Terri Schlichenmeyer: The Bookworm Sez 12-20-10
Sometimes, you imagine the fun you could’ve had.
Every Christmas, you missed out on mayhem, hid from hassles, and avoided all agitation while your partners in crime had a good time without you. Dreaming of piles of presents, you dialed down the mischief to ensure that Santa would be generous but in the end, come to think of it, your pals always got just as much loot as you did.
Don’t blame Santa, though. He only brings toys, and as you’ll see in “The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir” by Ken Harmon, it almost kills him to do it.
About a thousand years ago, give or take, back when Gumdrop Coal started the Coal Patrol, Santa was reluctant to punish bad kids with bad presents but Gumdrop was persuasive. Kids who found lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings had nobody to blame but themselves, according to Gumdrop. For a thousand years, he was proud of the program he started and the job he’d done.
At least he was until he was fired and replaced by his nemesis, Charles “Candy” Cane, who never liked the Coal Patrol.
Being out of a job gave Gumdrop a chance to think, and he began realizing that parents were just as guilty of raising naughty kids as the kids were for being naughty. Maybe it was parents who needed the punishing. But Santa didn’t look too fondly upon one of his Elves physically assaulting a human. He scolded Gumdrop.
And then things got worse: Raymond Hall Senior, Gumdrop’s first punishee, was found dead in his sealed trophy room and Santa started looking kind of sick himself. Since everyone knew about Gumdrop’s little escapade, fingers in Kringle Town pointed straight at the disgruntled former elf-ployee.
Fleeing by ferry to the Island of Misfit Toys, Gumdrop knew that he had to vamoose until he could clear his own name. He also knew that there were a lot of people who wanted to see him framed for something he didn’t do. With the help of his best friend, Dingleberry Fizz and beautiful Marshmallow World Gazette reporter Rosebud Jubilee, Gumdrop Coal tried to solve the crime before his chestnuts were roasted.
What do you get when you add together a 1,300-year-old curmudgeonly elf, a “monster nutcracker” named Tannenbomb, several disenfranchised toys, a Red Ryder BB gun, and a Frank Capra movie? You get “The Fat Man,” and it’ll make you ho-ho-ho.
With definite Raymond-Chandler-ish flair and every Christmas cliche and character you can think of, author Ken Harmon brings a dark and darkly funny world to life in this un-holiday-like holiday book. I loved that Harmon surprised me with pop-culture references of Christmases past and that he put images in my head for Christmases future. Seriously, I’ll never think of Santa’s reindeer in quite the same way again …
If you love to skew tradition a little, of if you’ll have a blue Christmas without a few laughs, you need to find this book. “The Fat Man” more fun than any reindeer games.
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