thrift shop owner takes a job harvesting souls for the Grim Reaper...

Whence come these wonderfully weird scenarios? From the fertile imagination of Christopher Moore, a cheerfully demented writer whose absurdist fiction has earned him comparisons to master satirists like Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams.

Ever since his ingenious debut, 1992's Practical Demonkeeping and his 2002 Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff , Moore has attracted an avid cult following. But, over the years, as his stories have become more multi-dimensional and his characters more morally complex, his fan base has expanded to include legions of enthusiastic general readers and appreciative critics.

Asked where his colorful characters come from, Moore points to his checkered job resume. Before becoming a writer, he worked at various times as a grocery clerk, an insurance broker, a waiter, a roofer, a photographer, and a DJ — experiences he has mined for a veritable rogue's gallery of unforgettable fictional creations. Moreover, to the delight of hardcore fans, characters from one novel often resurface in another. For example, the lovesick teen vampires introduced in 1995's Bloodsucking Fiends are revived (literally) for the 2007 sequel You Suck—which also incorporates plot points from 2006's A Dirty Job.

For a writer of satirical fantasy, Moore is a surprisingly scrupulous researcher. In pursuit of realistic details to ground his fiction, he has been known to immerse himself in marine biology, death rituals, Biblical scholarship, and Goth culture. He has been dubbed "the thinking man's Dave Barry" by none other than The Onion, a publication with a particular appreciation of smart humor.

As for story ideas, Moore elaborates on his website: "Usually [they come] from something I read. It could be a single sentence in a magazine article that kicks off a whole book. Ideas are cheap and easy. Telling a good story once you get an idea is hard." Perhaps. But, to judge from his continued presence on the bestseller lists, Chris Moore appears to have mastered the art.

From a 2006 Barnes & Noble interview:

• In researching his wild tales, Moore has done everything from taking excursions to the South Pacific to diving with whales. So what is left for the author to tackle? He says he'd like to try riding an elephant.

• One of the most memorably weird moments in Moore's body of work is no fictional invention. The scene in Bloodsucking Fiends where the late-night crew of a grocery store bowls with frozen turkeys is based on Moore's own experiences bowling with frozen turkeys while working the late shift at a grocery store.

When asked what book influenced his career as a writer, he answered:

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. In Cannery Row, Steinbeck writes about very flawed people, but with great affection, and by doing so, shows us that it is our flaws that make us human, and that is what we share, that is our humanity. A friend of mine used to say, "He writes with the voice of a benevolent God." In the process, the book is also very funny. I think I saw that as a model, as a guide. I'd always written humor that was fairly edgy, but here was a guy writing with great power and gentle humor. I was moved and inspired." (Author bio Barnes & Noble.)

Book Reviews
Christopher Moore gives us dizzy dames and shadowy gangsters in Noir. Sammy, Moore’s comic revision of Sam Spade, will take you on a silly-thrilly ride through late-1940s San Francisco, and you’ll be laughing all the way.
Washington Post

Moore is a master of metaphor and a sultan of simile.… It takes an author of remarkable talents to keep a profitably urinating snake, a dame named for a dairy product, and a slimy extraterrestrial all running through a narrative.
Washington Independent Review of Books

[A] irreverent send-up.… [T]hings just get stranger in this work that puts an amusing spin on the noir subgenre. An author’s note gives fair warning of the characters’ era-appropriate language and attitudes, which may be disturbing to some readers.
Publishers Weekly

Raymond Chandler meets the SyFy channel in Moore's latest humorous adventure. Fans of noir film and fiction will find a lot to enjoy in this loving genre tribute, and those already familiar with Moore's books will simply be in love. —Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L., Pensacola
Library Journal

(Starred review) [A] pedal-to-the-metal, exquisitely written comic romp through a neon-lit San Francisco that may never have actually existed, but that, in Moore’s supremely talented hands, sure feels like it could have.

There is a laugh-out-loud moment every couple of pages. And possibly a space alien, because, hey, this is a Christopher Moore book, after all.

Moore's introduction of an interrupting, semi-omniscient second narrator between Sammy's first-person tale can be jarring, even if it is explained late in the book. The novel finally coalesces in its back half…. A frantically comic tale of guys and dolls that shoots and just misses.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for NOIR … then take off on your own:

1. In Christopher Moore's other novels, his main characters are hardly "alpha males"; in fact, they tend to be "beta males." How does Sammy Tiffin fit that description—perhaps he's a little aimless or unfocused or … what else? How would you describe Sammy?

2. Noir takes place two years after the end of World War II. What is post-war American life like—in San Francisco and especially Chinatown—as portrayed by Moore?

3. Moore riffs on the noir genre*—crime stories first made famous in the 1930s & 40s by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Talk about certain elements that are part-and-parcel to the genre (tough-guy language, for one) and how "noir" is distinct from other crime tales. What are the ways in which Moore's novel both pokes fun at and pays tribute to the noir style?

4. Noir writers draw on analogies in their writing. Point to some of Moore's: this one, for instance, "he smiled like a dog at a barbecue for the blind."

5. What, in particular, made you laugh? Does Moore sustain the comedy and wacky banter throughout the novel? Does it become funnier … or does the humor fall off? Do you have some favorite lines?

6. Do you have any characters you were fond of—Petey, say, or Eddie? Cheese? Moonman?

7. Did the shift in point-of-view, from the first person to third-person narrative, confuse you? When did you figure out the identity of the speaker?

8. If you've read other Christopher Moore books, how does Noir compare?

* "Noir" in our usage is comparable to what is also called the "hardboiled" genre.

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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