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Big Jesus Trash Can: A Novel Paperback – June 1, 1998
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In an unnamed Australian city in an unnamed Australian state in 1969 a devious fraud plot suddenly falls apart. Reverend Reginald Hamilton, the Investment Manager for the Church of the Second Coming has found himself in the middle of a nasty case of embezzlement that is about to be exposed. While he's not the most scrupulous of characters at the best of times he realizes that ultimately, it's his lap into which the responsibility is going to fall. Together with Miss Kiki Lowenthal (billed here as the World's Greatest Christian) they desperately devise a plan - very poorly I might add - to get them out of the trouble that appears to be inevitable.
For you see, Reverend Hamilton answers to a higher power, a force that must be respected and honored lest his furious wrath be reigned down upon them. Of course, I'm referring to state Premier Jonathan Price, on whose behalf the fraud is taking place. Price vows that the fallout from this failed embezzlement will not include him and goes into damage control. Unfortunately for his co-conspirators, damage control means no witnesses and a series of nasty accidents are about to descend on the otherwise quiet tourist city.
After the debacle of 1969 we fast forward to 1986 to find that it's the night before the state elections and Sir Jonathan Price is on the verge of winning an unprecedented 11th term. But, man oh man, is there some trouble brewing out there! Not the least of this trouble is a daring attempt by the TLC (that's the Transglobal Lesbian Coalition in case ya didn't know) to blow up the Big Passionfruit. Furthermore, the ramifications from the 1969 fiasco are about to finally come back to bite Price firmly on the bum. Price is also up against one Mark Throdeus, adopted son of the ill-fated Miss Kiki Lowenthal and a man who would dance with glee over the prospect of bringing the unscrupulous Premier down. The result is utter chaos on election day with our attention madly flicking from the Big Passionfruit to the polling booths to journalist Ray Montego, who is about to uncover the state's biggest story of the year.
Billed as being set in "a city in the tropics" with numerous drawings of bananas interspersed through the pages I think it would be safe to assume that the action takes place in Queensland. Certainly the idea of a giant piece of fruit as a tourist attraction lends itself to that part of the world..ahem.
Big Jesus Trash Can is a wildly amusing story that is rather reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen or Elmore Leonard's Florida books. It's tinged with just a hint of mania, with the characters skewed ever so slightly to give them a not quite right feeling. All of this aids the comedic aspect of the story as Herrmann casts an ironical eye over the subjects of religion, dirty politicians (excuse the tautology) and the newspaper business. He manages to hit the bulls-eye time and again through his deeply flawed characters, characters who I found it all too easy to compare to some real-life stinkers, to Herrmann's credit.
I only have one point of annoyance and that was the lack of quotation marks around the dialogue which made it difficult to distinguish from the narration of the story.
This is Volume I of the White Trash Trilogy with Volume II already released and titled breakfastinfur. It introduces us to a darkly humorous Australian city where normalcy can just be glimpsed over there on the horizon. I thought it was good fun all round.