What I’ve Been Reading – Sins of Intent

Randy Roeder takes us back to Cedar Rapids of the Sixties in Sins of Intent, the first of a series featuring haberdasher-turned-amateur-detective Cletus Efferding.

I’ve lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa since the Eighties, and while that is much later than the period Sins is set in, many of the sights and places Roeder references were still around when I moved here. And Cletus’s movements around Cedar-Rapids-that-was ring true and accurately.

Cletus works in the Men’s Department at Killian’s, a retail anchor of Downtown Cedar Rapids for decades, but is also a dance instructor. It’s this second job that leads him to investigate the death of a fellow instructor and good friend.

Cletus is a fellow with heavy emotional and legal baggage, which keeps him in the sights of the local cops, even as he tries to get justice for his friend. Along the way, we learn of the tragedy that destroyed his former life, and we also watch him make several rookie (and in one case, racist) mistakes in his investigation. It’s a credit to Roeder’s character development that we still are rooting for Cletus as he bumbles along.

Cedar Rapids is just as much of a character in Sins as any of the people. And as the manager of Iowa’s only jazz radio station, I appreciate his inclusion of jazz players and jazz clubs in the novel, particularly the colorful Joe Abodeely, who makes a cameo toward the end, and whose shady business dealings were the inspiration for much of the novel’s action.

Sins of Intent is a worthy debut, and I will definitely be climbing back into Roeder’s Linn County Time Machine for Cletus’s next adventure.

What I’ve Been Reading – Fool

“This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as non-traditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank.” 
― Christopher Moore, Fool

Shakespeare parodies are a dime a dozen, but few twist familiar tropes like Christopher Moore. He’s previously tackled vampires, Death, and the life of Jesus (as told by the Savior’s best buddy, Biff), and his take on The Bard doesn’t disappoint.

Fool retells King Lear from the point of view of Pocket, the King’s jester, whose sarcasm and sharp wit keeps him on the edge of getting his neck stretched most of the time. Moore doesn’t feel the need to constrain himself to one play, however, as the witches from Macbeth make a cameo, and when Pocket journeys to Scotland, he traverses Birnam Wood, which also figures in The Scottish Play.

Moore’s Olde England may be muddy and rainy, but its definitely merry, particularly where sex is concerned. Pocket beds two of Lear’s three daughters, not to mention a variety of the kitchen staff. I guess all those Londonites crowding the tube had to come from somewhere. Pocket’s somewhat-requited love for Cordelia, the third daughter, gets derailed in the opening scenes of the novel when she is married off to Jeff, the King of France, but proves later in the book she is no damsel in distress who needs to be rescued by her dashing suitor. Pocket is a lot of things, but dashing isn’t one of them.

I picked the book as plane reading on a vacation to the U.K., figuring a novel set in medieval England would be the perfect prep prior to touring the Tower of London (I had recently seen a production of Richard III, so was already all set imprisoning boy princes-wise), was not disappointed.

A knowledge of Shakespeare is definitely not required to enjoy Fool. There is just enough Shakespearian phrasing to give the novel the right flavor, but not so much as to make reading an exercise in deciphering Sixteenth Century slang.

Pocket returns in The Serpent of Venice, where we will discover, I’m sure, that he is the true hero of Othello. I’m in.