Monthly Archives: November 2011

Twas the Night Before: Chapter 1: Noella Wright

Unsurprisingly, people seem to have found Tom Douten a likeable guy.  I find him so, too.  In my opinion, he does one really jerkish thing, and one really self-aggrandizing thing in the course of the story.  And that is really not bad for a Jenkins hero, even in a shorter work.  But we’ll get to that later.  For now, let’s meet his sweetie, Dr. Noella Wright.

Two interesting things about Noella and Tom:

1.  Noella is a year and a half older than Tom.

2.  Noella is much more educated than Tom, with a Ph.D. in journalism to Tom’s three semesters at community college.

I’m tempted to consider this progressivism of a sort.  Certainly a woman dating a man eighteen months younger than she is a long way from Buck Williams being ten years older than co-ed Chloe.

Then again, Tom takes multiple opportunities to disparage education and speak snidely of students.  So maybe it’s not as progressive as I’d like to hope.

When we left Tom, he was banging out his column at the Tribune.  Noella, a professor of journalism, is hanging out in her office at Northwestern.

Remember, it’s the day after Thanksgiving.

And there’s a blizzard.

Her car was the one lump under the white covering the parking lot.  Noella’s colleagues, gone as early as possible every day, hardly ever came in on a no-class day.

Nice little slam on the other J-school profs.  I guess nobody cares but Noella.

Noella loved being in her office.  She told herself she didn’t teach journalism, she taught students.  The more hours she spent in her office, the more contact she enjoyed with them.

Um, okaaaay.  That’s nice and all, Noella, but you do realize that it’s the day after Thanksgiving and there aren’t any classes and there’s a blizzard, right?  Exactly how much student contact were you expecting?

Perfect weather for student-teacher conferences!

I’ve been through more than a few Midwest blizzards, and I am quite fuzzy on why Noella left her house.  I’ve always considered it both nicer and safer to stay off the roads during a blizzard unless you absolutely have to go out.  I just do not see the point of Noella sitting in her office for eight hours, twiddling her thumbs, all alone.  What, she couldn’t have checked her e-mail and done some work from home?  She has to go out on icy roads and put the security guard to trouble?

Noella accepted the escort of the security guard, who also helped brush off her car and waited until she started the engine.  She rolled down the window to thank him.

“I’ll push if I have to,” he said.

That’s sweet of him, and it’s nice of her to thank him, but he shouldn’t have had to do this in the first place.  What the HELL has she done all Black Friday No-Class Blizzard Day?

She’s been doing what any good woman should be doing: thinking about her good man.

These first few chapters are awash in flashback, and Noella remembers a recent conversation with her colleague, Sue.  I suppose Sue and Noella could talk in present-time, but I guess Sue just didn’t care enough about her students to come into work on a non-working day in the middle of a blizzard.

As well, like all LaJenkinsian minor characters, Sue knows she is a minor character.  Thus, the only topic of conversation that interests her is the state of the main characters’ relationship with each other.  In service of this topic, Sue is not afraid to underline the Significant Names that she has noticed in the story in which she makes her home:

“Tom and I will live happily ever after, and you know it,” Noella told her.

Sue shook her head.  “You say it like you mean it, but you’re blind.  You’re Pollyanna Pureheart.  He’s Sad Sack.  You’re his Miss Wright.  He’s your Mr. Douten.  Well, I’m doubtin’.  I’m a sucker for a love story.  But, Noella, really.  A half-empty-glass guy with a half-full-glass gal?”

Hmmm, where have I heard this just recently?

Giving the reader credit, I gradually reveal more—that he’s a glass-half-empty guy who meets a glass-half-full woman who still literally believes in Santa Claus.

If I had started with: “Tom Douten was a cynical newspaper columnist who always wrote about down-and-outers but fell in love with a Pollyanna girl who still believed in Santa Claus,” I would have been spoon-feeding the reader what she would rather discover on her own.

Consider yourselves having gotten credit, dear readers.  I’m on page 5.

