The subtitle for Night of the Avenging Blowfish is “A Novel of Covert Operations, Love, and Luncheon Meat.” This should immediately tell you something about the nature of the book; not quite slapstick, but populated with enough characters straight out of Seinfeld (except not as contrived and banal) and delivered with enough one-liners to make me laugh out loud. Consider this:
My pen ran out of ink. In the chair next to me, Yamato was reaching inside his coat pockets and his shirt pocket and then his pants pockets to find a pen so he could take notes during the briefing.
“Do you have an extra pen?” Yamato said.
“Use this,” I said, handing him my pen.
Yamato tried writing something on his pad, then frowned at me and said, “This is out of ink.”
“I know. That’s why I don’t want it.”
“Do you have a pen that works?” Yamato asked.
“That one works. It just doesn’t have any ink in it,” I said.
Having just finished the book, I can say definitively that it was good or bad or weak or rushed or any adjective but “fascinating.” In a way, Welter’s writing style reminds me of my own when I was 16. Certainly, he’s much better at it than I am, but the style of narration he chose for the novel is the sort that routinely wanders off into a discussion of something completely unrelated to the plot. It’s not quite stream-of-consciousness, but at times can be just as random and stultifying.
The plot of the novel centers around Doyle Coldiron, a slacker Secret Service agent who allows the president to be fed Spam, and is completely batshit crazy for a married woman named Natelle who works in the White House. He and his Secret Service buddies play a game of baseball in the dark; Yamato falls for a militant vegetarian; Doyle ponders just what a “beguine” is. But by far, the locus of the plot is the troubled relationship between Doyle and Natelle, as well as their insecurities and sexualities. By the end of the novel, I had the feeling that Night of the Avenging Blowfish, despite its whimsical airs, was a very serious love story in a wrapper of wry humor and a plethora of light-hearted literary references. But damned if the love story doesn’t manage to be engaging, and most of all, not trite. I would have liked to see it fleshed out (ha!) even further, but at the frantic pace that the story (especially the dialog) moves along, anything more than the ≈300 pages it was.
It’s not a hard read at all, and is enjoyable despite my mixed feelings. If you want a quick break between drier reads, here’s one for your list.