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A Dirty Job
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A Dirty Job

4.5 406
by Christopher Moore

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Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy. A little hapless, somewhat neurotic, sort of a hypochondriac. He's what's known as a Beta Male: the kind of fellow who makes his way through life by being careful and constant — you know, the one who's always there to pick up the pieces when the girl gets dumped by the bigger/taller/stronger Alpha Male.



Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy. A little hapless, somewhat neurotic, sort of a hypochondriac. He's what's known as a Beta Male: the kind of fellow who makes his way through life by being careful and constant — you know, the one who's always there to pick up the pieces when the girl gets dumped by the bigger/taller/stronger Alpha Male.

But Charlie's been lucky. He owns a building in the heart of San Francisco, and runs a secondhand store with the help of a couple of loyal, if marginally insane, employees. He's married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. And she, Rachel, is about to have their first child.

Yes, Charlie's doing okay for a Beta. That is, until the day his daughter, Sophie, is born. Just as Charlie — exhausted from the birth — turns to go home, he sees a strange man in mint-green golf wear at Rachel's hospital bedside, a man who claims that no one should be able to see him. But see him Charlie does, and from here on out, things get really weird. . . .

People start dropping dead around him, giant ravens perch on his building, and it seems that everywhere he goes, a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Strange names start appearing on his nightstand notepad, and before he knows it, those people end up dead, too. Yup, it seems that Charlie Asher has been recruited for a new job, an unpleasant but utterly necessary one: Death. It's a dirty job. But hey, somebody's gotta do it.

Christopher Moore, the man whose Lamb served up Jesus' "missing years" (with the funny parts left in), and whose Fluke found the deep humor in whale researchers' lives, now shines his comic light on the undiscovered country we all eventually explore — death and dying — and the results are hilarious, heartwarming, and a hell of a lot of fun.

Editorial Reviews

Gregory Maguire
“Dizzyingly inventive and hypnotically engaging, A DIRTY JOB is . . . like no other book I’ve ever read.”
Hartford Courant
“Death, of course, is not usually a funny subject, but in the hands of Christopher Moore it sure is.”
Syracuse Post-Standard
“Outlandishly funny.”
Denver Post
“A bravura mix of the familiar and the hilariously original.”
Washington Post Book World
“Outstanding . . . The dialogue follows a zany illogic worthy of the Marx brothers.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Moore’s signature tossed-off humor is in full effect, and it’s easy to care about his warm, lumpy, honest characters.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“[Moore’s] most speculative, tripped-out and deeply felt book to date.”
Rocky Mountain News
“To keep a straight face while reading this book, one would have to be dead already ... Grade: A.”
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
“My top pick for laugh-out-loud reading . . . dark, dark, dark and funny, funny, funny.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“[A DIRTY JOB] will keep a smile on your face long after you put it down.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
From the twisted imagination of Christopher Moore (The Stupidest Angel, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, et al.) comes a dark -- and wonderfully weird -- novel about a hapless San Francisco thrift shop owner recruited to become a soul collector for the Scythe Wielder himself, Death.

Charlie Asher is a typical Beta Male. He's not exceptionally handsome or tall or strong, and he's definitely not the heroic type. But the slightly neurotic Asher has a good life; he owns a secondhand store in San Francisco, and his wife, Rachel, is about to give birth to their first child. Then the unthinkable happens: Asher's wife dies shortly after giving birth to a baby girl. When Asher inexplicably witnesses a Merchant of Death (a seven-foot black dude named Minty Fresh, who sports a green suit and is invisible to everyone else) enter the hospital room and take his wife's soul, he too becomes involved in the soul re-acquisitioning business. Accompanied by two giant hellhounds and his trusty sword-cane, Asher's dirty job leads him to an apocalyptic confrontation with the real forces of darkness…

