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Twisted Christmas

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Sara Leigh

Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 7385
Location: Virginia
Twisted Christmas  Reply with quote  

From Publishers Weekly

Twisted Christmas

by Natalie Danford -- 11/1/2004

Those who spurn teary-eyed Christmas novels by tough guys, like Skipping Christmas by John Grisham or last year's The Boat of Dreams by Hot Zone author Richard Preston, may be primed for satirist Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel (Morrow, Oct. 12), which makes fun of that just-in-time-for-the-shopping-season genre.

"It's an antidote to the random acts of commerce a lot of authors are doing at Christmastime," said Moore in a phone interview with PW. "If I want a gift book to give somebody for Christmas, I don't want a heartwarming tale of a crippled child in a poor family. I want zombies and drunk people."

Moore's warped take on the season—which includes a Gift of the Magi–like mix-up involving a newly reformed pot smoker who begins growing marijuana to buy his unbalanced wife a sword, just as she goes off her medication to purchase a bong for him—is off to a promising start. When Janet Maslin declared the novel as funny as Jon Stewart's Daily Show in the New York Times on October 14, two days after pub date, her review drew readers like highway rubberneckers to Moore's curious mix of humor, the supernatural and copious research. According to Nielsen BookScan, the book sold 3,700 copies in its first week (a figure that's estimated to capture roughly 70% of sales), which is all the more impressive considering that the holidays and Moore's tour are still on the horizon.

Building a Career, Book by Book

Moore is no overnight success. His 2003 novel, Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, hit the Times extended list and was a Today Show pick in paperback. And Morrow tripled his net sales between The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (1999) and his next hardcover, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (2002), according to senior v-p, associate publisher Lisa Gallagher.

Promotion for The Stupidest Angel began back in June, with holiday cards sent to retailers from the aforementioned angel, leading into a month-by-month campaign in which booksellers received pine-scented Christmas tree ornaments and T-shirts. "It's one of those brick-by-brick, book-by-book things," said Mike Spradlin, one of Morrow's national account managers for Borders Group and a Moore fan since he represented the Avon paperback reprint of Moore's Coyote Blue (S&S, 1994). Spradlin has been such a staunch supporter that Moore dedicated The Stupidest Angel to him.

Part of the novel's appeal is visual. Moore, who's closely involved in all aspects of his books, designed the cover of The Stupidest Angel—which features a hand-drawn-looking angel wearing an oblivious smile. "The cover is so engaging that I'm afraid it might engage some people who are going to be surprised at the content," joked Judith Chandler, author events coordinator at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Wash.

The $14.95 price tag—another appealing aspect, said booksellers—was the author's idea as well. "I said it has to be $14.95, because the Secret Santa [gift exchange] at the office has a $15 limit," Moore said.

Some Tequila with That Eggnog?

Like Moore's earlier books, The Stupidest Angel is a bookseller favorite—in fact, it was voted the number one Book Sense pick for November. "When you're working in retail, you get overwhelmed by all the sappiness during the holidays," said Third Place's Chandler. "This is like a bracing shot of tequila."

Booksellers agreed that Moore's appeal reaches across many audiences, including humor, fantasy, science fiction and mystery readers. "I would compare the buyer for this to the buyer for America (The Book)," said Margaret Maupin, who purchases books at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, Colo. "It appeals to the 12-year-old boy in us all." Moore reminds Stesha Brandon, events coordinator at University Book Store in Seattle, of Tom Robbins, "though Tom is a little more cerebral, and Chris isn't afraid to get down and dirty and get funny."

Moore's off-the-cuff, riff-heavy bookstore performances also help him draw large crowds. When Moore appeared at the University Book Store to promote Fluke, "we had 150 people come, even though it was the day the Harry Potter book released," said Brandon. It's a sign of bookseller confidence in Moore's ability to make events fun that his 10-city tour begins in December, one of the busiest times of year, when few booksellers want to schedule author appearances. "Even now, when everyone is thinking about who is going to be president, Moore's fans are coming in for the book," said Maupin of the Tattered Cover.

And just as The Stupidest Angel has taken off long before the holidays, booksellers expect it to continue to sell year-round, even when misanthropes aren't so desperate for a laugh. At University Book Store, the title is shelved both in a special holiday section and under fiction. Maupin of the Tattered Cover predicted, "It will be on the shelf much longer than the other little Christmas mysteries."

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