Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blue Heaven

by Pa Rock

Most reviews of the books of Joe Keenan quickly compare the author to the late British humorist and novelist, P.G. Wodehouse (of "Jeeves and Wooster" fame).  And those comparisons aren't without merit.  Keenan's first novel, Blue Heaven, which I first read a dozen or more years ago and recently re-read, has the sharp (and very funny) dialogue, clever plotting, and classy settings that are so reminiscent of the works of Wodehouse.

Blue Heaven is set in modern New York City.  The narrator is Philip Cavanaugh, a twenty-six-year-old gay man with aspirations of becoming a writer.  Philip's best friend, and former boyfriend, is Gilbert Selwyn.  As the story opens, Philip learns that Gilbert is engaged to be married - to a woman - and not just any woman, but Moira Finch, perhaps the meanest and most conniving female in the whole of the Big Apple.  Nobody likes Moira.

It turns out that Gilbert and Moira had recently run into each other at a wedding.  Both of these young people were focused on living as well as possible with as little effort as necessary.  While at the wedding they noticed the wonderful pile of expensive gifts and envelopes of cash that were being bestowed upon the happy couple, and they soon hatched a plot to become man and wife - for the gifts!

But, their lives being a Keenan novel, problems quickly developed.  Problems such as Gilbert's mother's new husband (and his many, many quirky relatives) being part of the mafia, and Moira's royal (duchess) mother not quite living up to her hype - or pedigree.  And then there were psychotic dress designers, professional gossips, blackmailers, a drug-addled cross-dresser, and the list goes on - and on!  Philip, the narrator, and his friend, Claire, try to extricate the couple from the mess they have created, but each effort to set things aright quickly complicates the situation even further.

Joe Keenan has written three novels with essentially the same cast of characters - and each titled after a show tune:  Blue Heaven (1988), Putting on the Ritz (1992), and My Lucky Star (2006).  During the long hiatus between the second and third novel he worked as a producer and writer on the television show Frasier, which also speaks to his ability to inspire laughter.

I hope that Joe Keenan as well as Philip and Gilbert are around for a long, long time to come.  They are funny guys!

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