Comparable to works from popular satirical authors like Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, Terry Pratchett, and Paul Di Filippo, Moore's blend of dark fantasy, supernatural mystery, and absurdist fiction will have readers irresistibly hooked from the first page to the last. Chock-full of laugh-out-loud sequences and more than a few profoundly moving morsels of existentialist insight, A Dirty Job handles some highly sensitive subjects (terminal illness, grief and healing, the afterlife, etc.) with both humor and reverence -- a truly twisted masterwork. Paul Goat Allen
Paul Di Filippo
A Dirty Job is an outstanding addition to his canon. Protagonist Charlie Asher is a naturally cautious and timid soul, content with life as the proprietor of a junk shop. What sustains him is his marvelous wife, Rachel, who he can hardly believe ever consented to be his mate. And now that Rachel has delivered their first child, Sophie, Charlie's life seems complete. Of course, the birth of a daughter gives him lots of new apprehensions about mortality and the future, but in a superb example of Moore's narrative cunning, Charlie's dreads are misdirected. As the book begins, he loses not Sophie but Rachel to a "cerebral thromboembolism." Bad enough. But to complicate matters, a tall man dressed garishly in green, whom only Charlie can see, is at Rachel's side when she dies. And the fellow steals Rachel's favorite CD -- now oddly aglow with her disembodied soul -- in the confusion.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Moore spends a significant portion of his new novel speculating on the nature of the careful, cautious beta male, so it's appropriate that Stevens, reading the novel, sounds like one himself, gently picking his way through the blackly comic tangles of the book's dense plot. Charlie Asher's life is thrown into chaos when his beloved wife unexpectedly dies, and while trying to recover a sense of balance, he finds himself suddenly surrounded by the dead and dying. Stevens's voice is professional and assured, letting the jokes take care of themselves rather than pounding them into submission. Most importantly, Stevens's average-guy voice stands in for Charlie's own increasingly puzzled demeanor, besieged by a world which makes less and less sense, in which the realm of the dead grows ever larger. Simultaneous release with the Morrow hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 20). (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Have you ever wondered about the beta male's place in history-as opposed to alpha males of course? I haven't. But here comes fantasist/satirist Moore to explain more than we ever suspected about beta masculinity. He does this in the tale of Charlie Asher, a mild-mannered secondhand dealer, who walked in while Death was collecting his wife's soul and then became Death himself-well, Death with a small d, a sort of helper death, responsible for a section of San Francisco. If the idea of Death having a legion of helpers (like Santa with his department store doubles) isn't bizarre enough, there is also a rising of the Forces of Darkness (represented by Macha, Nemain, and Badb, the Morrigans of Irish myth), guardian hellhounds named Alvin and Muhammed, the ever-helpful Squirrel People, and the rebirth of the Luminatus (Death with a capital D). This is Moore's eighth modern fantasy (Practical Demonkeeping, The Stupidest Angel, etc.), and he is superb in this mock epic of death and love. Smart people will be enormously amused. Death-it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it! Recommended for all public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05.]-Ken St. Andre, Phoenix P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Contemporary fantasy and New Age fiction take another good-natured licking in Moore's ninth, which bears strong resemblances to his Practical Demonkeeping (1992) and Bloodsucking Fiends (1995). It's set in San Francisco, where mildly nerdy thrift-shop proprietor Charlie Asher experiences unprecedented stages of grief after his wife Rachel gives birth to their daughter Sophie, then dies. The presence at Rachel's bedside of a tall black man wearing green hospital scrubs foreshadows appearances by people who give off a reddish glow just before expiring, leading Charlie to confront the tall black man (named, for no particular reason, Minty Fresh), who explains that Charlie has (like Fresh himself) become a "Death Merchant," assigned "to retrieve soul vessels" from the dead and dying, and convey them to new host bodies. Okay, this seems plausible. But plots thicken as Charlie undertakes (so to speak) his new duties, aided and abetted and abused by his Punk Goth teenaged store-clerk Lily, his take-charge lesbian sister Jane, his ethnic tenants Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Korjev, the self-proclaimed homeless Emperor of San Francisco (on loan from Bloodsucking Fiends) and precociously paranormal Sophie, who exhibits Herculean toddler powers, while being guarded by two gigantic slavering "Goggies" (actually, they're "hellhounds"). Complicating matters are Dark Forces that congregate in sewers, drive a vintage Cadillac and threaten to make dying even more unpleasant by unleashing chaos and Armageddon and all that stuff. Charlie retrieves his lost sex life and, having become a "Luminatus" with a killer workload, maintains universal order, thanks to the Emperor and the "squirrel people" (don't ask), and aclimactic shoot-out provoked when a black ship of death sails into Frisco Bay. The lunacy is appealing, but the book, alas, is way, way too long. Not quite to die for, then, but one of the antic Moore's funniest capers yet.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

A Dirty Job

A Novel
By Christopher Moore

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Christopher Moore
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060590270

Chapter One

Because I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me

Charlie Asher walked the earth like an ant walks on the surface of water, as if the slightest misstep might send him plummeting through the surface to be sucked to the depths below. Blessed with the Beta Male imagination, he spent much of his life squinting into the future so he might spot ways in which the world was conspiring to kill him -- him; his wife, Rachel; and now, newborn Sophie. But despite his attention, his paranoia, his ceaseless fretting from the moment Rachel peed a blue stripe on the pregnancy stick to the time they wheeled her into recovery at St. Francis Memorial, Death slipped in.

