What if an aging, unsuccessful Minnesota author of history books with names like Old von Steuben Had a Farm: The German-American Settlement of the Midwest decided he could write a book every bit as vapid and ridiculous as the books that sold four hundred times more copies than his own? Well, he would write Death Rat, of course, the thrilling tale of a man who battles prejudice, his inner demons, and a cunning six-foot-long rat.
And what if he was told by publishers that, at sixty years of age, though his book was a thrilling read, he just didn’t look the part of a virile writer of gripping adventure books featuring cunning six-foot-long rats? Well, he would cook up a scheme so outrageous, it would incur the wrath of Gus Bromstad, the beloved author of the homespun Dogwood Downs series of books. And it would stir up the bizarre religious fervor of King Leo, the libidinous funk superstar whose CD “LoveDeathTomorrowJelly” was one of the biggest sellers of the decade. And it would throw him into a strange symbiotic relationship with the entire town of Holey, Minnesota, population 38.
Such is the fate of one Pontius Feeb, the hapless author of Death Rat. . . and perhaps the fate of all who attempt to write gripping novels featuring cunning six-foot-long rats.
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Michael J. Nelson is an actor, writer, director, and musician who served as head writer for ten seasons, and on-air host for five seasons, of the television series Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was also the composer of most of MST3K's original music, and is coauthor of The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide (1996). Nelson lives in Minneapolis with his wife, writer-performer Bridget Jones, and their two children.From Publishers Weekly:
If the title of Nelson's book makes it sound more like tabloid "fact" than fiction, it's no accident. This first novel by the author of two previous collections of humorous essays (Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese and Mike Nelson's Mind over Matters) is indebted to more than one genre. After being called an anachronism, Pontius Feeb, the aptly named 60-year-old author of archly titled but otherwise dull books about his native Minnesota, is abruptly fired from his day job at a trade journal. In desperation, he concocts a wild yarn about gold hunters in the northern reaches of the state being terrorized a century ago by a six-foot-long rat. Since book agents refuse to consider an aging author, Feeb enlists a strapping, none-too-bright sometime actor to impersonate him. The book sells almost at once, and for big money. Unfortunately, the actor assumes the tale is sensationalist nonfiction, and so do the publishers, sending poor Feeb into a panic. Nelson, the former writer and host of Mystery Science Theater 3000, ratchets up the comedy as Feeb is pursued by a host of irate Minnesotans and by King Leo, a popular funk music star who has plans of his own for Feeb's book. The narrative rattles along at a hectic pace, but the point is really Nelson's parody of the publishing and pop music industries, which is best taken in small doses. Even fans may decide they prefer Nelson straight up, unencumbered by the trappings of fiction.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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