Two things about the next bit:

Noella had roared.  “You call yourself a feminist and you call me a gal?”

1.  I dislike the phrase “roared with laughter.”  Mostly because I have never actually heard anyone roar with laughter, but also because the phrase really suffers from overuse when Jenkins is at the keyboard.

2.  IT IS NOT A TENET OF FEMINISM THAT ONE MUST NEVER SAY THE WORD “GAL.”  ALL IT IS SAYING IS THAT WOMEN SHOULD BE THE SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND ECONOMIC EQUALS OF MEN OMG THIS ISN’T EVEN HARD.

Sigh.

Our heroine, folks.  A woman who thinks other women call themselves feminists and thinks that it is anti-feminist to use the word “gal.”

Having sat in her office all day, Noella heads to a diner just off Lake Shore Drive, where she and Tom routinely hang out after he finishes his column.  The blizzard does not even give her pause.

What a gal.

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‘Twas the Night Before: Chapter 1: Tom Douten

Happy Black Friday, everyone, and welcome to my critique of ‘Twas the Night Before by Jerry B. Jenkins–a Very Special Wintermas Special!

Let me get something out there, right up front:

I love Christmas.

I am not even kidding.  This lifelong atheist really does love Christmas.  And not because I was deprived of it as a kid by my evil secular parents or anything–our family comes from a Christian tradition, so we always had a tree and presents and watched Christmas movies and listened to carols. 

I love getting gifts for people.  I try to watch every version of A Christmas Carol that I can.  Hell, my favorite carol is “O Holy Night.”

I’m serious.

This serious.

And I love the tacky side of Christmas.  I love sappy, stupid Christmas stories and cheap-ass decorations and cheap-ass Christmas candy. 

So, combining my loves of bad Christmas fare and bad Christian fare means that I was a happy Ruby when I saw a beautiful hardcover copy of ‘Twas the Night Before in a used bookstore.  (I always get my bad Christian fare used if I possibly can.  So far, I have made only two exceptions.)

‘Twas the Night Before is a very different animal than Soon or Babylon Rising.  They are pre-apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic action novels, or so they would have you believe.  ‘Twas the Night Before is Jerry Jenkins’ self-described “parable of faith,” a novella of a mere twenty-nine chapters and 209 pages.

Now, we’ve talked a lot about Jenkins’ name gaming.  Anagram names like Paul Apostle-Stepola, ultra-obvious “exotic” names like Ming Wong Toy Woo and Hannah Palemoon.

And now in our Christmas parable, we have a Doubting Thomas hero named…Tom Douten.  The heroine, Tom’s Miss Right who was born at Christmastime, is named…Noella Wright.

I’ll start by dealing with our main characters one at a time.  Our story opens on (hey!) Black Friday, and there is a blizzard in Chicago:

Tom overtipped [the taxi driver], gathered up the competing Sun-Times and his notebook, and stepped into the mess.  By the time he settled in to write his column, “Douten, Thomas,” the snow in his hair had melted and was running down his neck.

So the character whom the author named Tom Douten after Doubting Thomas is acknowledging his own weird-namedness by calling his column “Douten, Thomas.”

Oh fer…

Oh, and ewwwwww.

This is really Jenkins’ name game turned up to eleven.

In his how-to book, Writing for the Soul, Jenkins talked about the above paragraph:

I wanted to make the reader cold as she read, and I strove for the visual and tactile.  In one sentence, she learns that Tom is generous, worries about the competition, and is a writer.  Giving the reader credit, I gradually reveal more—that he’s a glass-half-empty guy who meets a glass-half-full woman who still literally believes in Santa Claus.

If I had started with: “Tom Douten was a cynical newspaper columnist who always wrote about down-and-outers but fell in love with a Pollyanna girl who still believed in Santa Claus,” I would have been spoon-feeding the reader what she would rather discover on her own.

