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Vincent Armstrong
The Fred Valentine Show: Episode 1
Vincent Glen, author
The Fred Valentine Show is a novelization of a theatrical musical comedy play that takes place in front of a live theater audience inside of a beautiful, ritzy hotel on the fabulous Las Vegas Strip. The show stars Fred, a lovable St. Bernard dog who's a standup comedian. The Fred Valentine Show contains five episodes.
Glen's bizarre blend of absurdist meta humor, raunchy shtick, and romantic fantasy is brazenly confident in its presentation of its many disparate and weird elements. In this first novella-length “episode” of a five-part series about a televised play both set in and televised from the Las Vegas Strip, Glen teases out the structure: That show’s star and namesake, flanked by two scantily-clad showgirls, is a talking Saint Bernard named Fred Valentine, who opens the book with a “monologue” that warms up the audience with hacky, sexist jokes. Fred describes the show that follows as “a play...a musical featuring dancing showgirls, and a sitcom all rolled into one.”

From there it gets wilder. The show features a teen named Tango Valentine trying to get a job with his troupe of talking animals at the Golden Jackpot Hotel. He has to negotiate with buffoonish owner Abner, his delusional mother Mama Lulu, and his clever wife, Tutty. Meanwhile, his magician orangutan, talking dog, clever macaw, and sly werecat all cause their own mischief. This opening chapter finds Glen offering a lot of exposition to establish this premise, and it's awkward at first, especially with repeated descriptions of characters, their origins, and other establishing material. Soon, though, the story picks up, centering around the profane, scheming, and supernaturally gifted orangutan, Joe, whose silver tongue and mischievous intentions move the plot along and generate laughs.

Elements of romance and fantasy offer interesting diversions from the madcap comedy. The overall effect is crude and clever, occasionally heart-warming and off-putting. This first chapter’s strongest when it focuses on character, but some, like Abner, are so broadly written they edge into stereotype. The proud crudeness of many of the jokes detracts from some clever commentary on Vegas and American culture, but Glen's vision for his characters is so bold and strange that it supersedes the easy vulgarity.

Takeaway: Talking animals, media parody, and absurd, raunchy send-ups of Las Vegas power this serialized comedy.

Great for fans of: Yoko Towada's Memoirs Of A Polar Bear, George Saunders’s "Brad Carrigan, American.”

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B
Editing: C-
Marketing copy: A