Thursday, May 8, 2008

Friday "forgotten" book: Gary Jennings's THE LIVELY LIVES OF CRISPIN MOBEY

Here's the Locus Index's accounting of this book, easily the most obscure title by bestselling writer Gary Jennings after he began publishing his string of huge successes, including Aztec and Spangle:

The Lively Lives of Crispin Mobey (as by) Gabriel Quyth (Macmillan Atheneum 0-689-12023-0, Oct ’88 [Feb ’89], $18.95, 243pp, hc) [Crispin Mobey]; Humorous fantasy fix-up novel of nine stories featuring missionary Crispin Mobey. Quyth is a pseudonym for Gary Jennings. Published in 1988 but not seen until 1989.

1 · Sooner or Later or Never Never [as by Gary Jennings] · nv F&SF May ’72
39 · Kingdom Come [as by Gary Jennings] · nv F&SF Jan ’78
66 · Lhude Sing Cuccu! [as by Gary Jennings] · nv F&SF Sep ’77
93 · Let Us Prey [as by Gary Jennings] · nv F&SF Jun ’78
117 · Be Jubilant My Feet! [as by Gary Jennings] · ss F&SF Dec ’78
142 · Ignis Fatuus [as by Gary Jennings] · ss F&SF Sep ’79
169 · P.U. · ss
193 · Homo Sap [as by Gary Jennings] · nv F&SF Mar ’79
217 · Not with a Bang But a Bleep [as by Gary Jennings] · nv F&SF Jun ’77

Now, I have to admit I've never held a copy of this book, so I believe I've never been able to read the story "P.U." (the comedy of humors rules OK in these memorable bit has the Reverend discover, much to his immediate chagrin, The Kindergarten Guide to Gonorrhea, the first page of which is inevitably "See Dick run"). You will not be surprised to learn that old P.U. is our bumptious missionary protagonist's alma mater, as I remember it...for I read all the Mobey stories I could find in back issues and as they were published in '78 and later in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Jennings, who like Richard McKenna, Allan Eckert and Michael Shaara before him was a no-two-ways about it fantasy and sf writer before Hitting Big with historical fiction, the next field over in one direction, also published such wonderful, terrifying fiction as "How We Pass the Time in Hell" in F&SF (November 1971, for that one) and elsewhere (well, "How..." certainly made an impression on young me, with its ultraviolet humor and bleak invention).

Mobey, of the SoPrim or Southern Primitive Baptist Church, can't help but stumble upon outre or utterly supernatural phenomena in his attempt to somewhat hamhandedly spread the good word, misunderstanding as much of what's going on around him as he possibly can most of the time. Jennings apparently didn't think his bestseller audience was quite ready for the caustic portrayal of religion and so much else in these stories, so he published the book under that odd pseudonym, and Atheneum apparently did little to draw much attention to the book, even with a coy Guess-Who campaign.

I certainly would've bought a copy back when. And, if one can be had reasonably, might yet soon.

The other Friday Forgotten Books are findable at Patti Abbott's blog, here.

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