3 New Entertainment Titles

Bart Beaty’s study of 1960s-era Archie Comics, Twelve-Cent Archie, came out two years ago, but with the squeaky-clean icons turned into the soapy hit TV series Riverdale, Rutgers University Press has reissued it with full-color illustrations, so anyone who ever enjoyed the comics no longer has an excuse against buying this milestone in pop-culture criticism. While my eyes appreciate the upgrade, my heart is certain that the book was fantastic even in black and white. Unlike, well, every other academic work I’ve read, Beaty has divided his into 100 tight, concise chapters, and then seemingly threw them into the air and let gravity decide the order. The genius of this approach is that it absolutely works. Whether dissecting the literal shape of panels or discussing whether Archie would be better off with Betty or Veronica (mathematics provides the answer, hilariously), Beaty never fails to enlighten as he charms. I haven’t so much as touched an Archie comic book since leaving grade school, yet every page held me rapt.

In Comic Book Film Style: Cinema at 24 Panels Per Second, Canada-based Dru Jeffries argues — rightly, successfully — that the media continues to misuse the term “comic book” as it relates to the movies, in part because it’s bandied about so carelessly, it’s applied even when the source material isn’t a comic book at all. So what is the comic book film, exactly? Jeffries is glad you asked! Per chapter one of his University of Texas Press paperback, the mostly forgotten 2010 actioner The Losers best represents the true definition, in translating the page to the screen as faithfully as possible — not merely in story, but also in style — and the accompanying images from both mediums prove the point, over and over. Subsequent chapters loosen up a bit to examine more flicks, whether through their use of onscreen onomatopoeia (1966’s Batman: The Movie), framing to replicate panels (Creepshow) or manipulation of time (300). Although smartly designed and more than generously illustrated, the book can grow dry if approached from a casual standpoint. So don’t! This material would kill in a classroom setting.

So venerated is Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 existential sci-fi epic that you could fill a small shelf with books dedicated to the film. Even more are on the way; in the meantime, here’s another! From McFarland & Company, film critic Joe R. Frinzi’s Kubrick’s Monolith: The Art and Mystery of 2001: A Space Odyssey reads less like a serious study of the picture (although that exists in one chapter) and more like a Fodor’s guidebook. With enthusiasm and efficiency, Frinzi covers how Arthur C. Clarke’s short story turned into what now is a classic, but considered a failure in its day; plus 2001’s needle-drop soundtrack of classical cuts; Oscar-winning special effects, especially the trippy Star-Gate sequence; and the various sequels, spin-offs and illegitimate children. Chapters vary in usefulness, from quite handy (comparing the various soundtrack albums over the years) to not at all (giving a beat-by-beat plot synopsis). —Rod Lott

Get them at Amazon.

Infinite Stars: The Definitive Anthology of Space Opera and Military SF

Any short story anthology that boasts itself as “definitive” leaves itself open for debate. But INFINITE STARS’ claim of being this kind of collection of space opera and military science fiction might be justified.

This is due, in large part, to editor Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s perceptive decision to include both new examples – many of which are additions to popular series – as well as previously published stories that shaped this kinds of science fiction over the years.

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A Legacy of Spies

Devoted readers of John le Carré know the character, Peter Guillam, as the staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley, the seemingly ordinary but brilliant agent of the British Secret Service, known as the Circus. Guillam assists Smiley in Le Carre’s breakthrough novel, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, and more prominently in the trio of novels (TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY; THE HONERABLE SCHOOL BOY; and SMILEY’S PEOPLE) where Smiley unmasks the Soviet mole deep within the Circus and then sets out to bring down Karla, his nemesis of Moscow Center

Now Guillam is the protagonist of le Carré’s latest novel, A LEGACY OF SPIES, and finds himself reliving his past, as well as that of his mentor Smiley and other high-ranking Circus agents.

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Quarry’s Climax

From the Hard Case Crime banner, this 14th title in Max Allan Collins’s long-running series has everything you’d expect from a Quarry novel: hard-boiled dialogue, effective period recreation, and an assigned murder that is not all it appears to be. But perhaps owing to the nature of the plot, QUARRY’S CLIMAX suffers from a slower pace than most of its predecessors, as well as what feels like a disturbing lack of commitment from Collins himself.

