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4.3 out of 5 stars
Practical Demonkeeping (Pine Cove Series)
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Every now and then, those of us who indulge in the most gruesome of the horror and science fiction genre must kick back, take a load off, and curl up with a well written and light hearted book that will allow us a chuckle or two.
This is the book for that moment. Relatively short (238 pages) and a very fast read, Moore's tale is not only captivating but will leave you chuckling in morbid humor. Travis O'Hearn is over ninety years old, but doesn't look a day over twenty five. This is because of his demon, Catch. Many years ago Travis unsuspectingly summoned the demon and became his Master, with one of the benefits being perpetual youth and an inability to die. Of course, the bad part is, Catch is not a nice demon, and Travis is stuck with him.
Catch likes to watch TV, read comic books, and ride on the hood of the car; but most of all he likes to eat, and people are his favorite food. All Travis wants to do is find a way to send Catch back to hell, but he doesn't have a clue as to how to go about it. The one person who holds the objects that may help him get rid of Catch is a young girl on a train, who Travis lost track seventy years ago without ever learning her name.
Which is what brings Travis and Catch to Pine Cove, a sleepy seaside tourist town. Here in Pine Cove, Moore introduces us to the townspeople; fleshing them out into fully developed personalities that you will either like or dislike, but will certainly not leave you with that dry feeling of a hastily sketched character. Moore's ability to bring all these different people to life is what makes this book such a fast and fun read; how he manages to bring these characters to life in only a few short paragraphs is the sign of a gifted writer.
There is Rachel, the benign witch; Howard, who runs the HP Café; Robert the drunken loser; Mavis, the gnarly tavern owner; Rivera the police sergeant; and a host of others that all add to the flavor of the story.
Topping it all off is the arrival of the King of the Djinn, Gian Hen Gian, who looks like a tiny wrinkled old man and spouts the most hilarious of insults to those who peeve him. The townspeople, Travis, Catch, and the Djinn all collide to bring us a most entertaining and humorous story. The ending is a flurry of activity, with fantasy and imagination that borders on silly but fits tightly in with the rest of the book.
Truly, 'Practical Demon Keeping' is a frivolous and light-hearted romp that is well worth the money spent. Enjoy!
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book isn't exactly laugh-out-loud funny. Too many people are devoured by the demon for it to be tongue-in-cheek...unless it's the demon's cheek and our tongue we're talking about here. However, "Practical Demonkeeping" is witty, shading into heavily ironic. It is blackly humorous as in the scene where the demon coughed, "...and a red spiked heel shot out of his mouth and bounced off the windshield, spattering the glass with hellish spit."
You might guess that the red high heel once belonged to a woman, but it's not that kind of novel. As a matter of fact it belonged to a motel night clerk named Billy Winston who was a transvestite from the waist down (the parts that the motel customers can't see below the counter). Most of Moore's characters have some redeeming characteristics, even the scum-bag drug dealers and pool sharks, and I was really sorry when the demon ate Billy.
Even the demon whose name is Catch has his likeable moments--usually when he's reading Cookie Monster comic books and in between snacks. He also has a sense of humor, the kind of humor you'd expect from a cat toying with its next meal.
Some of the book's real humor comes from a second supernatural creature, the King of the Djinn who has been chasing after Catch ever since the glory days of King Solomon--except for a few thousand years of down time in a lead jar at the bottom of the sea. He expresses himself in phrases such as, "By Aladdin's lamplit scrotum," and "Tell us where the Seal of Solomon is hidden or we will have your genitals in a nine-speed reverse action blender." The true hero of "Practical Demonkeeping," owner of Pine Cove, California's bait, tackle, and fine wines shop thinks the King of the Djinn looks like "a prune in a Carmen Miranda costume." Nevertheless, this unlikely pair teams up to do a bit of demon-hunting.
Wickedly funny. That's the term I'm searching for. This book with its winos, pagans, wrinkled-prune Djinn, and hungry demon is wickedly funny. Read it and you might even die, especially if you ignore its warning not to pick up hitchhikers near Pine Cove, California.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having read "Bloodsucking Fiends" by Moore, I figured this book would be just as hilarious with a great story and interesting, memorable characters. OOPS--not so with this book.
Travis is a very old man who looks about 25 thanks to his constantly hungry companion, a demon named Catch. Through a very complex and amazing line of circumstances, the pair find themselves in the oddball town of Pine Cove, California. It's here in Pine Cove that the town witch, an elderly couple, a bait store owner, a waitress, a drunk husband, and a cafe owner with a remarkable resemblance to H.P. Lovecraft all meet up in one situation that could mean the preservation or loss of many lives. Sounds interesting, right?
As mentioned in the Kirkus Review featured at the opening screen, Moore has too many characters jumping through too many mystical hoops unnecessarily. Every single character in the book is of major importance to the overall outcome, right down to Mavis, the long-suffering barmaid from the Head of the Slug. There are no true minor characters (not even The Breeze, who vanishes almost as soon as the story begins), and this makes for a big headache. And as much as these characters interact and overlap one another, you won't be able to really feel much about any of them. I enjoy characters that make me miss them at the end of the book, and that didn't happen with this novel.
I've since learned that this was Moore's first book, but the complexity of the plot and the details don't demonstrate an author's first effort. The ending will leave you flat and asking "HUH?", but there are some truly funny moments in the book that aren't to be missed. I especially enjoyed Jenny's preparation for her date with Travis, and Robert's assessment of The Breeze's trailer. Moore's description of Mavis and Rachel are vivid and highly visual, and the story of how Travis became bound to Catch is very well-constructed.
It's worth reading, but consider checking it out from the library and save your money.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 24, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Among the various writers who I read, Christopher Moore is a relatively recent addition to the list. My first experience with him - Bloodsucking Fiends - was fun, so I started picking up his other works. Practical Demonkeeping - my second Moore book - is also a light, entertaining read.

