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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Zombie Battle at the Greasy Spoon

I don't think I'm that strange. (Okay, yes, I'm a bit odd, but not about this. :P Geez, stay with me, here...) Sometimes I just want or need to take a break from headier fare--from mammoth epics, or complex, multi-layered dramas, or highly-emotional pieces--any of which can potentially wring me out and leave me exhausted. After those types of intense books, a light bit of frippery, a fun little lark, can be just the ticket. A. Lee Martinez's Gil's All Fright Diner is that kind of book.
GAFD definitely falls under the category of "guilty" reading pleasures (although at the end, I don't feel a bit guilty ;)). The easiest way to describe Martinez is basically a supernatural Carl Hiaasen; as such, there's plenty of wacky, paranormal fun involved in this book. The basic formula of GAFD is that of a "road movie" (so, "road book?"), as we follow the exploits of a pair of buddies, who just happen to be a vampire and a werewolf. (Yes. They really are. Best friends, the male Thelma-&-Louise--complete with pickup--only... not so sexy or appealing, shall we say.) In the best "pulp" style, though, these fellas aren't quite what we've come to expect from our stereotypical "monsters"... scrawny, uncoordinated Earl (the "Earl of Vampires") is anything but a ladykiller, although he does have a little luck with them, as well as possessing some supernatural strength; and Duke (the "Duke of Werewolves", of course ;)) is a huge, grossly-overweight, less-than-fit-fighting-machine of a man, whose unkempt appearance and uncouth mannerisms belie an intelligent and practical mind and generous nature. 
The pair travel around in an old pickup truck (with Earl's steamer trunk-cum-daytime-snooze-o-rama in the bed of the truck), just driving wherever the road takes them... or in this case, wherever their dwindling funds, gas gauge hovering on "E", and Duke's rumbling tummy lead them to stop for a bit--aka Gil's All-Night Diner, a broken-down joint in the middle of the desert (so, in the middle of nowhere). What should have otherwise been a very ordinary experience, as Duke tries to choke down some greasy grub served by the diner's big, blowsy, bosomy proprietress, suddenly takes a turn into something quite extraordinary... when a group of zombies attack the lonely diner. Even more strange, this isn't a shocking, out-of-the-blue event, but something that, as it turns out, the townspeople (and I use the term "town" pretty darn loosely, here) have come to expect and even take in stride. It's not just zombies, either. They have at least one witch, multiple ghosts, ghouls, imps, and much more. (Even a ghost Schnauzer. :)) In the best tradition of the anti-hero, Duke and Earl decide it's up to them to "fix" things, to rid the townspeople of the weird stuff that's been going on.
There are some nice little touches that I wasn't expecting, in the middle of all the flashy spectacle. (Lots of smelly stuff and all sorts of goo involved when fighting the Forces of Evil, you know.) Earl finds a girlfriend and falls in love (in what is a surprisingly-sweet relationship). Meanwhile, Duke seriously thinks about who he is (man? beast?), and about the possible ramifications of his entering into a relationship with one of a couple of different females. A hormonally-charged pair of high-schoolers show just what life is like in such an out-of-the-way place for bored kids with too much time and personal freedom on their hands. (And yay! For once, the cops are neither bad nor stupid. Another tired stereotype busted. Sweet!)
Did I know that everything would--more or less-- work out in the end? Um, yeah. (But really, we know that with most books, don't we?) Just as we go to adventure movies for the excitement and the fun, that's the real allure of GAFD. It may not be capable of producing a fine-dining experience, but it does a pretty respectable job giving us one heckuva fun little ride. And sometimes, that's just about perfect. :)
GlamKitty rating: 3.75 catnip mice (out of 5 possible)

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