"She's not breathing," Charlie said.

"She's breathing fine," Rachel said, patting the baby's back. "Do you want to hold her?"

Charlie had held baby Sophie for a few seconds earlier in the day, and had handed her quickly to a nurse insisting that someone more qualified than he do some finger and toe counting. He'd done it twice and kept coming up with twenty-one.

"They act like that's all there is to it. Like if the kid has the minimum ten fingers and ten toes it's all going to be fine. What if there are extras? Huh? Extra-creditfingers? What if the kid has a tail?" (Charlie was sure he'd spotted a tail in the six-month sonogram. Umbilical indeed! He'd kept a hard copy.)

"She doesn't have a tail, Mr. Asher," the nurse explained. "And it's ten and ten, we've all checked. Perhaps you should go home and get some rest."

"I'll still love her, even with her extra finger."

"She's perfectly normal."

"Or toe."

"We really do know what we're doing, Mr. Asher. She's a beautiful, healthy baby girl."

"Or a tail."

The nurse sighed. She was short, wide, and had a tattoo of a snake up her right calf that showed through her white nurse stockings. She spent four hours of every workday massaging preemie babies, her hands threaded through ports in a Lucite incubator, like she was handling a radioactive spark in there. She talked to them, coaxed them, told them how special they were, and felt their hearts fluttering in chests no bigger than a balled-up pair of sweat socks. She cried over every one, and believed that her tears and touch poured a bit of her own life into the tiny bodies, which was just fine with her. She could spare it. She had been a neonatal nurse for twenty years and had never so much as raised her voice to a new father.

"There's no goddamn tail, you doofus! Look!" She pulled down the blanket and aimed baby Sophie's bottom at him like she might unleash a fusillade of weapons-grade poopage such as the guileless Beta Male had never seen.

Charlie jumped back -- a lean and nimble thirty, he was -- then, once he realized that the baby wasn't loaded, he straightened the lapels on his tweed jacket in a gesture of righteous indignation. "You could have removed her tail in the delivery room and we'd never know." He didn't know. He'd been asked to leave the delivery room, first by the ob-gyn and finally by Rachel. ("Him or me," Rachel said. "One of us has to go.")

In Rachel's room, Charlie said: "If they removed her tail, I want it. She'll want it when she gets older."

"Sophie, your Papa isn't really insane. He just hasn't slept for a couple of days."

"She's looking at me," Charlie said. "She's looking at me like I blew her college money at the track and now she's going to have to turn tricks to get her MBA."

Rachel took his hand. "Honey, I don't think her eyes can even focus this early, and besides, she's a little young to start worrying about her turning tricks to get her MFA."

"MBA," Charlie corrected. "They start very young these days. By the time I figure out how to get to the track, she could be old enough. God, your parents are going to hate me."

"And that would be different how?"

"New reasons, that's how. Now I've made their granddaughter a shiksa." "She's not a shiksa, Charlie. We've been through this. She's my daughter, so she's as Jewish as I am."

Charlie went down on one knee next to the bed and took one of Sophie's tiny hands between his fingers. "Daddy's sorry he made you a shiksa." He put his head down, buried his face in the crook where the baby met Rachel's side. Rachel traced his hairline with her fingernail, describing a tight U-turn around his narrow forehead.

"You need to go home and get some sleep."

Charlie mumbled something into the covers. When he looked up there were tears in his eyes. "She feels warm."

"She is warm. She's supposed to be. It's a mammal thing. Goes with the breast-feeding. Why are you crying?"

"You guys are so beautiful." He began arranging Rachel's dark hair across the pillow, brought a long lock down over Sophie's head, and started styling it into a baby hairpiece.

"It will be okay if she can't grow hair. There was that angry Irish singer who didn't have any hair and she was attractive. If we had her tail we could transplant plugs from that."

"Charlie! Go home!"

"Your parents will blame me. Their bald shiksa granddaughter turning tricks and getting a business degree -- it will be all my fault."

Rachel grabbed the buzzer from the blanket and held it up like it was wired to a bomb. "Charlie, if you don't go home and get some sleep right now, I swear I'll buzz the nurse and have her throw you out."

