No Time Like Show Time, by Michael Hoeye – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer. Fred writes: “A few reviews of furry books that I wrote in 2003 or 2004 have vanished from the Internet. I wrote them for the first version of Watts Martin’s Claw & Quill site, which he has apparently taken down. Here they are back online.”
No Time Like Show Time: A Hermux Tantamoq Adventure, by Michael Hoeye.
NYC, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, September 2004, hardcover $14.99 (277 pages).
Hoeye’s Hermux Tantamoq novels are one of the major publishing-industry success stories of the decade. His first was rejected by all major publishers. So he self-published it and its sequel, sent free copies to dozens of libraries and reviewers, and got so many rave reviews that the big publishers quickly changed their minds. Time Stops for No Mouse (2000) and The Sands of Time (2001) were reprinted by Putnam in 2002.
Hermux Tantamoq is a young watchmaker in the mouse city of Pinchester who lives alone with his pet ladybug, Terfle. In the first novel, daring aviatrix-explorer Linka Perflinger brings her watch to his shop for repair. When she disappears and a shady rat tries to claim it, Hermux investigates and is drawn into an old-fashioned pulp-thriller adventure to save her. The Sands of Time is a similar adventure in which Hermux, Linka, and an old chipmunk explorer search a distant desert for the buried ruins of a forgotten cat civilization while being hunted by mouse-supremacist assassins who want to suppress the knowledge that there was ever a pre-mouse empire.
Hermux got into those adventures mostly by accident. He was happy to fade back into anonymity in his watch shop at their end. But he got enough publicity that when theatrical impresario Fluster Varmint starts receiving death threats, he misremembers Hermux as a famous detective and calls on him to investigate. Hermux is reluctant until he discovers that his least-favorite Pinchester celebrity, arrogant cosmetics tycoon Tucka Mertslin, is plotting to take over the city’s historic palace-theater, now the Folies-type Varmint Variety Theater, and turn it into a garish cosmetics office-showroom.
“[Hermux] rushed through the doors of the Varmint Variety Theater, barely pausing to appreciate the workmanship of their pumpkin-vine hinges and matching wrought-iron doorknobs. He was in such a hurry that he scooted right through the historic grove of artificial aspen trees with their hand-blown Spiffany glass leaves. Crossing the lobby to the box office, Hermux scarcely gave the exquisite floor a glance. […] The box office occupied a rustic hut that sat beside an authentic reproduction of a waterfall. […]” (pgs. 13-14)
Hermux will do anything to save the lovely building. But he is only one mouse, and Mertslin has the support of Pinchester’s Weekly Squeak (she is one of its leading advertisers). When Mertslin learns that Varmint’s ownership of the Theater is challengeable (he bought it long ago with a massive loan from the Theater’s then-leading star, who disappeared after a mysterious tragedy so Varmint has not been able to repay the loan), she hires lots of lawyers to try to get the missing Nurella Pinch declared the legal owner of the Theater, then legally dead with herself as the executrix of Pinch’s estate. Meanwhile, things are more dangerous than either suspect, because the hoodlum that Mertslin uses to scare Varmint decides that it is to his advantage to really start murdering people to gain a blackmail hold over Mertslin.
Most of the characters in Show Time are mice (Fluster Varmint is “a barrel-chested mouse with a big baritone”, while his daughter and manager Beulith is an attractive mouse with “two perfect front teeth — long, elegantly arched, and tinted a very pleasing pale yellow”), but there are also a flying-squirrel messenger boy, a hedgehog bookkeeper, such would-be actors as “A noisy group of prairie-dog impersonators wearing matching paisley boleros, toreador pants, and very high heels” and “A chipmunk dressed as a potato”, an otter fashion designer, a shrew ventriloquist, and other mostly-rodent-sized animals.
Hoeye has a fine eye for rodentine appearances:
“Fluster Varmint was a visionary. When he thought long tails were more elegant, showgirls grew longer tails. When he thought bushy tails were more provocative, they grew bushier tails. If Fluster thought hamsters made the funniest comedians, then suddenly everywhere hamsters were telling jokes and wearing peculiar hats.” (pg. 34)
When Hermux is calling on Linka, “he straightened his whiskers and fluffed out the fur in his ears.” (pg. 29)
Hermux’s third tale is a change of pace for him, being more of a Phantom of the Opera backstage mystery and courtroom drama than an Indiana Jones search for treasure in foreign jungles and deserts. Since it takes place in Pinchester, Hermux’s ladybug Terfle is able to emerge from her cage for the first time and accompany him in a faithful-dog role. No Time Like Show Time is clever old-fashioned detective comedy-suspense adventure that would not disappoint a fan of the 1930s Thin Man movies — with a furry cast.
– Fred Patten,