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Practical Demonkeeping (Pine Cove Series) Paperback – May 25, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
A people-eating demon threatens a sleepy California resort town in Moore's offbeat, witty debut.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
Good-natured, often funny, but excessively complicated tale that matches a people-eating demon against his reluctant master and the citizens of a small California town. First-novelist Moore throws in more plot twists than the Pacific Coast highway has curves. He obviously knows and is amused by the flawed but feisty denizens with which he inhabits Pine Grove, south of the Big Sur wilderness area. To this tourist town comes Travis O'Hearn, a 20-year-old who, 70 years before, got saddled with a demon, Catch, who gave him eternal youth plus problems. Catch is sometimes under Travis's control but often not, particularly when he's hungry. Travis wants out, namely by finding an incantation that will return the demon to Hell. On Travis's side are the King of the Djinns and August Brine, Pine Grove's purveyor of bait, tackle, and fine wines. Others who swell the cast past overflowing include waitress Jenny and her estranged, alcoholic husband Robert; tough old Mavis, who owns the Head of the Slug bar (it had been Head of the Wolf until animal-rights activists leaned on her); retired woodcarving codger Effrom and his wife Amanda; hotel night auditor Billy Winston, who flirts with other males by computer modem while wearing red silk panties; once-battered Rachael, who runs a coven to empower women through worship of the Goddess; and Detective Sergeant Alfonse Rivera, who fears he will end up bagging microwave burritos at a 7-Eleven unless he nails down a case. The author's youthful high spirits, insight into small-town people, and comic brashness help to overcome the fact that too many characters jump through too many hoops with too much unnecessary hocus-pocus. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Moore has a way of building unique characters with entire lives brought to the action. We know who these people are, a witch, a wannabe madam, a gene, well you get it.
Great fun to 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.
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.