by Christopher Moore



320pp/$6.99/January 1992

Practical Demonkeeping

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Christopher Moore burst on the fantasy and humor scene in 1992 with the publication of his first novel, Practical Demonkeeping, a "horror" story about Travis O'Hearn's attempts to rid himself of his demon familiar, Catch, who has a nasty tendency to devour people at reasonably inopportune moments.  Actually, the last isn't true.   Catch's first victim of the novel is a cocaine dealer who probably deserves what the demon does to him.

The basic plot of the novel is relatively straight-forward.  Travis, a ninety-year old who hasn't aged since he hooked up with Catch seventy years earlier, has decided he wants to part company with the demon.  Catch views Travis as something of a wimp who has never taken advantage of the powers and opportunities which Catch can offer him.   Practical Demonkeeping tells the story of their search for the means to be separated.

However, Moore throws in several characters, perhaps caricatures is a more apt description, who help and hinder Travis in achieving his goal.  The characters serve as more than just a foil to Travis and Catch.  They all have lives of their own and don't necessarily want or need Travis and Catch to show up to try to cure their problems, which is good because Travis's intentions are merely to retrieve a set of candlesticks which he believes will free him of Catch's influence.

One of the things which makes Practical Demonkeeping work so well is that even as Moore is flinging barbs at the conventions of fantasy and horror novels, he is not afraid to examine serious topics.  Travis talks about trying to reconcile Christian ideas of good and evil with the fact that Catch ate the priest who was preparing to exorcise him.  Rachel has to deal with an abusive husband.  In fact, nearly all of the characters in Practical Demonkeeping have their own demons to deal with.   Travis O'Hearn's just happens to be more visible than most (and more likely to eat other people).

For all the serious interaction between characters, the part of Practical Demonkeeping which stays with the reader long after the book has been closed and placed on the shelf is the humor.  Moore has a good mix of laugh-out-loud lines and smirking situational comedy.  While not all of his jokes manage to hit the mark, the vast majority do.  Fortunately for the person who enjoys Practical Demonkeeping, Moore has continued to write fantastic comedies in a similar vein.

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