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Lady luck, a Chinatown mystery, and a little 'Razzmatazz

Christopher Moore's noir novel simmers in a melting pot of 1940s San Francisco culture.

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Razzmatazz by Christopher Moore

Your good luck charm is never far away.

A pair of socks, a coin, guitar pick, rub it with your thumb, hold it in your pocket, wear it all day, and you know what happens: Life is smoother, problems melt away, and just things get easier. How it happens is hard to say, but that really doesn't matter. You just know it brings you luck, and as in the new novel, "Razzmatazz" by Christopher Moore, you'd do anything to keep it close.

For far too long, Sammy "Two-Toes" Tiffin was down-on-his-luck.

Because of a foot injury, he couldn't fight in the war so he was stateside, bartending at Sal's, hanging around drag king joints and lady-lover clubs, and living in a San Francisco brownstone in a closet-sized room with a single bed. There was just enough space in the place for Sammy and his girl, Tilly – whom everybody called The Cheese except to her face – to give one another the old razzmatazz now and then.

So when Eddie Moo Shoes said his Uncle Ho had a job with big money involved, Sammy really couldn't say no.

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Many years before, Ho had come to America from China as a "paper son" of descendants of ancient Chinese fighters; branded on his forearm, his destiny was to be a member of a fierce tong. Alas, Ho was a gentle, peaceful soul, so he was instead sent to care for the girls in the tong's brothel. Eventually, Ho and one of the brothel's slave girls escaped, but not before stealing a magic statue. Now another tong wanted the statue.

And so Sammy's job was to retrieve the statue and save Moo Shoes' uncle's life, but there was another, pressing job to do first. Someone was killing San Francisco's cross-dressing lesbians, one by one, and many of Sammy's friends and associates were terrified.

He had to find the killer. And he wouldn't even have to do it alone.

If you are not familiar with author Christopher Moore's works, pick up a copy of "Razzmatazz," read the first few pages, and you'll totally get it: There are very few parts of this book that are tame in any way. You can trust your eyes on that.

"Razzmatazz" is a soup of every noir movie set in Chinatown that you've ever seen, every 1940s cross-dressing cliche you've read or heard, mixed together with a couple of dragons and an alien thrown in for fun. And, curiously, that's exactly what coalesces: a big, clever, sprawl-across-the-floor novel that's fun. Moore, in fact, says in his afterword that there are bits and pieces of real history written into this story, but it's otherwise a "silly and absurd" novel that's purely intended to entertain. You can trust your eyes on that, too.

Be warned, though, that this book isn't for everybody. It's irreverent, wild, and profane on any regular page but it's also LOL, if you aren't easily offended. If that sounds like a dream to you, then try "Razzmatazz." It'll work like a charm.

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Author Christopher Moore's latest novel, "Razzmatazz," takes a noir dive into 1940s San Francisco's Chinatown.
Contributed / Charlee Moore

Book note

"Razzmatazz" by Christopher Moore is available at Barnes & Noble at Apache Mall and through online booksellers.

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Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on the prairie in Wisconsin with one man, two dogs and 16,000 books. Look for her at bookwormsez.com or bookwormsez on Twitter.

Bookworm — Terri Schlichenmeyer column sig

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