Writing for the Soul, p. 129

The character’s name is TOM DOUTEN and he is a DOUBTING THOMAS.  I really don’t think the reader has been given credit on this one.

So, Tom heads in to Tribune Tower to do work in the middle of a blizzard on the day after Thanksgiving, and you know what really puts me in the Christmas spirit?

Petty office politics!

“Pushin’ the deadline again, Tommy Boy?” Gary Noyer said on his way out.  “Wrapped mine up by three.”

Gary.  Noyer.  Seriously.

Tom told himself not to bite, but he couldn’t resist.  “Then why are you still here?”

“Getting ahead.  Building a cushion.”

Tom sighed.  “Throw a party.  Just don’t invite me.”

“Jealousy is ugly.”

Tom pressed his lips together.  “Gary,” he said slowly, “if I wrote what passes for your column, I’d be far enough ahead to take a month off.”

Noyer slowed.  “Your last column was almost late.”

“There’s another way to say ‘almost late,’ Gary.  It’s called ‘on time.'”

“Oh, Tom,” Noyer called over his shoulder.  “I almost forgot.  My Columbia Prize arrived today.  Peek through my window if you’d like to see what one looks like.”

Tom’s column was twice as popular as Gary’s, but he wouldn’t bring that up.  He felt sleazy enough having allowed Gary to engage him at all.

WHO TALKS LIKE THIS?  I WANT TO KNOW.

Hell, I’d say the dialogue was childish, but that’s insulting to children.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

Please note that I am not saying that the hero of a story can’t be flawed.  He should be flawed.  But are the childish insults really an acknowledged flaw?  Because I have a feeling that poor Gary Noyer (who was apparently given a frakking PRIZE FOR HIS WRITING) has been declared the villain of the piece, and we can all look forward to seeing his humiliating come-uppance by the end of the story.  After all, he has gone and insulted Our Author-Insert Hero, and must be punished for such blasphemy.

Thus we are introduced to Doubting Thomas.  Next up, we will learn about his match, Miss Noella Wright.

 

 

Soon: Chapter 24: The Big Date

So, does this sound like a date to you?

“…let’s get dessert or something.”

“I’d love that, Paul.”

Sounds like one to me!

Paul and Angela head out, and gaze deeply into each other’s eyes over coffee and dessert.  They talk shop, which is apparently a huge turn-on for Angela.  And she lets a piece of information slip that is simultaneously important to the plot, and hilarious to me.

Remember the sad prostitute Paul talked to, the one who told him about Angela’s meeting?  Well, Angela has talked to her on multiple occasions, and she’s scared of her extremely legal pimp employer, Mort:

“Wait–what?  Who’s she worried about?”

“She’s one of Morty Bagadonuts’s girls.  I don’t think that’s his real name, but he’s notorious.  Lives in a pent–”

“Penthouse at the Babylon, yeah.”  Paul told her what he knew.

She looked ashen.  “Lucy’s Mort is Jonah?”

Paul nodded.  “You could help me nail this guy.”

“I’d be happy to.”

Hell, she should help nail this guy, since she’s done a better job than Paul has at his own investigation, and SHE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW SHE WAS DOING IT.

This is just beyond pathetic. 

Paul was talking to one of Jonah’s disciples.

Face to frakking face.

AND HE WAS SO OBSESSED WITH HIS LATEST CONQUEST THAT HE FAILED TO ASK THE WOMAN IF SHE KNEW THE MASS MURDERER AND CULT LEADER AND OH YEAH, SHE DID.

It is time, once again, for the epic double facepalm:

Oh, and just as an aside, it bugs the crap outta me that Paul INTERRUPTS ANGELA WHEN SHE IS TALKING.

It is difficult to even encapsulate how much Paul is failing in every conceivable sense, but let’s just look at a few:

Failure as an agent of the NPO: it is Paul’s JOB to track down Jonah.  And even as a double agent, this is a mission he wants to complete–Jonah is a “false Christian” (and he’s hurting people).  And while the Chicago and Vegas bureaus are doing Paul’s work for him, he’s busy chasing a skirt.  So busy that he failed to notice that HE WAS HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH ONE OF JONAH’S DISCIPLES.

