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Story Time Shirley Muramoto Review by
Shirley Muramoto
The Stench of Sulphur Swamp
Professor Odysseus Malodorus, Tales of the Truly Grotesque: THE STENCH OF SULPHUR SWAMP
by Richard Krevolin
Creepy Little Productions,
ISBN: 0970415958
Illustrated by Christy A. Moeller-Masel


Tales of the Truly Grotesque: THE STENCH OF SULPHUR SWAMP very much looks like a typical children’s book. The print is large, and there are black-and-white illustrations throughout. The cover is a glossy green and colorfully illustrated as well. There are even helpful footnotes, where the narrator (a.k.a. Professor Odysseus Malodorus) explains the difficult words that might give the reader trouble.

But take a closer look, and you’ll find that this is a bit more than your average children’s book.

The tale focuses on two major characters. The first is Joan Paul, a thirteen-year-old, web-footed, web-handed, sight-challenged and smell-impaired young girl adopted by the once-wealthy fisherman Mr. Paul, who pioneered raising little stick-shaped fishes with warm breaded coats. He lost his secret recipe to his third ex-wife, after their daughter was kidnapped by feral circus clowns. Scarred by the cruelty of children on her first day of school, Joan swore off the world and vowed to spend the rest of her life “below deck” of Mr. Paul’s trawler. There, she spent her days reading everything she could get her hands on, from obscure magazines to 19th century Russian literature.

An understanding and supportive father, Mr. Paul doesn’t try to push Joan on her decision to remain below deck for the rest of her life. However, he also realizes that it’s hard to earn a living if you never go above deck, and worries what will happen to Joan once he’s gone. So he decides to figure out a way to earn a lot of cash for Joan. Problem is, he can’t come up with anything. So when Joan comes up with the idea of catching the giant shrimp of Hedsuk, Arkansas, Mr. Paul has visions of great wealth for his daughter. The two head off to Arkansas.

The second character is Emmett Golem, a sixteen-year-old young man with severe acne and a really bad case of chronic stinky gas. Emmett’s father is the brilliant (if somewhat mad) scientist Dr. Melvin Golem, who just happens to be the man responsible for the giant Humongous shrimp. Emmett and Dr. Golem left their home in Hedsuk, Arkansas, on expedition to Africa, seeking out the rare Redneck chimpanzee. Apparently only 17 are left in the world, and they all live in a trailer park/game reserve, near old rusted trucks on cinderblocks. Dr. Golem wants to teach the Redneck sign language, to prove that a Redneck can write great works of literature like Shakespeare.

Every tale needs its villains, and thus we have Lazlo Bleak and his cadre of circus sideshow freaks – a sadistic bearded strongwoman, a rubber-man contortionist, a woman who can talk to and control a pack of fleas (ew), and a would-be Latino lover-boy with a tail and feathered arms. When Emmett and his father rescue a baby Redneck (who the Golems later name Hamlet) from being lunch to Lazlo and his gang, the vindictive Lazlo vows to hunt them down.

This book likes to take tired old clichés and give them a fresh coat of paint, as it were. Rednecks, monkeys and Shakespeare, a mad scientist and his improbable experiments that go wrong, an evil villain’s quest for vengeance, the naïve heroine, the absent-minded doting father, the gallant (if gawky) young hero – this story has them all. Some of the characters may seem a little two-dimensional at times, but considering the tale is cloaked as a children’s book, that shouldn’t be too surprising. The footnotes especially are fun, because most of them aren’t really explanations, they’re funny commentary – about the situation in the story, or about the world in general. And while on the surface the tone seems like a typical children’s book, the satirical humor just beneath the surface adds a nice wicked edge to the tale.

If you see this book out on the shelves, in its beautifully-crafted and illustrated glossy green cover, you might be tempted to dismiss it as just another kid’s book and pass it by. But if you like wickedly clever wit and deviously funny humor, pick it up and read through a few pages. You might enjoy the smell.

4 out of 5


This review copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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