The story revolves around a group of misfits who work for a publisher of various tabloid newspapers including the title paper. (It’s almost a very twisted version of The Secret of Lost Things.) The misfits include publisher, Nathan, who spends most of the day in his office keeping his employees at bay through the use of a small blow gun which he uses to fire darts more or less randomly. Hattie, the lone female writer on staff, does all of the romance tabloids and can twist just about every situation into a potential article. The tabloids photograpy and artwork is all done by Fernando who dreams of painting giant murals of beautiful women and will begin to do so if left alone in a room with a big white wall for more than a few minutes.
They spend their workdays trying to come up with good headlines, because it’s all about the headline. Once you have that, the stories write themselves. The narrator, Howard, is the editor-in-chief of the Midnight Examiner but he is also the organizing brains behind the publisher’s other tabloids: Young Nurse Romance, Brides Tell All, Macho Man, Knockers, Bottoms and Real Detective. He is starting a new tabloid called Prophecy which is aimed at the untapped Christian Evangelical market.
Enter Mitzi Mouse, a sometimes model on the run from the mob and in need of Howard’s help. Soon the entire staff of Chameleon Publications is embroiled in a burglary attempt, a mob hit, a voodoo priestess and a seedy cab-driver in a story that could only take place after dark in New York City. The plot is fantastic but it never becomes too over-the-top to believe, just enough to be delightful.
I found out about The Midnight Examiner from a posting on a book blog. I cannot remember which one but I do remember that the blogger lived in the U.K. I’m glad I did. The Midnight Examiner is a lot of fun. The writer’s at Chameleon Publications and the people they meet are all interesting characters with a surprising amount of depth for what is basically a farce. Mr. Kotzwinkle has a good time skewering the tabloids and America’s obsession with them, but I get the feeling that he is himself something of a fan.
My favorite character is Hattie who writes for several romance tabloids and always speaks in headlines. Take this scene for instance:
I took her slender arm in my hand. “Mitzi’s producer interrupted her coffee break, so she shot him.”
Hattie brought out her notebook and pencil. “I Told My Boss–One Day You’ll Go Too Far.”
Who hasn’t been there? The rest of the humor in the book is just like that, so if you like that then this is the book for you. If you don’t, it’s not. As for me, now that I’ve found William Kotzwinkle, I’m going to keep an eye out for more of his books.
One of the interesting things about re-posting all of these reviews from my old blog, Ready When You Are, C.B., is the number of author’s I promised to read more of and never did. I’ve looked for William Kotzwinkle a couple of times, but never found anything more on the shelf. If I ever do……