Failure to tell Angela the truth: During their dessert-eating (which lasts for HOURS), Paul conveniently forgets to mention the fact that he is married and has two little kids.

BUT HERE IS THE BEAUTY PART: When Paul takes Angela back to her hotel, she tries to kiss him, but he ducks and she gets his cheek.  FOR THIS, HE CONGRATULATES HIMSELF for “upholding his marriage vows.”  He ADMITS that he has been dreaming about Angela, staring at Angela, but only counts the actual kiss as worthy of guilt.

Now, he does feel guilt (refreshingly, he feels guilt both for Jae and for Angela) but his conclusion is this:

He would have to set things right [and tell Angela about Jae].

If nothing else proved God was working in his life, that did.

Funny thing: some people manage not to serial cheat on their spouses for eight years even without having God in their lives.

Funny, that.

Two more notes:

Note #1:  Out of all the times Paul has lusted after another woman, this is the one time you could at least make an argument that it’s okay.  Paul and Jae are separated at this point.  Now, he certainly needs to tell Angela that, but it’s very strange that he barely seems to register that there is a difference in his life.  Then again, it was Jae who left, and Paul doesn’t exactly have a history of taking her seriously.

Note #2:  Angela has great self esteem.  Here is the scene:

He took Angela back to her hotel and walked her to her room.  She looked up at him expectantly.  “Until tomorrow, then,” he said, and she reached for him.

She pulled him toward her by his shoulders, and he offered her his cheek.  Giving him a peck, Angela whispered, “Chivalry lives.”

Now, I am no RTC, but that would not be my reaction were I to move in for a kiss, and the guy ducked.  I would just think that the guy did not want to kiss me.  So, go Angela, I guess.

I suppose that now that the atheists have cured wars, cancer, and homelessness, God has enough time on his hands to make sure Paul doesn’t return Angela’s kiss.

And on the note of The Date That Wasn’t Really, I’m going to take a break from Soon and move on to wintery-er pastures.  Starting on Black Friday (the real beginning of the Wintermas Season, don’tcha know?) I will be doing a review of Jerry Jenkins’ Twas the Night BeforeSoon will resume after Wintermas.

Ho ho ho!

Picture from Chronicle of the Old West

Soon: Chapter 23: Angela and the Whores

Paul questions another sad prostitute–about Angela, not about Morty/Jonah–and learns that Angela is asking the women (Of course there aren’t any male prostitutes in Jenkins’ world!  Don’t be ridiculous.) to come to a meeting at night, where she can tell them all about Jesus.  This particular prostitute is too scared of her “employer” to go (and more on her later), but Paul decides to go.

The one and only thing he does all day to further his hunt for Jonah (yanno, the life-and-death mission for which he is getting paid?) is to call Bob Koontz in Chicago, and have the Chicago Bureau run a check on Morty Bag-of-Donuts.  And I roll my eyes into the next state every time that damn name is mentioned.

“Sure.  I’ll have somebody from the local bureau [in Vegas] run it over to you.” [Bob said]

“Okay, but I don’t want them trampling all over my case.”

PAUL, IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO STOP BEING AN ARROGANT ASSHAT FOR TWO WHOLE SECONDS??  I AM QUITE SURE THAT THE VEGAS NPO HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO WITH THEIR TIME THAN TRAMP ALL OVER YOUR SEARCH FOR ANGELA.

Paul goes to the meeting, but decides to lurk in the shadows like an ineffectual Christian Batman rather than actually go inside.

Nine women come, and Angela begins the meeting in this odd way:

“I applaud your courage in coming tonight.”

I bet they come most other nights, too.

*rim shot*

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

“I don’t plan to keep you long, because we realize it’s as dangerous for you as it is for us.”

Okay, getting serious now: THIS MAKES NO FRAKKING SENSE.