The novel follows Travis O'Hearn who is around a century old but hardly looks twenty. The secret of his youth seems to be tied to Catch, a demon of immense power and bad attitude. To some extent, Catch serves Travis, but that doesn't stop the demon from the occasional consumption of a human being; Travis is at least able to keep Catch's diet limited to criminals, but can do little more to control the demon's appetites. Both wouldn't mind getting rid of the other, but they are bound together by a magic link that neither can sever called the Seal of Solomon.

Meanwhile, in Pine Cove, California (where Travis and Catch are heading), respected town elder Augustus Brine is visited by the djinn Gian Hen Gian, who happens to Catch's adversary. With relatively little ability to directly combat Catch, Gian has recruited Brine. The bulk of the novel - which takes place over one weekend - deals with Catch's efforts to create havoc and the often unlinked efforts of Travis and Augustus to contain him.

Moore mixes in a lot of humor in his story, but he retains enough seriousness to create a decent amount of suspense (even if the light touch does seem to promise things will turn out all right). Beyond that, Moore's decent knowledge of both mythology and pop culture add a level of depth to this story that might not be expected...it may not actually be a deep story, but it isn't exactly shallow either.

What Practical Demonkeeping is is offbeat. This is not a case of the same-old story of the supernatural, just as Bloodsucking Fiends went beyond the standard vampire cliches. It's not War and Peace, but it doesn't need to be to be a top-notch piece of entertainment.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
I have read about half of C.M.'s books and I finally realized why I did not like some of the others more. I have been reading them in the wrong order. You see, although it doesn't really matter what order you read them in, if you read them in order you will have an opportunity to meet allot of the same characters at different times in their lives. For example, about fifty pages into Practical DemonKeeping it hit me that Catch, the main antagonist of the book, was also in Lamb, a book that I had read almost a year ago. If I had read the books in order it would have made Lamb that much more interesting. In addition, his last book The Stupidest Angel is like a coming home party for many of his characters.

Here's the order: 1.Practical Demonkeeping (1992) 2.Coyote Blue (1994) 3.Blood sucking Fiends (1995) 4.Island of the Sequined Love Nun (1997) 5.Lamb (2002) 6.Fluke (2003) 7.The stupidest angel (2004) his last book as of this review.

Fans of Tom Robbins or Kurt Vonnegut may like these, but don't get me wrong, the writing is not similar. However, the interesting ideas (of Tom Robbins) and the black humor (Vonnegut) may captivate you.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 1999
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
I read this book in one day, that's how much I liked it! You aren't going to "learn" anything, or come to any philosophical revelations reading this book, however, you will laugh a lot and you will have fun. Christopher Moore is an entertaining, intelligent and witty author! I cannot wait to read more from this gifted writer!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
I was so excited when I found this book. Comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and Dave Barry? Praise as the "new cult writer" of our times? Great, sign me up!

Unfortunately, while the storyline is entertaining enough that I finished it, the book just failed to deliver on the promise.

The characters are summed up in a few sentences, and have these kind of desperately zany quirks that are more annoying than entertaining. Some of them are no more than stereotypes: the power-hungry, man-hating witch; the cop hungry for his big bust and haunted by the images of being busted out of the force. Very two-dimensional.

The plot is endlessly complicated, and several of the plotlines go absolutely nowhere (example: the crossdressing night-clerk having cyber-sex as "Roxanne"), and there are even some sex scenes that read as totally obligatory on the author's part, not organic to the story.

And in the end, everyone who is left is neatly wrapped up in a sentence or two. Happy endings for all. I definitely expected something a little more complex, but by the end of the story, I wasn't surprised.

It's not a terrible story, it just doesn't deliver on the hype. Christopher Moore is no Kurt Vonnegut, no Dave Barry. He's trying very very very hard to be funny. Maybe a little too hard.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 24, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This was Christopher's Moore 1st book, and it displays most of the traits that would keep him so successful throughout his later books, and also some rookie "jitters."