The story takes place in 1975. The man known as Quarry, a former Marine sniper and Vietnam vet, has been a murder-for-hire assassin for almost five years. Not long after he and his partner conclude a job in Las Vegan, his boss, a refined gentleman known only as The Broker, visits Quarry at his home in Lake Geneva. Quarry has a new assignment, but with a noticeable difference than his previous cases.

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Lights, Camera, Game Over!: How Video Game Movies Get Made

As revenue generated from video games rivaled — and eventually eclipsed — that of motion pictures, Hollywood executives have been eager to reclaim some of those plunked quarters by adapting arcade and console favorites into movies. It wasn’t always the more-regular occurrence it is today, and the results have been messier more often than not, and both those points make Luke Owen’s book on the subject a fairly fascinating chronicle of coin-op/cinematic synergy.

In Schiffer Publishing’s Lights, Camera, Game Over!: How Video Game Movies Get Made, the British-based Owen offers detailed production histories of 11 key adaptations — well, okay, 10 adaptations, plus Adam Sandler’s two-bit flop on 8-bit nostalgia, 2015’s Pixels.

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Hook Jaw: Volume 1

Don’t know if you got the memo, but sharks are the new zombies. This summer alone, 47 METERS DOWN made a box-office killing; Syfy unleashed a fifth SHARKNADO movie; and, as with every year before this one, my co-workers would not STFU about Discovery’s “Shark Week” programming. More appropriate to this website, Chris Jameson took up the Peter Benchley torch with the paperback thriller SHARK ISLAND, and now, Titan Comics gives us HOOK JAW: VOLUME 1.

No time like the present to resurrect it. Yes, it’s a revival — or “reboot,” as the cool kids say — of 1970s British comic-magazine ACTION’s controversial finned star, who only existed to make bank off Steven Spielberg’s monster hit JAWS.

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The Rat Catchers’ Olympics

I generally love Colin Cotterill and his various mystery series set in Southeast Asia. Both his Jimm Juree and Dr. Siri Paiboun series are delightfully funny, and rather strongly plotted. The Paiboun series extends into the world of the supernatural but it’s on a more spiritual, and less haunting, level. For instance, the good Doctor often physically disappears from Earth, visiting some ethereal otherworldly realm where he is guided (or, if the Doctor were to be consulted, obstructed) by the enigmatic Auntie Bpoo, who torments Siri with her mischievous antics and confusing advice.

THE RAT CATCHERS’ OLYMPICS is the 12th installment in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series and it has a fascinating setting: the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

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Sacculina / Behold the Void

I tend to befriend lots of writers. It’s the nature of the business. We do it to network, but we also do it because we generally have a lot in common, which is:

All writers share a love for the written word.

One of the perks of being friends with lots of writers is that you discover other writers the general public hasn’t heard about. We tend to talk about someone new we’ve discovered, one of those “overnight sensations” (who’s been toiling at it for years, but it seems like they exploded onto the literary scene overnight because…well, just because it appears that way).

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Girl in a Big Brass Bed / The Spy Who Was 3 Feet Tall / Code Name Gadget

Along with his several noir mysteries and Daniel Port crime fiction series, Peter Rabe wrote a three-novel series in the mid-1960s featuring attorney Manny deWitt. These three novels — GIRL IN A BRASS BED, THE SPY WHO WAS 3 FEET TALL and CODE NAME GADGET — are now available in an omnibus volume from Stark House Press’s Noir Classics.

The deWitt series comes as close to the popular spy fiction of the time as Rabe ever got. But in typical Rabe fashion, the deWitt novels are decidedly different from other works of spy or espionage fiction. And while they are not among Rabe’s best works, they will be of particular interest to Rabe’s many devoted readers.

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The Smack

This latest crime novel by Richard Lange, the highly praised author of two previous novels and two short story collections, is a rare combination of realism and inventiveness. We find this in both the portrayals of the protagonists as well as the urban locations. It adds up to make THE SMACK Lange’s most accomplished novel to date.

Rowan Petty has been a con man all his life. But when a streak of bad luck hits, Petty finds himself stuck in Reno, living in cheap hotels and working phone scams for a man he trained years ago. He tries to increase his meager earnings at the local casino poker tables. One afternoon, on his way back from a casino, Petty meets a sweet-talking prostitute who calls herself Tinafey (“Like that white lady on TV, but all one word.”) and they become friends.

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