Late night talk show host Craig Ferguson isn't new to writing, having crafted two entertaining screenplays in addition to writing for his television shows on both sides of the big pond. However, Between the Bridge and the River is his first novel. When my wife and I saw Ferguson do stand-up comedy a few weeks ago, we recognized many gags cribbed from his expansive TV monologues. While a few familiar concepts show up on these pages (such as bloodsucking Hollywood agents), this book is essentially all new material.
My first impression of the book was that it's rather, as Ferguson would say, naughty. Blunt and graphic depictions of sex pop up everywhere. Though my mother might enjoy certain aspects of the book, I'd be a little embarrassed to lend it to her. It's also pretty darn weird, jumping backward and forward in time, shifting freely between reality and dreamland, and spanning two continents. There are many references to pop culture, psychology, and literature, and of course it's funny -- I wouldn't expect anything else from such a twisted mind. But the real treat here is the subject matter. The novel explores religion in surprising depth, ranging from corrupt televangelists to snake handlers to Hollywood fads (thinly veiled references to Scientology) to a genuine near-death/born-again experience and ultimately to true goodness boiled down to two words.
Somewhere along the way, the book went from weird to fascinating, and I was disappointed to find myself approaching the end. The characters were so bizarre and interesting that I wasn't ready to say goodbye to them. Ferguson ties up enough loose ends to satisfy while leaving enough unspoken to intrigue. I'm not sure whether it would appeal to all of his viewers (according to Amazon comments, it does not), but I found Between the Bridge and the River both thoughtful and entertaining.