Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mother Finds A Body - Gypsy Rose Lee

'Mother Finds A Body' was my most anticipated title of the year, I can't remember when I added it to my wish list but sat there a good long time waiting for its publication date to roll round. I finally got it last week and read it without delay and wasn't disappointed. I adored Gypsy Rose Lee's 'The G-String Murders' and if anything 'Mother Finds A Body' is even better. It has another cracking opening line:
 "A temperature of one hundred and ten, at night, isn't exactly the climate for asthma or murder, and Mother was suffering from a chronic case of both. She pushed the damp, tight curls off her forehead and tapped her foot impatiently on the trailer doorstep.
 'You either bury that body in the woods tonight, or you finish your honeymoon without your mother' "  
and doesn't let up until the end.

Gypsy has married her man - Biff Brannigan (the same love interest as in 'The G-String Murders') in a romantic ceremony aboard a water taxi with a stranger they pick up on the way to act as best man. The honeymoon is a trailer trip back across America to another theatre engagement but has come rather unstuck in Ysleta, Texas. Gypsy's mother isn't the only travelling companion the couple have picked up, there's also a monkey, some dogs, and a guinea pig, two strippers by the names of Gee Gee and Dimples a couple of comics; Cliff (Corny) Cobb, a man called Mandy, and a corpse. The corpse is not a pretty corpse, worse it turns out to be the best man, and inconveniently they're going to have to try and explain how they didn't find it for a week after temperatures of one hundred and ten, at night. 

Gypsy's mother has her own ideas about what to do with corpses and when Biff won't listen to her she sets a  fire in the scrub land behind the trailer park and sets out to bury it whilst everyone is distracted. Which might have worked if she wasn't seen and another body didn't come to light in the woods. After that the body count rises until it almost matches the list of suspects and the one liners. There's a bit of blackmail, a dope ring, some stray heroine, and a sheriff with eyes only for Gypsy's mother. 

The plot is a bit silly but a lot of fun, the characters are fabulous, as is the slang, and Gypsy is a dab hand with the one liners, certainly in the same league as Mae West. Her mother in the book is apparently based on her actual mother, who must have been a bit of a handful, in real life - she sued her daughter over this book, not according to her grandson because she objected to the way she was portrayed, but rather because she felt she was owed for providing so much inspiration.

It's a huge shame that Gypsy wrote so few books, she was clearly one hell of a woman. It's also a shame that the typesetting here isn't a little better. There are quite a few annoying errors, I have a high tolerance for this kind of thing compared to most of my friends who have a distinct zero tolerance policy (which is what comes of hanging out with English teachers, language students, and other grammar nuts) but I still found it distracting. It won't stop me reading the book again, doesn't stop me from recommending it either - but I can't not mention it.