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The Serpent of Venice: A Novel


New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore channels William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe in The Serpent of Venice, a satiric Venetian gothic that brings back the Pocket of Dog Snogging, the eponymous hero of Fool, along with his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff.

Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy of Britain and France, and widower of the ...

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The Serpent of Venice

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New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore channels William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe in The Serpent of Venice, a satiric Venetian gothic that brings back the Pocket of Dog Snogging, the eponymous hero of Fool, along with his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff.

Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy of Britain and France, and widower of the murdered Queen Cordelia: the rascal Fool Pocket.

This trio of cunning plotters—the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago—have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of spirits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio’s beautiful daughter, Portia.

But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn’t even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he’s got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve.

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Editorial Reviews

Carl Hiaasen
“Shakespeare and Poe might be rolling in their graves, but they’re rolling with laughter. Christopher Moore is one of the cleverest, naughtiest writers alive.”
Moore’s greatest asset is his skill with language. Readers with a certain Monty Python nerdiness will rejoice in its hundreds of insults . . . and jokes. . . . [W]itty and wise . . . Serpent is a bright, quick novel.” (3 out of 4 stars)
Louisville Courier Journal on THE SERPENT OF VENICE
“The dialogue is extremely witty, and . . . you will laugh hard and find yourself hurling bawdy insults throughout the day, even if you don’t say them out lout.”
Dallas Morning News on THE SERPENT OF VENICE
“Moore . . . is an excellent writer, and there are passages of prose—Pocket’s defense of Othello and the entire Pound-of-Flesh trial—that sparkle with Moore’s trademark wit and intelligence. Moore’s strength is his ability to appropriate supporting characters and make them wholly his own creations.
“To get a sense of the tone, imagine the merry pranksters of Monty Python in their heyday taking off on Shakespeare while simultaneously trying to break the record for F-bombs currently held by The Wolf of Wall Street.
“A gleeful and wonderfully strange mash-up. Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, and Othello are its chief ingredients, with Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ thrown in. The result? An imaginative, wildly inspired satire.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram on THE SERPENT OF VENICE
“[Moore] brings back one of his favorite characters, Pocket from 2009’s Fool. . . . Add a weirdly satisfying combo of literary in-jokes and low sex gags to the mix and what comes out of the Christopher Moore meat grinder is unique and sublime.” on THE SERPENT OF VENICE
The Serpent of Venice is a remarkable reimagining of classic literature, churned through historical backgrounds and research and set to a different drum. Tragedy becomes comedy in this side-splitting, hair-raising adventure. . . . A piece of literary gold.”
Publishers Weekly
Moore’s mash-up of Othello and The Merchant of Venice with Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” is a standout sequel to Fool, his twisted retelling of King Lear from 2009. After a dastardly trio of Venetians (including Iago) plot to bury alive Pocket the fool for thwarting an attempt to cook up a new Crusade from which they’d hoped to profit, he is saved by what he believes is a seriously horny mermaid. He washes up in Venice’s Jewish ghetto and is rescued by Shylock’s lovably abrasive daughter, Jessica. She leaves with Pocket, hoping to elope with a Venetian gentile with whom she is in love, as he attempts to rescue his motley companions with his friend Othello’s help, and to warn the general that a plot’s afoot. Moore’s imaginative storytelling, bawdy prose, puns aplenty, as well as his creation of a violent sea creature intent on helping Fool’s cause, and Jessica’s “piratey” disguise, succeed in transforming two classical tragedies into outrageously farcical entertainment. In conjunction with the historical setting, the humor also allows Moore to skewer greed, hypocrisy, and racism—e.g., Middle Eastern wars for profit, segregation (in this instance, of the Jews)—all of which are still endemic in modern culture. (Apr.)
Library Journal
★ 12/01/2013
Pocket of Dog Snogging, the eponymous hero of Moore's best seller Fool, is back and better (though not bigger) than ever. While serving in Venice as the envoy of the queen of Britain and France, the recently deceased Cordelia, Pocket gets enmeshed in and runs afoul of the plan of three prominent Venetians to start a war for their own profit and political benefit. Drugged, walled up in a wine cellar, and left to die, Pocket is rescued by a mythical, and quite amorous, creature and finds himself in a perfect position to foil everyone's nefarious plots and see to it that all involved get what they deserve, whether they like it or not. VERDICT Add one part Merchant of Venice, one part Othello, a dash of Edgar Allan Poe, and a ghost (there's always a bloody ghost), and season liberally with Moore's sardonic wit, and you have the recipe for a laugh-out-loud good time that would leave Shakespeare himself chuckling. Fans of Fool will be overjoyed to rejoin Pocket and company (his apprentice Drool, his puppet Jones, and his monkey Jeff) for their latest adventure, and newcomers will find that Shakespeare isn't nearly as dry and dusty as they thought, at least not when Moore is at the helm. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 10/20/13; 12-city tour.]—Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L., Pensacola
Kirkus Reviews
Iago from Shakespeare's Othello, Antonio, the titular merchant of Venice, and Monstressor Brabantio from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" walk into a bar…. It's a joke but it's quite a complicated one in the latest historical farce from Moore (Sacre Bleu, 2012, etc.). In this follow-up to Fool (2009), Moore brings back Pocket of Dog Snogging, his prodigious companion, Drool, and pet monkey Jeff for another round of satirizing the Bard of Avon by way of the Marx Brothers. After trouncing King Lear, Moore has decided a mashup is in order, reconciling its multiple inspirations to a mythical Venice circa 1299. Pocket starts his new adventure poorly, having been walled into Poe's fictional prison by Brabantio, where he's reduced to talking to the Chorus (there's always a bloody chorus). "I am not bloody mad, you berk," he exclaims, to which the Chorus replies, "You're shouting at a disembodied voice in the dark." Bid by his queen, Cordelia, to travel to the sunken kingdom of Venice to help the Moor, Othello, and stop a conspiracy forged in greed from prosecuting a crusade, Pocket fumbles his way through a complicated adventure buoyed by Moore's half-cocked Shakespearean dialogue, puerile humor and ceaseless banter. The setting helps the author's cause, lending a rich historical backdrop that includes trade disputes, political intrigue and Shakespearean spectacle. Readers who are steeped in Shakespeare and aren't too sensitive will enjoy outrageous lines like, "Cry havoc, and let slip the trousers of most outrageous bonkilation!" Purists are better advised to stick with safer adaptations, where they're less likely to encounter Marco Polo lollygagging in a Venetian prison, the prodigious use of perennial Moore vulgarities ("Fuckstockings!") or our hero shagging a dragon. It is, as the author himself calls it, an abomination, but fans who enjoyed the rollicking play within a play of Fool or the historical whimsy of Sacre Bleu will find many of the same gifts here. Fool's gold, replete with junk jokes, from one of America's most original humorists.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061779770
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/17/2015
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 132,187
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore is the author of thirteen previous novels, including Lamb, The Stupidest Angel, Fool, Sacré Bleu, and A Dirty Job. He lives in San Francisco, California.


