Divine Lunacy is a rollicking comic novel about a deadly serious subject. Author Kevin Gallagher's satiric sword is razor-sharp and cuts a wide swath through a rich cast of characters out of Dante's Inferno by way of Ring Lardner and Damon Runyon.
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Just because a priest fools around with little boys doesn¿t mean he can¿t aspire to Catholicism¿s Triple Crown. In Divine Lunacy, billed as a dark comedy, Kevin E. Gallagher sets himself a daunting task: to write a very funny novel on something deadly serious ¿ child molestation. That he succeeds admirably ¿ and without ever detracting from the gravity of the subject matter - is a tribute to his acerbic wit and his skill as an equal-opportunity satirist. Obeying the cardinal rule of that genre, he leaves no one unoffended. Jonathan Swift would beam with pride. The setting is Orange County, California, home of Disneyland, the Angels, and John Wayne Airport. A bastion of fiscal conservatism, it has a population whose income can be calculated in the hundreds of millions, yet the county government has declared bankruptcy and the courthouse has all the ambiance of a Third World outhouse. When county paramedic Philip Lynch is called upon to aid a stricken priest at his old parish, he finds a fat orca of a prelate with red velvet women¿s underwear beneath his clerical garb who whispers in his ear, 'I¿ve always loved you.' At first he attributes it to delirium, but to his utter horror suddenly realizes that this is Father Patrick Ratterman, who molested him years ago when Lynch was an altar boy. Soon Phil Lynch is engaged in a devil¿s dance with Harry Block, a corrupt, politically ambitious district attorney out to convict Ratterman at any cost. He has no compunction about blackmailing Lynch into manufacturing evidence and lying under oath, which makes Phil feel like¿s he¿s sold his soul to right a moral wrong. Phil Lynch is a natural victim, a man who wants to do good with enough scruples to be at the mercy of everyone else¿s agenda. And agendas there are aplenty. By nailing Ratterman, Harry Block wants to win a judgeship. Phil¿s on-and-off lover, Sheila 'Big Gulp' Schwartz, wants to nail Block legally and Phil sexually. Phil¿s widowed mother Agnes, formerly Block¿s lover, wants to nail everybody and has even installed a ramp to her door for the disabled. Her friend Graveyard Mame loves Bags Boyle, who tips pints of vodka into his colostomy bag. Block¿s chief investigator, Johnny Gowan, is working on his third liver even though he hasn¿t stopped drinking; his wife, a German/Haitian, practices voodoo. Phil¿s best friend and fellow paramedic Fadda swings hundred-pound weights tied to his testicles and practices obscure Asian disciplines. Phil¿s former high school girlfriend, the 300-pound ex-nun Linda Tucker, now Father Ratterman¿s defense attorney, also is willing to forge evidence ¿ and reacquaint Phil with her mountainous charms. Her hangout is a gay/biker bar called The Rear Entry, whose patrons are her clients. When Harry Block attends a campaign rally there, Phil tells him, 'You¿ve got the Gay Nazis for Christ vote all sewn up.' And then there¿s Phil¿s half-brother Almost, floating in a pickle jar full of Amaretto. . . Plot twists abound, labyrinthine in their complexity. Acting as an undercover informant for Sheila Schwartz, Phil helps Linda Tucker in an attempt to trap Block in a sex scandal. Somehow (after a knife¿s been held to his throat) Phil ends up marrying their 'bait,' the lovely whore/nurse/Mexican revolutionary Consuela, who turns out to be the love of his life ¿ and untouchable. The love of her life, her husband Raul, had his face eaten off by Mexican Army dogs. At the center of this mad fable is the creepy Father Ratterman who, prosecuted and persecuted, rise Phoenix-like from the ashes of his humiliation ¿ named a monsignor, appointed a cardinal, ultimately packed off to Rome. Phil¿s last televised glimpse of the pedophilic padre shows him standing on a balcony overlooking Vatican Square, his arm fondly draped around an altar boy¿s shoulder. By then Harry Block has hi