As with most of his wacky novels, the plot is difficult to summarize and almost beside the point. It deals with a demon who is beholden to a man who would VERY MUCH like to shake off his burden (it's a drag being the "master" of a demon when that demon still must quite frequently kill and eat people). The demon and his keeper have been more or less tracked to the town of Pine Cove, CA (Moore's favorite coastal town, full of wacky characters and the main location for other works) by a genie. Don't ask! As I said, Moore's plots twist like crazy, but the real joy with him are the crazy characters, little asides and observations that he and his characters make, and, quite bluntly, the off-the-wall humor. There are lots and lots of strange, messed-up, yet delightful people to meeting PRACTICAL DEMONKEEPING. There are many funny events. There are also lots of biting and observant comments from the author...little metaphors and similes that just make you stop in your tracks with an admiring smile.

There are a few laugh-out loud funny moments, but mostly there is just frantic, inventive fun throughout. If you've never read Christopher Moore, this might be a good place to start. It gives an excellent introduction to his wacky sense of humor. If you enjoy it, you might do best to then read his books in the order of release. For example, the next one would be BLOODSUCKING FIENDS, a book with a little less humor but a lot more humanity. As Moore matured, his books juggle the real human feeling with strange and hilarious events with ever more deftness. ISLAND OF THE SEQUINED LOVE NUN and my favorite (so far) COYOTE BLUE show an author with a truly unique voice and vision.

The rookie problems with book are mostly centered around a lack of tightness. Moore always has sprawling plots and many plot threads which don't come together until the end. This book is actually a bit more sprawling...with so MANY characters to juggle and keep track of and so many threads to weave together in time for the climax that sometimes I frankly forgot some of the characters. Someone might have been introduced on page 25, for example, and that person didn't reappear for 100 pages, and by then, I had forgotten them altogether. Later, Moore's plots became more outrageous and convoluted (FLUKE), but there were fewer characters to guide us through the machinations. PRACTICAL DEMONKEEPING was just a little big more hard work than I'm used to with Moore. Also, his romances, though charming and wittily observed, never made me CARE what happened. Later, his romantic entanglements become more emotionally resonant. But not yet.

But these are fairly modest flaws in a generally excellent book. It's funny...and not many books are genuinely FUNNY and not mean-spirited. It's not "humor" like a Dave Barry book, but it's not tormented, like many works by Kurt Vonnegut, which can make you laugh out-loud, but are also quite searing. Moore just writes inventive, funny, downright crazy stuff. I sense his audience is slowly blossoming with each new release. I'm glad...because I've enjoyed his work so much over the last few years that I want others to enjoy it too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Every year around Hallowe'en, I look for a book that deals with the darker side of occult phenomena. This year, I didn't want to give myself a major case of the creeps...but I still wanted something which touched on that area.
'Practical Demonkeeping' was just the book for me.
The story deals primarily with Catch -- the demon -- and Travis -- Catch's deceptively young keeper. Catch and Travis -- in the midst of an interesting love-hate relationship (Travis hates Catch and Catch loves to be hated) -- arrive in the tourist town of Pine Cove where significant mayhem ensues! It is all related in an enjoyable manner. And the various occupants of the town are portrayed deftly without mean-spiritedness.
The author, Christopher Moore writes with the same type of wit which admirers of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins will appreciate. And, this novel -- his debut -- is admirable for giving us a wide variety of characters, dealing humorously with their particular quirks, and engineering a clever plot in which their paths cross. Although the ending seems a bit rushed, I enjoyed just about every aspect of this novel. I won't give anything away. But, in the novel's last chapters, I would have enjoyed a more complete depiction of the characters' reactions. Not because I expect every detail to be spelled out...but because so many unique, interesting and amusing characters are involved at this point. It would have required significant authorial skill to relate all of that without bogging down the narrative but I think Moore could have managed it.
Without being macabre or morbid, this novel gives plenty of surprises. There are a few scenes which provoke a squirm or two but Moore never indulges in excessive depictions of violence or gore.
This kind of book works by keeping us intrigued about what will happen next -- not by dragging us deep down into depictions of cruelty and savageness.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Christopher Moore will never be mistaken for a serious writer ... but that really doesn't matter. Practical Demonkeeping et al keep the reader engrossed in the story and the reader will often find themselves laughing out loud while reading [any] of mister Moore's works.
In Practical Demonkeeping the audience is introduced to the "lovely" fictional town of Pine Grove near Big Sur. This is the same location featured in another of Christopher Moore's books - The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove ... whose population is a bizarre mix of eccentrics and small-town-strange people.
If you have never read anything by mr. Moore ... I would recommend this as a good place to start.
This novel will keep you laughing page after page ... keeping you completely engrossed in the story. Definitly a worthwhite read
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