Why, after nearly 10 years, has Christopher Moore written a follow-up book to his bonkers bestseller A Dirty Job?
It’s simple. Somebody asked for it.
Actually, it was a lot of somebodies — and they weren’t so much asking as begging.
“I had never planned on writing a sequel,” Moore says of Secondhand Souls (out Tuesday). “But there was so much pressure from readers — and I mean that in a good way.
“Over and over again, they’d say, ‘I want more of A Dirty Job. I want more of Charlie Asher. I want more of Sophie, Minty Fresh and the Squirrel People.’”
Once Moore started thinking about it, he realized he wanted to revisit the old San Francisco Death Merchant gang, too.
But there was one pesky detail involving the ending of the 2006 original. He had written himself into a corner. “That was a harder rock to lift than I realized it would be,” Moore says.
Once he solved that problem, the literary lunatic was off and running, again making death a laughing matter.
His supernaturally silly Secondhand Souls brings us back into the world of Death Merchants, the human grim reapers who retrieve soul vessels from the dead and dying. As it says in their instruction manual, the Great Big Book of Death, “It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.”
Alas, there has been a breakdown in the system and Forces of Darkness are threatening to rise from below. It’s up to Charlie and his oddball allies to save the day.
But first our “beta male” hero will have to escape the shackles of his temporary meat-puppet body.
If the previous sentence made no sense to you, maybe you should read A Dirty Job first.
Are you suggesting in A Dirty Job and Secondhand Souls that we should cling to our senses of humor when dealing with death and dying?
Yeah, there’s that. But also it’s about savoring moments, because when you spend any time around death and dying, you begin to realize how trivial the things we often worry about really are.
In the first book, cheese was the metaphor, with the woman who was dying and tasting cheese for the last time and savoring it with every ounce of her being.
By savoring the moment, we make everything, even death, a little easier and sweeter to swallow.
Speaking of cheese, there’s a new breakout character. Wiggly Charlie is 14 inches tall, face of a crocodile, spiked teeth, black eyes, raptor claws and webbed feet. Hideous, yet adorable. His go-to phrase — “Need a cheez” — will probably turn up on T-shirts.
Oh, I hope so! After all, who hasn’t needed a cheese? I hope people like him as much as I do. He was actually something of a surprise to me. When I was putting the book together, here was this character who is basically new to the world. I knew I could make him goofy, but I didn’t expect him to be so likable.
At one point in the book, Big Charlie, referring to Wiggly Charlie, says, “Maybe life is just easier if you’re a little goofy.” We probably could say the same thing about you, couldn’t we?
I suppose I am goofy and so are my books. But I don’t have any choice in the matter. Humor is my default setting for almost every situation.
Why did you make the Golden Gate Bridge a stamping ground for ghosts?
If you’re telling a story about ghosts, which are souls that haven’t crossed over yet, it’s kind of perfect thematically that a bridge is a place between places.
Besides, you can’t write about San Francisco without having the Golden Gate Bridge in the story. It’s an amazing piece of art deco art. It’s the establishing shot for every movie that’s set in San Francisco.
Now that readers have talked you into a sequel to A Dirty Job, is there a chance they can prod you into writing a follow-up to your 2002 bestseller: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal?
They keep asking me, but I am bound and determined not to do it. At every book signing, somebody will tell me it’s his favorite book. Then they say, “Can’t you write another?”
But if I write a sequel, let me predict what readers will say. They’ll say, ‘Well, it was good, but not as good as Lamb.’ Why would I want to try to outdo Lamb and then fail and ruin it for everyone?
Better just to leave it alone.
by Christopher Moore
William Morrow, $26.99