“As dangerous for you as it is for us.”  Angela…honey…you are doing something illegal.  They are doing something not illegal

The sad thing is, this could have been a fascinating turnabout: putting the powerless in positions of power can be a great tool in fiction.  As I discussed in the last installment, Joss Whedon played with this idea in Firefly–five hundred years in the future, when prostitution has become legalized and legitimized, classy Companion Inara Serra is by far the most respected person on Serenity.  Her status in society is such that her mere presence can turn the tables.  Being a Companion is, in the ‘Verse, something to which the most elite in society aspire.

Now, I am not for a moment saying that Jerry Jenkins had to do a Whedon-esque treatment of prostitution in Soon.  But he brought this problem on himself by wanting to have it both ways:

1.  Atheistopia is so depraved that they legalized the “out-and-out sin” of prostitution, but

2.  Somehow, the prostitutes have none of the protections that come from living within the law and being part of a licensed profession.

Thus it may indeed by ironic, as Paul smarmily observes, that prostitutes’ lives are legal and Christians’ are not, but Jenkins has made this a fact of his world.  And unless Jenkins comes up with some reason why the prostitutes lives would not change (Spoiler Alert: he doesn’t), Angela is laughably incorrect in her assertion that things are equally dangerous for prostitutes and Christians.

If law enforcement raided this little meeting, some people would be in for a lengthy prison sentence.

And those people would not be the whores.

But no, we are to assume that Angela is correct, and the prostitutes live lives of quiet desperation.  Instead of saying “pimp,” they say “employer,” but it’s all the same–the prostitutes are scared and helpless and hopeless.  Engaged in legitimate employment, they apparently just can’t quit working for one organization and go work for another, or work independently or open their own business.  And I guess the Prostitution Licensing Association of Rockland (PLAR) isn’t looking out for its members as it should.

So, Angela blah-blahs on and on about Jesus and the “exciting news” that the helpful Christians can spirit these poor, whimpering women away from their legal employment and make them outlaws:

“You may be in trouble with your employer right now.  He doesn’t know where you are, and unless you come up with a very creative and convincing lie, you’re going to suffer for having been here tonight.

We’ll put no pressure on you, we won’t force you into any decisions, and we’ll never ask you to do anything against your will.  You will be presented with the claims of Christ on your life, and we hope you’ll see that God loves you and that Jesus died for you.  If at any point you decide this is not for you, you, of course, free to go.”

Free to go straight to the cops and report a band of Christians who are enticing law-abiding citizens to worship God.

Then Angela lets a reformed prostitute called “Freda” talk.  Remember, the room is full of lifelong atheists.  These women will need a very compelling argument for the existence of God.  But Freda has one, certain to convince the most hardened skeptic:

“I mean, come on.  Look around.”

Well, you can’t do any better than that, and the prostitutes are sold.  (Har.)  Of the nine in attendance, seven leave in the van Angela has ready.  Once the driver has pulled away and the other women have left, Paul decides to scare Angela to death by sneaking up on her. 

Being Paul, he talks about himself for quite awhile–being blind but now seeing, neglecting his mission in order to stalk her, etc.  Then he invites her our for dessert.

Oooo, I hope they go to Jean Philippe at the Bellagio!

Is this gorgeous or what???  Photo from A Baked Creation, http://www.abakedcreation.com/.

Soon: Chapters 22-23: Paul and the Whores

Inara: Ambassador is Mal’s way of saying…

Mal: She’s a whore, Shepherd.

Kaylee: The term is “Companion.”

Mal: I always get those mixed up.  How’s business?

Inara: None of yours.

Firefly, “Serenity”

Time for Paul to interrogate some prostitutes!

And it’s time to see how Jenkins portrays the lives of prostitutes when their work is no longer illegal.

