Frankenstein as a massive, green, lumbering dope with giant screws in his neck makes for a Halloween icon. The guy was even a friendly goofball in the 1960s television show THE MUNSTERS. But the original Frankenstein wasn’t a monster, at least not the one you might expect. He was Victor Frankenstein, the protagonist of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS, whose subtitle gives you an idea of the book’s themes. Frankenstein is so enamored of the natural sciences and so keen on charting new territory that he collects leftover human parts and figures out how to create a living being with them.
Alan Bradley’s latest in the charming mystery series featuring twelve-year-old precocious chemist/detective Flavia de Luce is THRICE THE BRINDED CAT HATH MEW’D. And thankfully, the series returns to its roots, leaving the Canadian boarding school and much of the gimmicky secret spy academy stuff behind. Flavia returns to familial home Buckshaw, with the distant Feely and the annoying Daffy and now the super-annoying cousin Undine.
One of the first things she does at home is run an errand for the vicar’s wife and … well, you guessed it, she finds a corpse. This corpse happens to be hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door, though without a mark on him. Flavia investigates and is soon off on yet another one of her wryly sweet adventures.
2016 marks the centennial of the birth of author John D. MacDonald, creator of the enduring Travis McGee mystery series. What better time for Stark House Press to reissue THE RED HOT TYPEWRITER, journalist Hugh Merrill’s biography of this popular, prolific, and influential author (first published in 2000). And this new edition contains a few extras, making it even more valuable to the legions that know and admire MacDonald’s work.
Although a lover of fiction since childhood, John D. MacDonald thought writers were born instead of made. It wasn’t until his was old enough to enlist in the Army, during World War II, that MacDonald tried his hand at writing stories. When he made his first short story sale, aided by his wife Dorothy (known to John D. and most everyone as Dordo), MacDonald kept at it while earning an income through a variety of jobs. Writing eventually became his main profession and lifelong passion.
For a few years now, Epicenter Comics has been publishing books from the legendary Italian Sergio Bonelli Editore for the American market. Following in the footsteps of Dark Horse (who published issues and collections of DYLAN DOG, NATHAN NEVER and TEX from the Bonelli stable), Epicenter has made a small dent with their two weird Western books MAGIC WIND and ZAGOR. More about both in future Euro Comics Roundups. What caught my attention was their plans to start releasing new DYLAN DOG material. The first volume just landed in my eager hands.
Crime author Duane Swiercznski toned down the wild imagination that distinguished his Charlie Hardie trio (FUN & GAMES, HELL & GONE and POINT & SHOOT) with his last novel, CANARY, published earlier this year. REVOLVER, his latest, continues this more realistic tendency, but is far more inventive in its plot structure; depicting a murder and its aftermath over two generations. And its one of the most engrossing and satisfying works in Swierczynski’s growing list of worthy novels.
In 1965 Stan Walczak, a Philadelphia street cop, is gunned down in corner bar along with his black partner. Although a suspect was later arrested and imprisoned for an unrelated crime, the murder of Walczak and his partner was never solved.
Alvise Marangon, a tour guide and translator, and his friend the gondolier Bepi, await the arrival of tourists in mid-18th-century Venice, Italy. A likely English pair, Mr. Boscombe, a young man on the Grand Tour and his tutor Shackleford, appear briefly, but another pair of sinister men pay off Bepi and try to take charge of the newcomers. Marangon senses fraud and intervenes. Not wishing to cause a scene, the others allow Marangon and Bepi to take Mr. Boscombe and his tutor under their wing, but they are none too happy about it.
And then no one is happy when the tutor is found with his throat cut.
That’s the high-concept pitch on the back cover of Daniel Godfrey’s NEW POMPEII. There’s also a comparison to Michael Crichton, another author known for his high-concept plots. Crichton was also known for his paper-thin characters, but the plots of his novels and the neat ways he would tie all the loose ends together by the end of the book made up for it.
Unfortunately, Daniel Godfrey is no Michael Crichton.
THE ADVENTURES OF DIETER LUMPEN by writer Jorge Zentner and artist Ruben Pellejero is a phenomenal release from IDW’s EuroComics lineup. Gathering under one cover the complete series featuring Lumpen, a reluctant leading man, this globe-trotting book set in the 1940s rolls out with several short pieces that set the tone before hitting a rapidly ascending trajectory with three longer works that fill out this gloriously printed oversized volume, stunningly drawn and beautifully written for the entirety of its 260 pages.
Since I learned how to read, books have been where I’ve turned for consolation, hope, and a clarifying dose of perspective. Lately, my solace seems to come from classic literature. Classics remind me how resilient humans are, how much beauty exists in the world. They remind me of the cyclical nature of human history. They illuminate all that humans have survived—insane rulers, endless wars of all kinds, devastating plagues, more devastating plagues … yet another devastating plague. We have survived it before, and we can survive it all over again.
1. THE ILIAD by Homer (maybe)
That this poem, set in the 10th year of the Trojan War, has survived thousands of years provides hope in itself. Gruesome battle scenes play counterpoint to moments of grace, as when a Greek and a Trojan honor their past friendship by refusing to strike each other down. Woven throughout the poem are timeless snapshots familiar in any time and place – the pleasure of a cozy sleep, a satisfying meal, children at play.
Daniel Silva’s latest, his 16th novel featuring Israeli spymaster Gabriel Allon, makes for difficult reading. Not because of any imperfections in the style or plot; but rather because the terrorism depicted in the novel is so uncomfortably close to current events happening throughout the world.
Silva confesses, in his brief Forward, that he was tempted to put the manuscript aside when he saw how it resembled recent acts of violence committed by ISIS. “I take no pride in my prescience,” he says. “I only wish that the murderous, millenarian terrorism of the Islamic State lived solely on the pages of this story.” Fortunately he completed the novel, and THE BLACK WIDOW stands as perhaps the most relevant and unsettling title of the entire series.