Christopher Moore and His Very Dirty Job

Christopher Moore and His Very Dirty Job

When talking about banning books, nobody mentions Christopher Moore. No doubt Moore is upset about this, because he’s out to offend pretty much everybody. The fact that he does this with glee, panache, and massive gobs of bathroom humor probably doesn’t signify, and certainly won’t save his neck when the book-banning trolls finally come for him. The fact is, he’s funny, and there’s nothing the book-banners hate more than a healthy sense of the absurd.

An excellent case in point is Moore’s A Dirty Job, in which unassuming Charlie Asher, a second-hand dealer in San Francisco, becomes a “death merchant,” a sort of dogsbody for Death, who, it seems, has left the field, possibly never to return. It’s Charlie’s job to match dying people with their “soul vessel,” usually some knick-knack or other with sentimental value, in part so that the dead can find rest, and in part to prevent Orcus, lurking in the sewers, from eating up the soul vessels and rising again to usher in an age of darkness and doom.

That’s right, Orcus. Our old friend from the original AD&D Monster Manual. Etc.

Nor is Orcus the end of the book’s fantastical menagerie. Moore tosses in the Mórrígan, chimarae, hell hounds, and a seven-foot Black record-shop owner who always wears a mint-green silk suit. His name? Minty Fresh.

Charlie Asher, amusingly, is the whitest white guy on planet earth, and his interactions with Minty Fresh are downright hysterical. Indeed, Moore is at his best when juxtaposing apparent opposites, including but not limited to the Irish Mórrígan sisters’ encounters with modern weapons of war, and Charlie’s pixie of a toddler daughter, Sophie, who takes baths with the hell hounds while they eat up her soap and belch strawberry-flavored bubbles.

The basics of the plot you already know: Charlie (who is not up to the task) has to save the world. From Orcus. In San Francisco. While saving souls. And raising his daughter. And cleaning up after the hell hounds, who are anything but house trained.

Along the way, Moore makes a comedic meal of, among other things: Russians; Chinese; Blacks; whites; Christians; Jews; Muslims; dogs; cats; detectives; on-line dating; on-line porn; Goth girls; lesbian women; gay men; straight women; straight men; sex; death; seven-foot men dressed in all green who don’t play basketball; and, of course, life in general.

Being an equal-opportunity offender, Moore mostly gets away with his frequently outrageous stereotyping. I have trouble imagining how any given reader will escape this book without feeling, at some point, attacked. All the more reason to dive in; we need our shibboleths poked now and again.

Best of all, Moore finds genuinely tender moments along the way. His gentle, humane scene with an elderly woman passing away at home under the careful eye of a dedicated hospice nurse is really touching. The fact that the woman in question is simultaneously using her lapdog as a perfectly functional telephone makes it all the better.

Even if the big denouement is fairly easy to spot (and from a country mile, too), the rest of the book’s pleasures remain intact, including a lively battle between Charlie, a troupe of sewn-together “squirrel people,” and Orcus’s forces of darkness.

Moore is prolific, releasing a steady stream of ribald novels into the world, including several additional “death merchant” tales, and Razzmatazz, from 2022. My previous experience was with Fool, a title that graces a good many “funniest books” lists, and tracks Pocket, jester to King Lear, as he tries from the wings to save Lear’s kingdom while dodging MacBeth’s wyrd sisters and shagging just about anything in a skirt.

Fool is witty, for sure, but I preferred A Dirty Job. Charlie Asher’s troubles feel grounded in the same brand of mortality I wrestle with daily (minus the Mórrígan, and Orcus), while Pocket’s adventures struck me as somewhat imprisoned by Lear’s all-pervading storyline.

On a personal note, A Dirty Job gets remarkable mileage out of just two repeated words, “Like bear!” and I am nothing if not a sucker for bears.


Mark Rigney is a writer and long-time Black Gate blogger. His work on this site includes original fiction and perennially popular posts like “Youth in a Box.” His new novel, Vinyl Wonderland, arrives June 25th, 2024. A preview post can be found HERE, while his website lives over THERE.

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Sarah Avery

This was the perfect book to read after sharing shifts of deathbed vigil for an elderly relative. It made me laugh hard, and took some of the sting out of mortality.

Thomas Parker

This is probably what I should have read rather than Hemingway when my mom was dying; then I wouldn’t have had to hide the shotgun.

Mark Rigney

Sarah, may I ask how you discovered it? Because I agree with you completely, although that wasn’t the situation for me, as I encountered it.

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