It’s not like he doesn’t have any sources from which he can draw ideas.  After all, prostitution has been legal in various locations and at various times throughout human history.  Hell, prostitution is legal right now in some U.S.(S.A.) counties, including ones right outside of Las Vegas, so I’m a bit confused by the fact that Jenkins’ conclusion about what legal prostitution would be like boils down to: just like illegal prostitution right now, but the women say “employer” instead of “pimp.”

I also admit to some confusion about legal and illegal acts in Atheistopia, to wit: prostitution is legal, but drugs are not.  Given the widespread support for legalizing drugs like marijuana right now in the States (poll from Gallup), it surprises me that Jenkins imagines that drugs would still be illegal in an atheist-run world, but that prostitution would be quickly legalized.  As you can see from these polls gathered at ProCon.org, support for prostitution is generally quite low these days.

But before he can ponder the sad realities of legal prostitution in Atheistopia, Paul has to spend a moment in smug religious self-righteousness:

Paul had zero interest in even attractive, alluring women who made sex their business.

Yeah, he prefers them either drunk and confused, or single and unaware of his married state.

He felt a strange emotion, however, as he made the public rounds.  As he talked to various women, finding it easier one-on-one than with a pair or three, he actually felt compassion for them.  Paul ran that through his mental grid.  If God loved everyone and cared for every soul, and if He, as Straight had quoted to him over and over, “does not want anyone to perish,” He must love these women too.  Living in out-and-out sin, selling their bodies, and yet worthy of love and compassion and forgiveness.

Does it ever cross Paul’s mind, even for a second (excuse me, does he run it through his mental grid) that the Bible is forbidden in Atheistopia and these women do not know what “sin” is?  Or that even if they did know, they might not care what sin is?  Seeing as they’re, yanno, atheists?

I think Paul has gridlock in his mental grid.

And speaking of lovely ladies, Paul is certain he saw Angela Barger wandering around the casinos.  This, of course, immediately takes precedence over his INVESTIGATION OF THE MURDEROUS CULT, so he starts asking the prostitutes (who are, inexplicably, streetwalkers instead of employees of brothels) about Angela.  Because grabbing some alone time with her is waaaay more important than catching Morty Bag-of-Donuts and stopping him from killing prostitutes.

Paul even prays, and of all the possible things to pray about at this juncture: preventing Morty from killing more women, getting his wife and kids back, staying safe from the Atheistapo…Paul prays to find Angela.

Since the investigation has come to a complete and utter halt while Paul seeks out his next would-be conquest, it’s a good thing that he tracks her down almost instantly.  He finds a prostitute who is hopeless and drug-addicted, because there is no way that legalizing prostitution would make it a job like any other, and she has seen Angela!

“I’m looking for a dramatically pretty blonde, about thirty, who may have come around talking to working girls.”

This is Paul’s opening.  I’m kinda surprised that his opening isn’t, “I’m looking for a creep who calls himself Jonah and is trying to lure prostitutes away from their legitimate employment and into his death cult,” but that’s just me, I guess.

Turns out that Angela has been wandering around Vegas, randomly talking to whores about Jesus.  Jenkins tries to make a point about how awful Atheistopia is:

“You gonna get her in trouble?  What she’s doing is dangerous–and illegal.”

Paul contemplated the irony of that, considering the source.

Okay, as we have touched on again and again, it is not cool that religion is illegal.  NOT COOL.  But you know what else is not cool?  That in our world, illegal prostitution is dangerous.  That women are hurt because (in part) they do not have the protections that those of us with legal employment enjoy.  In Atheistopia, where prostitutes are legal and licensed, it is natural to assume that they would live lives not dissimilar from legal prostitutes in the U.S. today, but Jenkins just portrays them as hopeless, uneducated, drug-addicted losers, walking the streets in sin and wretchedness, and not really engaged in legitimate business.  The fact that prostitution is legal changes nothing about the lives of prostitutes in Atheistopia.

Imagination fail.  Research fail.

