Junior Mad Scientist – Lab Notes


October 27th, 2011 by Weber

This just in from bookstore proprietor, publisher, and editor extraordinaire, Otto Penzler:

 I’m pretty jazzed right now. After two years of hard and often frustrating work, the website of my electronic publishing company is up and running. Click this link — http://mysteriouspress.com/  — if you’d like to see it and the terrific array of books and authors we’re offering. It’s the first day, so only about 40 books are up, but we’ll be adding hundreds more over the next few months.
Yours sincerely, Otto

For all you mystery fans with e-readers and i-Pads, Otto’s site has enough great titles to keep you busy for a good long while. And like he says, more are on the way.

Don’t forget: X-mas is coming on fast, and e-readers are cheap. Buy one, load it with mysteries, and give it to a friend. They’ll thank you.


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Book Review: Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone

October 24th, 2011 by Weber


Assurances were made that a review would be posted on the 24th. It’s still Monday for a few more hours and, after a day of brawling with myself over issues peripheral — but bearing no direct relation — to the book’s contents, I’m back to take another swing.

For the uninitiated or casually familiar, F&L@RS is a fine introduction to The Good Doctor’s non-Vegas Gonzo pieces and a good place to find some of his most incandescent writing. And while the book doesn’t illustrate the evolution of Hunter’s style and craft, these repackaged Rolling Stone articles showcase the results of both the writer and his editors, past and present, in creating finished pieces. It also traces the astonishing climb, stall, and flame-0ut of one of America’s most prolific, insightful, and unstoppable humorists.

Much of the material for this book appeared in the same or similar forms in Hunter’s other collected works, most notably THE GREAT SHARK HUNT. In fact, of the 40 or so articles and letters listed on the contents page, nine were in SHARK HUNT and fourteen in CAMPAIGN TRAIL ’72.

(N.B. — I say, “same or similar forms,” because, according to Paul Scanlon’s warm and excellent intro, he’s re-groomed some of the articles for the new book. While editorial nit-pickers and HST fetishists will no doubt have their jollies with it, I have no time for a full-on stare-and-compare. One day, maybe — but not today.)

Where SHARK HUNT takes a somewhat shotgun approach to the groupings, F&L@RS has the advantage of presenting the pieces chronologically. Following the timeline lets readers see how Hunter’s writing for Rolling Stone fed the success and growth of the magazine, and was responsible for the growth and spread of the Hunterfigure. Readers get to witness the Legend being being printed along with the Truth and bound together, for good and ill, in the public consciousness.

For the hardcore fan or HST scholar, F&L@RS ultimately holds no surprises, though there are two pieces worth particular mention. First, is the inclusion of, “Polo Is My Life” — one of the truly essential pieces of Hunter’s writing that has been MIA for too long. Second is the exclusion of “Dance of the Doomed,”  Hunter’s meditation and final word on the war in Vietnam. The real reason why this was left out is anybody’s guess.

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Book Review: Dear Creature by Jonathan Case

October 17th, 2011 by Weber

Somewhere between a Universal monster movie and The Merchant of Venice lies Jonathan Case’s debut graphic novel, Dear Creature. Would this rightly be considered a mash-up? There is no such mention in the enclosed marketing materials, so best not beleaguer the book with negative baggage. Especially since it doesn’t deserve it.

Indeed. Dear Creature is a rich romantic comedy –– fast, layered, funny, and tight –– proper adjectives to describe the writing, pacing, panel composition and line work. High praise for someone’s debut solo effort.

Case seems to have pulled from everywhere: some Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, a little Frankenstein, a handful of Romeo and Juliet, bushels of Dave Stevens, a weird slice from the Taming of the Shrew, some Harlequin Romance, even a bit of Calvin and Hobbes. And it works. The familiar hints of this and that neither overwhelm nor diminish Case’s fresh story of two gene–crossed lovers.

The art here is not subsidiary to the text. This is real comics, the Alchemical Blend I keep talking about that is the hallmark of fine sequential art storytelling. It’s doubtful that a collaborating artist or a brush-for-hire could have managed so successful a package. The crisp black and whites beautifully reflect the tale’s two emotional states: morbid despair and incandescent joy, Case’s clean pen tracing between the two, creating the space in which his characters breathe.

Read in a single sitting, Dear Creature had my full buy-in for every page –– except one. When the hero, Grue, escapes the clutches of a giant squid by tickling her, ah    . . .  “fancy,” shall we call it? . . .  I was completely yanked out of the story.

Not that the moment was too broad or even unnecessary. It might have worked if it wasn’t so jarringly out of place. There was no precedent for it. Plenty of slapstick in the panels leading up to it, but no hint of bawdiness. And while I’m all for the bawdy, it shouldn’t come in the middle of a harrowing sequence. That, and the fact that Grue quickly, ah “surfaces,” shall we call it ? . . . leaving the lady squid with her tentacle trapped in the hull of a submarine? Well, that’s just bad form.

What Case comes up with next is anybody’s guess. With any luck, he’ll be able to stick with long-form graphic novels instead of being seduced by the superhero monthlies. They lack soul; Case doesn’t need to lose his to those.

Either way, I’ll be waiting.

Hit Case’s Web site here.

Dear Creature page over at the MacMillan/Tor site

MacMillan’s Comics and Graphic Novel page — GOLD!

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