She sounded stern, but she was smiling. Charlie liked looking at her smile, always had; it felt like approval and permission at the same time. Permission to be Charlie Asher.

"Okay, I'll go." He reached to feel her forehead. "Do you have a fever? You look tired."


Excerpted from A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore Copyright © 2006 by Christopher Moore. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Gregory Maguire
“Dizzyingly inventive and hypnotically engaging, A DIRTY JOB is . . . like no other book I’ve ever read.”

Meet the Author

Christopher Moore is the author of fourteen previous novels, including Lamb, The Stupidest Angel, Fool, Sacré Bleu, A Dirty Job, and The Serpent of Venice.

Brief Biography

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

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A Dirty Job 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 406 reviews.
InfantApple More than 1 year ago
Cover caught my eye and I just couldn't help myself. This is the first book I read of Moores and afterwards his name was forever etched in my brain, placed in the must keep and eye out for his books category. Moore has the most interesting imagination out there, when I wasn't laughing myself into tears I was wondering how the heck he came up with this stuff. If you have an offbeat sense of humor and think you can handle a six-foot tall black man named Minty Fresh, Sewer Harpies, and garbage disposal Hell Dogs then I highly recommend this book. At the end of it you will find yourself yelling down manholes, try to find your own pair of Hell dogs, and calling everything strong like bear.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hilarious, like the rest of Moore's work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you do not like this book, then you have absolutely no sense of humor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the most entertaining books I have ever read! I laughed out loud throughout the entire book. The characters were dramatic and amusing and the plot and general scene was perfect. I couldn't ask for a better and more entertaining story. If you like comedies and want to have a laugh...BUY THIS BOOK! By far one of Moore's best works!
Go4Jugular More than 1 year ago
Re-read this in preparation for the now-available sequel - such a pleasure to again hold a Christopher Moore novel. Beta-Male thrift store owner Charlie loses his wife during childbirth, then gradually comes to the realization that he has become one of Death's minions, assigned to collect souls from the dying and pass them along to their next living recipient. With a hilarious cast of irreverent (there is an unwritten rule requiring that word to appear in any Christopher Moore book review) supporting characters, including one of my personal favorites, Mr. Minty Fresh, the plot sizzles along as Charlie battles to save San Francisco, and ultimately the world, from apocalyptic doom in the form of a tripartite Celtic goddess and her demon master. With Sophie, Charlie's daughter, looking to follow her father into the family business (new and old), I'm taking a break only long enough to write this review, then its on to "Secondhand Souls"!
Drewano More than 1 year ago
A rip roaring good time, “A Dirty Job” is fun from start to finish. Great quirky characters, ridiculous antics and great one liners. I really enjoyed the book from start to finish. Well written and imaginative I really enjoyed this and can’t wait to get into book number two in the series!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book and became attached to the characters right away. The only "grip" I had with this book is I was able to get this one for $1.99, but the sequel is $10.99! I was so involved with everyone I had to buy it to find out what happened next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Dirty Job has a novel premise that seems promising, but the one-dimensional characters and painfully forced attempts at humor give it the desperate air of a failed sitcom with a very blatant laugh track. Unrewarding.
ImAdamBailey More than 1 year ago
Moore Please! I love me some Christopher Moore! What I love about a Moore story are the guaranteed laughs, heaping helpings of insanity, and too many lol moments to count. It always feels like I'm saying goodbye to a close friend when the story is over. This was no different. A Dirty Job is an immersive experience filled with wonderful characters that not only made me smile, cringe, and want to barf, but also pulled on my heart strings as I frantically turned the pages all the way to the end. Anyway, 5 stars, and two enthusiastic thumbs way up there!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Weirdly, darkly, laugh out loud funny. I enjoyed it a lot.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He writes the funniest book ever!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first Christopher Moore book I've read and definitely won't be the last. You have to have a sense of humor for the absurd- if you don't, you probably won't care for it. If you do, be prepared for a rollicking good time. I throughly the 'sewer harpies'- I'll probably be using that expression for unpleasant people from now on!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Never understood the story.
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stellamaymarie More than 1 year ago
i love all christopher moore books, but this one may be my favorite. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
See above.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All the heavily neurotic, mildly Jewish, low grade anxiety-riddled joys of family life, and a *really* tall man with a *really* big gun (spoiler alert! He's not our brave protagonist at all! Gasp!). Loved every word in this book.
SukyLC More than 1 year ago
My favorite Moore. Well written characters, great story, and squirrel people! A must read for Moore fans.
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