 

Soon: Chapter 22: Thyatira’s

It sure is a good thing that the world of Soon has direct 1:1 Biblical correlations so that Paul always knows exactly what’s going on:

Paul had been carefully studying the New Testament, Revelation in particular, the last sixty to ninety minutes before falling asleep each night.  He thought about the parallels Straight had drawn between the churches of Revelation and the major population centers of the USSA.  If there was any question about which ancient church correlated with Las Vegas, it was dispelled by Paul’s destination: Thyatira’s.

And Paul didn’t even have to get far into Revelation at all to get to the right part–isn’t that lucky!!

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, “These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:

I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first.

Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile My servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols.

And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent.

Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds.

And I will kill her children with death.  And all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts.  And I will give to each one of you according to your works.”

-Revelation 2: 18-23

Yanno, in under a month, I will be starting in on ‘Twas the Night Before, Jenkins’ “parable,” with a heroine named Noella Wright, the Ms. Right of the hero, and a lady who was born at Christmastime.  BUT THAT IS NOT EXACTLY CLEVER WHEN THIS DAMN NAME THING HAPPENS ALL THE DAMN TIME, DAMMIT!

I know you’ll be shocked and surprised to read this after the Bible quote above, but the proprietor of the casino called Thyatira’s is named…Jezebel.

Thyatira’s was the largest casino hotel in the world with more than six thousand guest rooms and a main floor with more acres of gambling paraphernalia than any two other establishments combined.

Research fail.  THERE ARE ALREADY HOTELS IN LAS VEGAS BIGGER THAN THAT OH MY GAWD THIS TOOK ME FIVE SECONDS TO DISCOVER THIS ISN’T EVEN HARD.

Bigger than Thyatira's

(Picture from Wikipedia)

Paul goes to interrogate Jezebel because he has heard that she knows about Jonah.  He is extraordinarily rude with her in light of both her motivations and the vast amount of information she ends up giving him.

“It’s known that [Jonah] uses so-called legal prostitutes for his rituals, and no one employs more than you do.” [Paul said]

“Don’t say ‘so-called,’ Agent Stepola.  Everything in my place is legal and aboveboard.” [Jezebel said]

It’s so cute the way newly-righteous Paul tries to make her feel guilty about something that is completely legal, and about which Paul himself would have had no reservations at all A MERE THREE MONTHS AGO.

Notwithstanding his arrogant, smarmy, confrontational attitude, Jezebel opens up about everything.  She hates Jonah for luring her employees away for rituals that ended up killing them (go figure).  She reveals Jonah’s real name, which is Morty Bagdona, which Jenkins apparently came up with for the sole purpose of nicknaming him Morty Bagadonuts. 

Yup.  Morty Bag-of-Donuts. 

C’mon, laugh!

It’s funny!

Jezebel also tells Paul of her suspicion that Morty really believes in his cult, and it’s not just some scam.

(Though, if Morty doesn’t believe it’s real, the point of it is a bit beyond me.  Jezebel calls it his “gravy train,” but where’s the gravy?)

But here comes the infuriating bit:

“Ma’am, did you lose somebody [in the rituals]?” [asked Paul]

Jezebel actually teared up.  She tried to speak but just held up two fingers.

“You lost two?”

She nodded and reached for a tissue from her desk.  “I told them and told them not to get swept up in it.  Most of my girls, far as I know, don’t even do drugs.  Or if they do, it’s only recreational.  First sign of a junkie, they’re out of here.”

Actually.  She actually teared up because her employees died. 

Wow.  It’s almost as if this evil atheist casino proprietor has feelings.  It’s almost as though she cares about others.

Actually.

And then, to top it all off, Jezebel reveals that Morty is staying at the Babylon.

The Babylon. 

Get it?

Because they’re evil atheists and it’s almost the end of the world.

AND THEN, Jezebel gives Paul the names of several employees of hers who are currently missing and might be with Jonah.

Paul, of course, does not drop Jezebel so much as a perfunctory “thank you” for her MASSIVE amount of help in his case.

Asshat.

Soon: Chapters 21-22: Vegas, Baby!