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Whence come these wonderfully weird scenarios? From the fertile imagination of Christopher Moore, a cheerfully demented writer whose absurdist fiction has earned him comparisons to master satirists like Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams.

Ever since his ingenious debut, 1992's Practical Demonkeeping, Moore has attracted an avid cult following. But, over the years, as his stories have become more multi-dimensional and his characters more morally complex, his fan base has expanded to include legions of enthusiastic general readers and appreciative critics.

Asked where his colorful characters come from, Moore points to his checkered job resume. Before becoming a writer, he worked at various times as a grocery clerk, an insurance broker, a waiter, a roofer, a photographer, and a DJ -- experiences he has mined for a veritable rogue's gallery of unforgettable fictional creations. Moreover, to the delight of hardcore fans, characters from one novel often resurface in another. For example, the lovesick teen vampires introduced in 1995's Bloodsucking Fiends are revived (literally) for the 2007 sequel You Suck -- which also incorporates plot points from 2006's A Dirty Job.

For a writer of satirical fantasy, Moore is a surprisingly scrupulous researcher. In pursuit of realistic details to ground his fiction, he has been known to immerse himself in marine biology, death rituals, Biblical scholarship, and Goth culture. He has been dubbed "the thinking man's Dave Barry" by none other than The Onion, a publication with a particular appreciation of smart humor.

As for story ideas, Moore elaborates on his website: "Usually [they come] from something I read. It could be a single sentence in a magazine article that kicks off a whole book. Ideas are cheap and easy. Telling a good story once you get an idea is hard." Perhaps. But, to judge from his continued presence on the bestseller lists, Chris Moore appears to have mastered the art.

Good To Know

In researching his wild tales, Moore has done everything from taking excursions to the South Pacific to diving with whales. So what is left for the author to tackle? He says he'd like to try riding an elephant.

One of the most memorably weird moments in Moore's body of work is no fictional invention. The scene in Bloodsucking Fiendswhere the late-night crew of a grocery store bowls with frozen turkeys is based on Moore's own experiences bowling with frozen turkeys while working the late shift at a grocery store.

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    1. Hometown:
      Hawaii and San Francisco, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 5, 1958
    2. Place of Birth:
      Toledo, Ohio

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