This book's hilarious. I laughed out loud a bunch. It reminds me of that British TV show 'Keeping Up Appearances' in some ways. The Durrells were one...moreThis book's hilarious. I laughed out loud a bunch. It reminds me of that British TV show 'Keeping Up Appearances' in some ways. The Durrells were one whacky bunch, especially the brother Larry (who was also a writer - I found one of his books at Goodwill last week but I couldn't stand the long line so I left it on the counter and walked out, then spent an hour yesterday scanning their shelves but I couldn't find it.)
One story didn't really come alive for me like the others ("The Michelin Man," it has a pretty nice, albeit predictable, ending, though.) Other than that, four of the stories are hilarious and the one that comes out of left field is pretty creepy in a good way.
[Note: I read this book a couple years ago and in the last few weeks I had the sudden urge to re-read the last story, 'The Entrance.' I disagree as one reviewer said, that it ruined the book. Yeah, it's not funny. So what. As funny as Durrell can be, and he can be a riot, at that same level, in 'The Entrance,' he is creepy. Anyway, just re-read it. Still love it. Now I'm even more curious. Did Durrell ever comment on this story, in an interview or anything? I've looked but haven't found anything. Most of the stories here read like memoir/essays (although 'The Michelin Man' is magical), that I almost wonder if Durrell didn't actually find this manuscript in the way the story suggests. Did he write the story within the story? I'm guessing he did. Mostly because of the writing style and because the manuscript author shares some of Durrell's interests (in food/wine, animals and books.) Maybe we'll never know. If anybody does have a clue or an opinion, let me know, I'd love to hear it.] (less)
Required Reading for a Rick Bass presentation. The stories assigned--Escapes and The Blue Men--were the best. I think Williams' stories can be like dr...moreRequired Reading for a Rick Bass presentation. The stories assigned--Escapes and The Blue Men--were the best. I think Williams' stories can be like drinking a cold glass of ginger ale after reading too much Lorrie Moore. Williams can be one funny writer and these two stories are the funniest of the bunch. Rot and The Skater are also good. Since the book is on loan from the Portland Public Library I think I'm going to go upstairs and photocopy Escapes, just so I can have it until I buy a copy.(less)
At least, the English translation of the short stories collected in Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination were l...moreCrack is good, but Rampo's better!
At least, the English translation of the short stories collected in Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination were like crack for me. Those tales were written simply and straightforward but they really were mysterious and imaginative. I became an instant Rampo fan after reading it. And, unfortunately, since I can't read Japanese, there aren't a lot of Rampo stories for me to read. So when I found this two-for-one (really one novel and one novella than two novels) I was pretty pumped.
Beast in the Shadows, I would say, is the stronger of the pair. Instantly recognizable as classic Rampo, with all of the elements I enjoyed in the aforementioned collection: fantastic mystery and sheer imagination, in the tradition of Conan Doyle, and of course, Poe.
Why they didn't lead with this story is beyond me, since The Black Lizard is easily the weaker of the two. I'm not sure how much of that is the translation of Rampo's text, but it just feels off. Famously, the translation for Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination was arduous (it's also recounted here in the introduction). Rampo and the translator labored over it together. I wonder how this story would have read if the same approach could have been taken here.
By the way, I came to Rampo by way of Case Closed, or Detective Conan, and Rampo's influence on that property is completely evident in both these stories, especially The Black Lizard. If you're a fan of Conan Edogawa and company, and are curious, definitely check it out. And vice versa, if you're a fan of Rampo, it wouldn't hurt to check out the Detective Conan anime.
Hopefully, we'll get to see more Rampo soon, and hopefully it will be choice material with top-notch translation. (less)
Loved when I was a kid, just reread it and loved it again. I'm not about to go read the rest of the series, but reading it was like eating blue box ma...moreLoved when I was a kid, just reread it and loved it again. I'm not about to go read the rest of the series, but reading it was like eating blue box mac 'n cheese when you're shitfaced.(less)
[As always, this rating is relevant only to this corner of fiction: MSW "novels" and others based on TV shows. Obviously with these mass market, pop f...more[As always, this rating is relevant only to this corner of fiction: MSW "novels" and others based on TV shows. Obviously with these mass market, pop fic, "readables" I don't consider the quality of the prose or anything.]
This is the second novel based on "Murder, She Wrote" and it's clear that at this point in time Donald Bain hadn't yet watched the show. At all. In the first novel he made the big faux pas in having Jessica Fletcher drive a car. On the show, she never ever drove--the creators rightly figured that her needing rides from others would force her to interact with other characters (as well as pay/not pay and tip/not tip cabbies in order to show us Jessica's frugal side.)
Here the most glaring mistake is in having Mort (or 'Morton' as Jessica calls him in this book--another mistake, as well as her calling Seth by his surname) be from Maine. Nearly every other episode Sheriff Metzger mentions that he's from New York City. He's a fish out of water in Cabot Cove, Maine. To see him meet a New York cop and be so befuddled by the NYPD's shadiness is just ridiculous. Chagrined, maybe, but not befuddled.