Paul has his next assignment: investigating a “Christian group” in Las Vegas.  I put the words “Christian group” in “quotation marks” because it is obvious that we readers are supposed to know that these are not Really Real Christians like the Watchmen.  Nope, these folks are one of those fakey culty thingies and haven’t said the proper magic words so that they will be spirited away in the Rapture.

I’ll let Jenkins tell us all about this cult, since it’s quite a tale (ha!):

Sixteen people had been discovered dead, all of drug overdoses, before an altar under a cross.  The deaths had been traced to a self-proclaimed prophet who called himself the reincarnation of Jonah.  Friends of the victims claimed “Jonah” spun a story about having been swallowed by a whale off the coast of San Diego a few years before, then belched up onto shore three days later, suffering superficial burns from the creatures stomach acid.

While inside the whale, Jonah claimed God had told him to build a congregation that would have direct access to heaven through the miracle of hallucinogenic drugs.  The prophet, according to friends of the victims, also espoused free love, saying God told him this was his intention from the time of creation.

Several hundred people in and around Las Vegas were reportedly linked to the Jonah cult.

Yes, the “friends of the victims” thing is stated twice in three sentences.  Copy-editing is your friend.

 But I’m sure you can see right away why we need to be concerned.  Drugs!  And even more importantly, SEX!  Filthy, unChristian SEX!

Oh, and some people died.

Almost seems like an afterthought.

Straight is understandably concerned about this potentially dangerous situation:

“You’re going to Sin City?” Straight said.

“Early next week.  Boss thinks this looks solid.”

Straight sat back and studied Paul.  “Better get yourself some blinders, boy.  You’re pretty young in the faith to be going there, especially with your family gone.  It’s all gambling and sex.”

“I can handle it.”

“Famous last words.  Sounds like you’ve decided.”

“I have.”

Because, as we all know, Good Christians don’t gamble!  And I’m sure they don’t take advantage of the other awesome aspects of Vegas, like shows and buffets and the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop!

But the primary point here is that Straight doesn’t trust Paul.  Paul questioned Straight’s trust in him during the kidnapping, and Straight brushed it off by explaining that anyone going to the Christian Salt Mines is blindfolded.  But now we know that Paul’s concerns are legit–Straight doesn’t trust his miraculously-healed friend to keep it in his pants during a few days in Vegas. 

Honestly, I’m starting to get the feeling now that Straight is just jealous.  Straight visits the hospital every day, “an in-patient baby-sitter” as Paul sensitively called him, nudging grievously injured and depressed atheists towards Christ, as long as there is no possible risk to himself. 

Now one of his converts gets to trot around the country, converting billionaires and witnessing miracles.  Guess it’s not surprising that the only power Straight thinks he has is to snidely imply that Paul is just a naive noobie without Maturity and Wisdom in the Faith.

But Paul ignores Straight (and who can blame him?) and wings off for VEGAS!!!

WOOOOOOO!!!!!111!!1!!

I love Vegas.

(Picture from Wikipedia)

As I mentioned in my post about Atheistopian population statistics, Jenkins is fond of dropping city stats on us from time to time, usually with no real point that I can see.  Here, Jenkins informs us that Atheistopian Las Vegas has a population of half a million people.  This doesn’t seem to mean much, because Vegas right now has a population of about half a million people, according to Wikipedia.

Jenkins also liked to tell us exactly where the NPO stashes Paul in various cities.  In New York, it was The Pierre; in Vegas, it is a hotel at Fremont Street.

Woo.

There’s not all that much to know about Atheistopian Las Vegas.  Picture our Las Vegas, but more pornographic and with legalized prostitution (much more on this later).

Paul was amazed that so many people would travel so far to the heat of the desert to lose their money.

Gee.  I have never heard that before.  *eyeroll*

Also, it’s called fun, Paul.  I know that you need to needed to check it at the door when you said the magic words, but do you also feel the need to deny others?

Actually, don’t answer that.  I already know.