Edgar Cantero Scoobies the Fhtagn Right Out the Ol’ Lovecraft
The geek-savvy author brings his Meddling Kids to BookPeople
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
1:00PM, Fri. Jun. 15, 2018
It’s here: The new paperback edition of Meddling Kids, that clever AF Edgar Cantero’s second bestselling novel, and the author will be at BookPeople this coming Monday night to present the thing.
You’ll want to get a copy of the book – and devour it in one big pleasure-spiked rush – if the phrase “meddling kids” means anything to you at all. But you’ll especially want to do that if those two words snap your memory back to a childhood flavored with Scooby Doo cartoons and spooky mysteries in general.
And, listen: You’ll probably want to read this Cantero tale regardless of any of that.
The basic premise of this novel is, okay, there’s a group of twentysomethings, originally from a small Northwestern town but now scattered across the USA and struggling with the vicissitudes of adulthood; and when they were in their early teens in that town, this group of misfits – and their dog – they solved mysteries like that Hanna-Barbera gang you probably recall from the TV of your youth.
Except that what these kids did was, so to speak, IRL. And all was well.
Except that there was one case that was … different. There was one case that had roots in deeper, far more horrifying circumstances than what the erstwhile teen sleuths eventually unmasked.
And that case and its ramifications have been wreaking psychic, or at least emotional, havoc in their adult lives.
And so, after busting one of their number out of an asylum (located in some Massachusetts city named, uh, Arkham), this motley crew goes back to their Blyton Hills hometown to confront the horrors that await them there.
Here’s a thing: The narrative voice of this adventure is often wacky, albeit delightfully so, with metaphors as outrageous as they are precise, and with quite a few descriptions that the Serious Literary Crowd would give half a kidney to’ve crafted. And maybe the intermittent breaking of the fourth wall, the hey-look-I-know-this-is-a-novel-and-I’m-its-narrator tics, I don’t know, maybe those will delight you more often than they’ll annoy you? So there’s that, and I suggest that it’s mostly, at least, good.
But here’s another thing: The Scoobyish gang, the “Blyton Summer Detective Club,” is played straight. (Well, as straight as any Cantero characters and situations can be, right?) I mean, this isn’t a cheap satire that’s going on here. Meddling Kids is, for all its goofiness, a sincere homage to the genre – and it’s anchored by the characters’ relatable actuality. Andy, Kerri, Nate, and even poor suicided Peter: These aren’t smartass copies of cartoons; these are realizations of a simple Saturday-morning diversion’s human potential.
It’s good to have an anchor like that, narratively and in-universe, when the “deeper, far more horrifying circumstances” mentioned above turn out to be of Lovecraftian dimension(s). Because, when the Elder God shit finally hits the fan, that shit’s the size of a mountain. And, by that point, you’re gonna want to know how, and if, the reunited Blyton Summer Detective Club will survive.
Cantero is exercising a lot of genre tropes in this story – although not as psychedelically as he does in his forthcoming book, the private-eye-skewering, gender-confounding This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us – and the exercise pays off in satisfying dividends. Especially because Joss Whedon, you know? Because Joss Whedon is, after all, only a single human being, and thus can’t possibly write All The Things That Are Kind Of Like This. So hallelujah that Edgar Cantero – a Barcelona native whose first language is Spanish, but who spits pop-culture in English like the savviest geek in, say, Sheboygan posting on Tumblr – is writing some of them.
Hallelujah, I say, yes – because my bookshelves grin with mad delight whenever I add another of his works to their pulpy ranks.