Tagging the Moon: Fairy Tales from L. A.

S. P. Somtow, Author
S. P. Somtow, Author Night Shade Books $25 (277p) ISBN 978-1-892389-06-0
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Aka The Terrifying Thai, Somtow has published some 40 horror and fantasy books, including 1998's Bram Stoker-nominated Darker Angel. He sets this collection of 10 stories in the surreal urban nightmare of Los Angeles; most are retellings of children's lore and religious mythology. ""Gingerbread"" is a horrific version of Hansel and Gretel where the witch, a chameleon-like fortune-teller who pimps two homeless children, dies in her own oven. In ""Dr. Rumpole,"" the most imaginative and least violent of these tales, a hack screenwriter outwits a modern-day Rumpelstiltskin. The screenwriter could be talking about all the stories here when he theorizes that ""Dr. Rumpole is an archetypal construct, brought to life by the frenzied collective agony of Hollywood screenwriters... when reality fails you, fairy tale kind of takes over."" ""The Ugliest Duckling"" is a creepy tale of vampirism, while ""A Thief in the Night"" explores the continuing battle between Jesus and the Antichrist, from the latter's point of view. The title story deals with graffiti artists and centers on ill-fated, teenage street kid Bobby Donahue, whose fondest wish is to tag the moon. Thanks to a couple of possibly menacing, possibly imaginary aliens, he may have achieved his wish. Collectively, these stories portray ghostly/ghastly bottom-of-the-barrel L.A. losers in a mostly sympathetic light. One can smell the smog and hear the grinding gears of the city's traffic. Bangkok-born Somtow is also a composer and photographer, and several pages of his photos of his adopted city appear at the end of the book, for the edification, he says, of readers in Bangkok, which is also called City of angels. (July)
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