Thursday, June 30, 2016

5 Questions With...Joseph Adorno

The following questions came from David Rachels' blog, Noirboiled Notes ( I thought it would be fun to answer them; it's a recurring feature on his blog, where he sometimes posts interviews with contemporary mystery/crime fiction writers. I noticed I was able to answer some of them..

1. What's the first crime novel that you remember reading?

Encyclopedia Brown and The Case of The Mysterious Handprints. That was the first one, though if you find it too "kiddie", The Maltese Falcon was the 1st "adult/mature" crime novel I read...but I remember seeing the film first before reading the book, so I personally don't feel like counting it. The Murder At The Vicarage, then.

2. (Dashiell) Hammett or (Raymond) Chandler?

Hammett. Five novels, neither one alike. Each had something new to say. Chandler...I like Philip Marlowe, but I don't like the books..they're too formulaic to me. He rewrote The Big Sleep an additional six times. My favorite scenes in The Long Goodbye are not in the book - they're in the Robert Altman film adaptation - where Marlowe tries to seek a particular brand of cat food for his pet cat in the middle of the night, then in the end, when he shoots Terry Lennox. He thought the cat was his friend; he thought Terry was his friend; they turned on him, like he was a loser, yet he was the only one who cared about either. Meanwhile, in the books...Chandler's prose would have you think he could type 150 pages of scenes describing furnishings and call it a "novel".

3. If forced to choose, would you want Sherlock Holmes or Philip Marlowe to save your life?

Holmes. Marlowe's no fool, but he's always the last to figure out everything! As a detective, he's perceptive in small ways; he can solve the puzzle, but only after the bodies have piled up. Everyone is one step ahead of him..even the shady asshat cops that always give him a hard time and do nothing to help are one step ahead of him! Like I said earlier, I like Marlowe, but Chandler liked him as a noble sap.

4. If you were stuck on a desert island, which crime novelist's complete works would you choose to take with you?

Agatha Christie. There's a lot I have yet read. I would stack neat piles resembling furniture and point to a book like Taken At The Flood and say, "I'm going to give you another chance!"..That was the one Poirot novel that I could never get through..something dull about it was written just as she was making Ms. Marple's appearances more frequent and was about to write fewer Poirot books. When he does appear in later novels, he's usually accompanied by Ariadne Oliver, a mystery writer who was a caricature of Christie's public persona as a mystery writer.

5. Any novel by Chandler you can recommend?

Pfft! ...actually, I think I have an interest in Poodle Springs that I could never shake off. He only wrote the first four chapters before he croaked; it's the work of a dying man - a crusty Philip Marlowe realizing that he's just gotten married to a vapid socialite that proposed marriage to him over the phone; it's strongly hinted that he had taken it at a week moment, when he was feeling his age, taking stock of his lonely existence...and now he realizes he doesn't want to be Nick Charles. It's was a spoof of Hammett's The Thin Man, basically. Enter writer Robert B. Parker with Chapter 5's "I finally found an office." and you realize the rest of the novel is going to eschew the Thin Man riff in favor of another Big Sleep pastiche, this time with Marlowe acting more like Spenser, For Hire...

Or I could recommend The High Window.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

#Top5ComicBooks of 2015: #1 - "The Eltingville Club #2" by Evan Dorkin

This was the best comic of 2015. What took me so long to write about it? was completed in 2016, followed by the hardcover volume that collected it. It's the second half of a mini-series; judging by how good the 1st issue was, I waited for it. I also posted fake #1 on this blog to coincide with April Fool's Day, but make no mistake: this is the one. You may continue reading or just start searching for it online or in back issue bins at your neighborhood comic store before it's gone. Or buy the hardcover before that also goes away...none of the non-superhero comics tend to stay in circulation long...I'm still holding on to my copies of Hopster's can go look that up.

Still lurking about? Okay. Read on..

Bill, Josh, Pete and Jerry. These four young men comprise The Eltingville Club. They are fanboys. They are frenemies. They are suckers. They were united because they had nobody else to compare notes with on their hobby. Although Jerry had become a more sympathetic character by the end, they're all at eachother's throats most of the time. This issue is the finale to a series of stories written and illustrated by Evan Dorkin during a 20+ year period; I heartily recommend you check it out, then be sure to check out the hardcover collection of all the stories, which was released on February of this year, also by Dark Horse Comics.

See, you look at guys like Kevin Smith, Chris Hardwick and others form cottage industries by branding comic book & pop culture fandom, but they skate lightly over this milieu; they'll use it as a springboard to just take what they can get and run...Evan Dorkin, on the other hand, steps deep in the $#!++y side of things and unveils the rotten core in a way that sometimes has reviewers downplay the canny accuracy by saying, "Oh, things aren't quite like THAT anymore, thank goodness"...when anyone with half a brain would beg to differ. All the bad behavior - across the board, from both sides, fans & retailers  (with a hinted thumbing of the nose at the publishers here and there) - is fair fodder for satire.

The "camaraderie" amongst the Eltingville Club is weak and toxic; this issue depicts what's supposed to be a "reunion", where they run into eachother at San Diego Comic-Con in their mid-30s. Pete and Josh have found careers, Jerry has found love, but Bill hasn't moved on, so the whole thing goes to hell. This must be read to be believed. Go now. Pick up this book. You will not regret it. Read the bits below for a taste if you're still not convinced. It should make you want to read more...then lament the fact that this was the end of it...then seek out the reprint book...and wish that wasn't the end...because that's what only the best comic book of the year can do.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"Do you have any 'Pink Panther'?"

I was at the Strand on Sunday evening, browsing their selection of graphic novels. I couldn't help overhearing this Australian family nearby asking the store clerk about what they had. The mother was wielding an impressive selection of books under her arm, while her son continued picking out more ( comics are like potato chips - you can never have just one ), and she asked this question:
"Do you have any Pink Panther?"
Prior to asking him, she was thinking out aloud, "I'm sure they have some Pink Panther here; this store has everything!"
Well...I wouldn't say that, but right away her words implied that in Australia, Pink Panther comic books are as ubiquitous as old Garfield and Pogo paperbacks from the 80s on a used bookstore shelf. At the moment, I could only recall a coffee table book Jerry Beck wrote about the Panther's cartoons..and I suppose they weren't inquiring for books about a gang of jewel thieves, either.
The store clerk's response was more diplomatic:
"I'm not sure - I'm going to check the inventory. I'll be right back."
He came back. He didn't find anything. So the family continued onward with the growing list of books the son was picking out. After a modest web search, it turns out an Australian publisher cranked out trade paperback collections of Pink Panther comics, so the character had a far greater presence as a comic book character among Aussies than he did in the 'States. He's bigger than Scooby-Doo..well, maybe 2nd or 3rd to Scooby...I don't see any made-for-DVD/Blu-Ray cartoon movies being cranked out for Pink Panther..though there are two "Top Cat" movies that were released in theaters overseas..
I know there's a new Pink Panther comic book series coming out, which appears to be a mix of new material and reprints of stories from the Gold Key years. It would be cool if the publisher - American Anthology - considered a series of trade reprints of that material - kind of like Archie Comics with their Sonic the Hedgehog Archives books, or Papercutz did with the Smurfs comic books. There was a short-lived Sunday comic strip by Eric & Bill Teitelbaum, which wasn't collected. The collections could be pocket-sized and in color. And..there is a new movie in development...a cg/live-action film starring the panther, so the timing is pretty good for 'Pink' to come back.