My favorite mistake in all the book though is Jessica looking in the mirror and remarking on her red hair. Red hair. Mr. Bain, you should've at least looked at the cover of your previous book and noticed Jessica's a blonde. Or should've looked at any picture of Angela Lansbury--her do's pretty much constant. There's just no excuse. Even if you don't like TV or this show, how can you not know Gaslight, or the Manchurian Candidate? Anyway, the list can go on, but I've heard Bain improves as the series continues.
As for the rest of the book--the plot was a little intriguing to start with, enough to turn the pages last night. The action seems like it's about to pick up when Bain involves Seth and Mort (or 'Morton') but these guys are horribly underused. I read a review on Amazon in which the reviewer stated that although we don't get much of Cabot Cove seeing Seth and Mort frolicking around FAO Schwartz more than made up for it. They're trip isn't even a scene. It's mentioned in passing, a sentence or two of summary.
I've read a lot of mysteries and I have to say that this climax was practically devoid of tension or excitement. There was barely and conflict. Of all the endings I've read this was the absolute worst. Definitely. Jessica and company show up to confront the killer(s), and nothing happens. What a dud.
Some people really have frighteningly low expectations. Including whoever keeps green-lighting these books. If somebody at Penguin isn't actively seeking a better co-writer for Mrs. Fletcher, somebody should be fired. The bottom line, Manhattans & Murder is recommended only for fans of the genre or amateur writers, in that it might be interesting to see how clumsily a book's plot threads can be knotted (not knitted) together, printed, and sold. (less)
**spoiler alert** Set in 1950s San Fran, this Vertigo Crime graphic novel "Fogtown" is a pulp tale about a hard-boiled, dick-loving dick. And it's nea...more**spoiler alert** Set in 1950s San Fran, this Vertigo Crime graphic novel "Fogtown" is a pulp tale about a hard-boiled, dick-loving dick. And it's nearly fantastic.
The plot and most everything else is pretty straightforward noir fare; what makes "Fogtown" atypical is its progressive and honest approach to sexuality. Specifically, the sexuality of the main character. Gabrych's take on the gay man (albeit closeted, mostly) is admirable and hopefully we see a lot of this in the future - in more comics, in more media in general. Gabrych's characters treat homosexuality how it must've been in the 50s and it feels authentic. It's not PC, it's not preachy, it's not what you'd expect, and thank God for that.
Beyond its main plot, this story is about faith, fortune, fucking, and family. And our anti-hero Frank has problems in all of these areas. He's not only deep in the closet, but he's a drunk, he has whore issues, girlfriend issues, ex-wife issues, a daughter with daddy issues, case issues, boyfriend issues, hirsute issues, and the shit hits the fan when his personal, professional, and private worlds collide along with all of these issues.
The art was definitely more than serviceable. It feels very pulpy, very 1950s. Black and white, heavy on the ink, thick lines. Rader's storytelling skills are mostly strong (save a couple obfuscated or contextless panels). But this book ain't exactly firing on all cylinders, hence the four stars. Cliches abound, for one. I expect and forgive them, sure, given the limitations of the form and the genre, and while Gabrych earned from me enough goodwill with this character that I can forgive him anything, its the prose that keeps the book from truly singing.
Recommended for fans of detective fiction or pulps or film noir, but a must for gay comic fans in general since we populate far less than "ten percent" of the comic book universe. It's slim pickings, but here, at least, the pickings are good. (less)
This is a five star mystery, no doubt, and my favorite Bernie book by far. Naturally, I respond according to a book in this series depending on what B...moreThis is a five star mystery, no doubt, and my favorite Bernie book by far. Naturally, I respond according to a book in this series depending on what Block is satirizing in it. I admit, I'm a huge Agatha Christie fanboy so TBITL is right up my alley. This is Block satirizing the cozy mystery. It's funny, but not jokey. It can be read just like a cozy while both poking fun at and applauding it too. And I have a soft spot for this one especially since it's a play on Agatha's "The Body in the Library"--one of the finest Miss Marples, in my opinion. In fact, I might give this another read right now. (less)
First book I ever bought. At the Boys & Girls Club, in the library when Connie Constance ran it, at a book fair. I think I was 6. My copy survives...moreFirst book I ever bought. At the Boys & Girls Club, in the library when Connie Constance ran it, at a book fair. I think I was 6. My copy survives, aided by about half a role of masking tape. I'll have to show this one to my nephew and see what he thinks. I never really cared for the story myself, or the art. It's good but not great. The message is nice - picking up after yourself is important, or else a mess will amass and messy monsters will be confected. But I was always proud of The Messy Monster. It was mine. In fact, this just might be the first thing I ever bought, ever. Which is crazy...(less)
I discovered this book from the anime - Case Closed (or Detective Conan.) The protagonist of the anime has to make up an alias, so he comes up with Co...moreI discovered this book from the anime - Case Closed (or Detective Conan.) The protagonist of the anime has to make up an alias, so he comes up with Conan Edogawa. As in, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edogawa Rampo. I'm a big Sherlock fan so naturally I wanted to see what Rampo was like.
Well, this book was like crack to me. For some reason, I'm not sure. They just feel like the kind of stories told around a fireplace, which I love. A lot of them are disgusting, but if you like mysteries you'll dig this.
Edogawa Rampo is a pen name. If you say it three times fast you might hear something interesting.(less)