Hamilton "Ham" Ashe is a man of good intentions who tends to get mired in uncomfortable situations, as easy mark for smooth talkers. Ham's biggest problem is a soft heart that gets in the way of business, making him the perfect target for the ubiquitous and overbearing Sam Shoogey, self-promoter extraordinaire.
A published author who lives on Hamilton's block in the neighborhood, Shoogey is a man without boundaries and Ashe is his perfect prey, too well-mannered to insult his pushy client. A womanizer and a blowhard, Shoogey infiltrates Ham's life, haggling over temporary alimony and the details of his upcoming divorce, filling the air with tales of his exploits.
Like a bad case of halitosis, Shoogey just will not go away, as attached to his "friend" as a conjoined twin. Strangely enough, Ham cannot locate any of the five novels that Shoogey claims to have written. Perhaps they are out of print, Sam opines. Perhaps not. It is discrepancies like this that lead Ham to question virtually everything Sam has ever told him.
Ham's strange dance with Shoogey continues for a couple of years during which other, equally dubious cases come into play, until Ham's life is a hash of ongoing litigations. Does Sam Shoogey ever tell the truth about anything? Do we care? After hundreds of pages, this novel is mildly entertaining and semi-humorous, written in a quasi-stream-of-consciousness with dialog, a maze of truths and untruths, the mythology a man builds around himself and the lawyer who believes him, a roller-coaster of small, unending dramas.
Kun's characters play a confusing role in the unfolding story, since they only speak the truth as they know it, the plot frustrating...or nonexistent. The endnotes after the final chapter further obfuscate the tale, more stream-of-something. The protagonist, Hamilton "Ham" Ashe, pulls himself out of a believable muddle in My Wife and My Dead Wife, but You Poor Monster never attempts such resolution.
I kept reading, hoping You Poor Monster would come together, but the plot never made any sense me, with a mishmash of conflict that is resolved inconsequentially. That said, I find Hamilton a sympathetic character, especially likeable in the previous novel and would like to see him do well in the hands of Michael Kun. Perhaps Hamilton can request a change of venue.