Razzmatazz: Drag kings, crime gangs, corrupt cops, and a dragon

Razzmatazz by Christopher Moore science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsRazzmatazz by Christopher Moore 

Razzmatazz by Christopher Moore science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsRazzmatazz, Christopher Moore’s fantasy/action/comedy follow-up to Noir, came out in 2022. While I recommend Noir, you don’t need to read it first to enjoy this outing.

It’s 1947, in San Francisco, and Sammy “Two-Toes” Tiffin, bartender and sometime detective, and his group of regulars are still just trying to get by, when Sammy’s friend Eddie “Moo Shoes” Shu brings Sammy to a meeting with Eddie’s Uncle Ho. Uncle Ho has a job for Sammy; recover a black dragon statuette currently in the town of Locke, California, and give it to one of the criminal tongs, or they’ll kill Ho.

Sammy has some other things on his mind; namely, where his girlfriend Stilton, aka The Cheese, is going off to when she disappears night after night; figuring out who murdered the bouncer at a drag king club in North Beach (when Sammy and Stilton were there); figuring out why the new, puritanical head of the Vice Squad in SF is so fixated on lesbian clubs, and helping Eddie and his girlfriend open a driving school.

Razzmatazz shuffles though various points of view; Sammy’s in first person, Stilton’s in first person, couched in the language of a hard-boiled detective novel, and the Rain Dragon, a celestial being of great power who, it tells us, knows everything.

Razzmatazz by Christopher Moore science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsMoore is a challenge for me to review. If you’ve read any of his madcap books, all I really have to say now is, “and it’s Christopher Moore.”

His books are laugh-out-loud funny while tackling serious topics; his characters are smart and wise-cracking, and act like doofuses more than half the time; he tackles serious issues (homophobia and misogyny in this one) and historical elements (the Delta valley town of Locke, an historic Chinese village; Sonoma State Hospital in Eldridge, the 1906 earthquake, Chinese “paper sons,” as a sampler from this book).

Sammy and his buds want to make a quick buck, they have big dreams, and they take on powerful people, like the head of Vice or a rich and corrupt lawyer searching for his missing daughter, or a Chinese-American crime syndicate.

And dragons.

At the end of the day, somehow, compassion and decency are what win out (okay, with a little help from Sammy’s extraterrestrial “moonman” friend from Noir).

As one of the nicknames in my summary demonstrates, Moore’s period-correct language can be disturbing. Read his content advisory and take it to heart.

If you want to laugh and learn about the institutionalized homophobia of mid-20th century California (San Francisco’s “masquerade law” mentioned in the book is real), and come away feeling a tiny bit uplifted, pick up Razzmatazz.

Published in May 2022. Repeat New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore returns to the mean streets of San Francisco in this outrageous follow-up to his madcap novel NoirSan Francisco, 1947. Bartender Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin and the rest of the Cookie’s Coffee Irregulars—a ragtag bunch of working mugs last seen in Noir—are on the hustle: they’re trying to open a driving school; shanghai an abusive Swedish stevedore; get Mable, the local madam, and her girls to a Christmas party at the State Hospital without alerting the overzealous head of the S.F.P.D. vice squad; all while Sammy’s girlfriend, Stilton (a.k.a. the Cheese), and her “Wendy the Welder” gal pals are using their wartime shipbuilding skills on a secret project that might be attracting the attention of some government Men in Black. And, oh yeah, someone is murdering the city’s drag kings and club owner Jimmy Vasco is sure she’s next on the list and wants Sammy to find the killer. Meanwhile, Eddie “Moo Shoes” Shu has been summoned by his Uncle Ho to help save his opium den from Squid Kid Tang, a vicious gangster who is determined to retrieve a priceless relic: an ancient statue of the powerful Rain Dragon that Ho stole from one of the fighting tongs forty years earlier. And if Eddie blows it, he just might call down the wrath of that powerful magical creature on all of Fog City. Strap yourselves in for a bit of the old razzmatazz, ladies and gentlemen. It’s Christopher Moore time.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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