You have to be careful when you invite Old Man Coyote over for a visit – you can never be sure what that one will get up to. Of course he's one tricky fellow, which is something you can never forget, but he's also one crazy dude as well and can make your life twenty different kinds of bad news if you're not careful.
Usually a Coyote tale is lots of trouble for those involved in them, especially at the start. When Coyote chases his tail he stirs up a person's life like he's created a little tornado that picks up all the pieces and throws them around like trailers in a trailer park. When he's done chasing that tail he sits there and smiles his big idiot grin like he's done something real special, like he's done the person who the tale is about a real favour.
Now putting an Old Man Coyote tale in the hands of a tricky fellow like Christopher Moore is just asking for a whole bunch of messy circumstances. Christopher Moore has more than a little bit of the contrary nature in him to begin with without him messing around with that Coyote fellow.
Oh sure he looks innocent enough, but he's written all sorts of books about death, religion, cannibalism, sex, vampires and necrophilia. And that was only one book… well, maybe two. But strange things happen in his books, Things usually turn out okay for the people in the books at the end, but there's usually a lot of weirdness before it's all over with.
Coyote Blue is one of those sorts of tales, and with Coyote himself walking through the pages you just know it's going to be even stranger than is normal — if you can even use the word normal for describing a Christopher Moore book — and you're in for a wild ride. Of course not as wild as the guy who Coyote's hitched his little red wagon to.
On the surface Sam Hunter looks like he's got it made. He's in his mid-thirties, makes a fortune, drives a Mercedes, lives in an exclusive condo in one of San Francisco's classiest neighbourhoods. He's an insurance salesman who not only sells every policy he sets out to sell, but owns a chunk of the company as well.
He's also a shell, great to look at on the outside but completely empty on the inside. He's also not really Sam Hunter, but Samuel Hunts Alone from the Montana Crow Indian reservation. At fifteen he pushed a Bureau of Indian Affairs' cop off a bridge and had to leave home, change his name and cut himself off from what little family he used to have.
His parents had died when he was young and he had been raised by his grandmother and his Clan uncle Percy Eagle Wing. People were of two minds about Percy; the rest of the tribe thought he was a crazy old drunken fool and Percy thought he was medicine man. Turns out they were both right, because on Percy's vision quest before entering manhood he had seen his spirit totem and it had been Coyote.
From that point on he knew he was screwed so he just went with it. If that meant living a life completely contrary then he did – he became the example of what you didn't want to be when you grew up that parents would use on miscreant children. You keep that up you'll end up like Percy. That's what Coyote medicine can do to you, or at least that's how Percy would explain things to his nephew.
Of course young Sampson just had to go and see Old Coyote on his vision quest. Percy gave him his medicine bundle of fur and teeth and wished him luck. It wasn't too long after that Sampson was sitting on a bus bound for somewhere, far away where no one would know him.
But you can't escape who you are forever. Sooner or later you're going to have to own up to it. At least sometimes it can be for a good reason. On the day Coyote walks back into Sam's life Calliope Kincaid walks in as well. In fact you can say that Coyote introduced them – if you call sticking a knife into her tire and giving her a flat so Sam can offer her a drive an introduction.
The price he has to pay for Calliope is giving up his shinning fake life. Coyote makes sure of that by getting him booted from his condo by turning into his animal self and having his way with all the cats in the complex before eating them; threatening two clients of Sam's to the extent that they are going to press charges against his company; and sending bikers after his landlord.
But he gets the girl, sort of. He gets too freaked out by losing his life and makes Coyote fix it so that he keeps his job and his apartment. But now he's lost the girl. He has to make a choice about which is more important and in the end he goes with his heart. Aided, abetted, and equal parts frustrated by Old Man Coyote he manages to find Calliope just outside of Las Vegas.
She's chasing down the father of her child who's stolen him and taken him on a run with his motorcycle gang. These are fun-loving chaps into liquid speed and PCP for professional and recreational purposes, so aren't the easiest to come to terms with over issues like child custody.
Somehow or other they all end up back on Crow Reservation in Montana where everything gets played out in the end. After chasing his tail for close to twenty years, this Coyote tale brought Sam home to where he was Samuel Hunts Alone a real person not Sam Hunter all façade and shiny finish with a hollow core.
The Crow people believe that Coyote created the world and human beings so he could have people tell stories about him to keep him alive for all time. Sometimes even the Gods have to die for a while and then all that remains are their stories we tell each other.
Christopher Moore in Coyote Blue has written a Coyote story that is funny, and sad at the same time. Like all good Coyote stories it gives a life lesson or two; in this case they are finding out what is truly important in life and being true to who you are. Perhaps it's because it was the first book of his that I read, but I still think of it as his best one. The characters are strong and the plot is great and the story moves at the perfect pace. That he's caught the essence of a Coyote story to perfection a well doesn't hurt.
I love to see Old Man Coyote chasing his tail and Christopher Moore has done a great job with this book of keeping Old Man Coyote alive for anybody who cares to catch a glimpse of the tricky bugger. Just be careful that you don't get left holding the bag – or some other part of his anatomy that he's decided he doesn't want to use at the moment.