Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Six Foot Rats?! Not in My Neighborhood, I'm Hoping

Six foot rats?!!?!  Not in my neighborhood, I'm hoping.  Are there such critters out and about?  There are in the world of fiction humor.

Mike Nelson's Death Rat!: a Novel, by Michael J. Nelson, was not, as the author observed elsewhere in an interview, his first title choice (he would have opted to omit his name from the title, but the publisher had other ideas, apparently), but there it is, and we're stuck with it, so we might as well make the best of it.

The title character is the invention of Pontius Feeb, who is best known, if he's known at all, for writing boring academic tomes about Minnesota that nobody reads.  (Familiar territory, Scowl-Face?  Just saying.) After being fired from his "day job" at a trade journal, Feeb finds himself a 60-ish unemployed author whose life's work is virtually unknown and ignored.  Observing the irony that writers of mindless tripe sell millions of copies of their drivel, Feeb decides that he, too, can produce such rubbish and hopes to sell a bunch of books.  So Feeb creates Death Rat!, a fictional account of what appears to be an actual historical event in Northern Minnesota from a century ago, when dangerous, vicious, six-foot rats roamed the countryside.  It's all pure poopie, of course, but the book quickly becomes a runaway best-seller, largely because readers believe that it is sensationalist nonfiction based on actual events.

With best-sellers come endless book tours, and it becomes quickly apparent that nobody wants Feeb to make the trips to flog his book, because, it is feared, nobody will believe that Feeb, a recumbent senior citizen, could have produced such exciting adventure literature as Death Rat!  So Feeb secures a young, strapping, virile, but slightly dim-witted actor to impersonate him on the book tours.

What could possibly go wrong with this scenario?  Well, several other characters become rather angry with Death Rat! and the confusion regarding its fictional or nonfictional status, as well as the true identity of its author.  Michael J. Nelson unfolds his story with characteristic humor and social insight.  You can imagine that Nelson is himself portraying all of his characters, as he might have done when playing incidental characters during the host segments of the early seasons of the television program Mystery Science Theater 3000, when Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson) and the 'Bots were stranded on the Satellite of Love forced to watch bad movies.  Nelson was Head Writer for the series, so he knows how to wisecrack with the best (and MST3K had the best jokesters in the movie-riffing business, a genre they created and nurtured).  The novel (his first) takes some unexpected twists and turns, and if you find yourself laughing out loud, just shrug to bewildered onlookers and say, "Hey, it's funny."  Works for the Lady With the Red Hair.

Mike Nelson's Death Rat! a Novel is available in the Evergreen Indiana online catalog.  Check it out with your E.I. Library Card.  Just keep those giant rats away from my supper dish.

By the way, that angry baby in our book trailer is the spitting image of Scowl-Face, only without the facial hair.  Just saying.

Scowl-Face as an Infant?  Pretty Much

Anybody Notice the Kitty Web-Surfer at the End of Our Book Trailer?  Just Asking,

Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Rattus Norvegicus Giganticus News Beat

P.S.  See Mike Nelson and his cast-mates from MST3K in our handy book trailer.

P.P.S.  To save the Satellite of Love from imminent destruction, Mike Nelson assumes the role of Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001).  Mike's impression is a little too good.  Disturbing?  Yep, and then some.

P.P.P.S.  Perhaps Mike Nelson derived his idea for Death Rat! from awful movies like The Killer Shrews (1959), which the MST3K gang lampooned (as shown in this short extract from the show).

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