Christopher Moore is in rare company in the funny business. How many novelists make a big splash with books that are not just witty but laugh-out-loud, tears-rolling-down-your-creeks funny? There's Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck, Tim Sandlin and Carl Hiaasen on the American side, a short list indeed. On the other side of the Atlantic, there's Douglas Adams, who inspired Moore's first book, and a host of other funnymen like Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Terry Pratchett, among others.
The truth is that Christopher Moore is one of a kind, but it's been a long, weird path to enlightenment and world domination.
He started writing full-bore at 30 on Practical Demonkeeping. With a desire to do for the horror novel what the brilliantly belated Douglas Adams had done for sci-fi with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Moore saddled his hero, the good-natured ex-seminarian Travis O'Hearn, with the ravenous demon, Catch. When they roll into the sleepy town of Pine Cove, California, things go to hell in a hurry, as per usual.
Moore was still working as a waiter near his home of Big Sur when he got the call from his agent that Disney had bought the film rights to Demonkeeping for a serious chunk of change. He couldn't cope; table two needed water.
Eventually, someone managed to rake him down from the ceiling and he started writing full-time. His next book was Coyote Blue, an equally quirky book involving a young refugee from an Indian reservation in Montana and the trickster god Coyote. He stayed in California for Bloodsucking Fiends, a love story between a vampire newly created in San Francisco and the night manager of a local grocery store, and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, which returns to Pine Cove for a week of fun of drugs, visions and sea monsters by the sea. He also took a quick jaunt to the South Pacific for Island of the Sequined Love Nun, an exotic tale of cannibals, cosmetics, an inspired talking fruit bat named Roberto and his bumbling life partner, Tucker Case.
Moore's most inspired and far-reaching book has been Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. It takes all of the best elements of Moore's work - sublime tolerance, deeply compassionate characters, the marvelous wonder of the world, and of course, big scary monsters - and combines them into a riotously funny tale bridging the gaps in Jesus' upbringing with spiritual illumination, the Kama Sutra and Kung Fu.
More recently, Moore got to indulge his interests in marine biology with Fluke, Or I Know Why The Winged Whale Sings, in which the mighty Nate Quinn discovers a whale with "Bite Me" written on its tale, kicking off an adventure as absurd as anything this side of Doctor Seuss. He also delighted his growing legion of fans with The Stupidest Angel, a Christmas story that brings together Tucker and Roberto from Love Nun, Raziel the angel from Lamb, the denizens of Pine Cove, and several hundred annoyed zombies in a fun-filled holiday extravaganza.
His audiences may have gotten larger but Christopher Moore keeps pushing his unique vision forward, a comic genius preaching to his ravenous fans, decked out in his ubiquitous Hawaiian shirt. With his newest book, A Dirty Job, he applies his unique sense of humor to that natural subject for comedy, death. After that, he'll return to the world of the undead to pick up where Bloodsucking Fiends left off with its sequel, You Suck: A Love Story.
So what's behind this fiendish mind? Chris took time to talk about death, humor, religion and humanity with writer Clayton Moore, who isn't related but would settle for second cousin if he were given the choice.
Clayton Moore: Tell us about your new book, A Dirty Job. Charlie Asher is terribly anxious about the birth of his daughter, a worry not helped when his wife Rachel dies during childbirth, seemingly because a very tall Black man dressed in mint green appears in her room. And then?
Christopher Moore: Well, I don't want to ruin the book, but essentially those events set off the process of Charlie getting the job of being Death. The rest of the book is his trying to deal with his new job, while raising his baby daughter on his own, and basically keeping forces from the underworld from overtaking the planet.
A Dirty Job is about a heavy subject. How did you decide to jump on a book about death and dying?
I had been the primary caretaker from my mother when she was dying, and then on back-up when my girlfriend's mother died a year or so later. I saw that part of the unpleasantness of death was caused by that fact that we deny it or sweep in under the carpet when it's as much a part of life as marriage, child-birth, or any other rite of passage. I thought I had some things to say about it, and that it would be a challenge to write a funny book about death.