Xlibris, $19.99, ISBN 978-1-4363-2775-6
Contemporary Fiction, 2008
The Organ Grinder and the Monkey is a story revolving around three very different people who live their own lives, doing their own thing… until their worlds eventually collide in the second half of this book. Of course, I can’t tell you what these three end up having in common because that will be a spoiler, so let me instead introduce you to the three main characters.
Seymour Petrillo is the killer. Well, in this kind of stories we always have a killer who will be portrayed more like a witty anti-heroic fellow rather than a more straightforward remorseless monster. We also need a seductive woman, so meet Constance Powers. Irving Hanhart is born to Irish and Jewish activist parents and he grew up wanting to be a cop… only, of course, things don’t turn out the way he wishes. All three characters want to escape the shadow of their stifling hometowns and make something for themselves, but, as we shall see, they don’t necessarily get what they want in life.
This book is an entertaining read because the author has a crude and vulgar sense of humor that is very effective in this story. But in a way, this story reminds me of a bad Quentin Tarantino script – while there are no shortage of humorous potentially offensive one-liners and punchlines here, there is a very self-indulgent quality to the narration that ends up derailing the story completely. The problem here is that Mr Moffie does not hesitate to describe anything and everything about his characters, especially in the first half of this book, even if the subject matter described has little to no relevance to the story line. As a result, the story isn’t just wordy, it is very wordy in an unwieldy manner.
Considering how wordy the story is and how the author goes out of his way to describe everything and anything even remotely associated with his characters, it is rather paradoxical that that characters end up being little more than stereotypical noir characters. That is not to say that they are boring characters – they are interesting – it’s just that I’m disappointed that they don’t end up being more well drawn or memorable at the end of the day.
The problem with The Organ Grinder and the Monkey is a technical one where I am concerned – the author has a great sense of humor and narrative technique that could have made this book a most enjoyable read, but he ends up focusing way too much on what is outside and around his characters to the point that I have little idea as to what is inside the head of his characters.