You know what’s even better than discovering a terrific new book? Discovering a terrific new author.  All too often, I’ve come across books I’ve enjoyed only to be disappointed by subsequent works by the same author.  Not so with Jeffrey Ford, one of the most imaginative and consistently entertaining writers out there.  Several years ago, I was so impressed by The Empire of Ice Cream, a collection of some of his short fiction, that I decided to check out his other titles.  Nine books later and I’m still in awe.  His recent collection, Crackpot Palace, is another winner, taking readers on a wild, breathtaking, occasionally surreal, altogether marvelous narrative ride.

I don’t watch a lot of movies.  Ever since I got the basement home theater, I’ve avoided movie theaters.  And, ever since Blu-ray came out, I’ve avoided buying DVD’s.  So where does that leave me? Filmically bereft.  Still, I do manage to watch the occasional movie if I happen to catch it on satellite.  Such was the case with Drive, a movie I honestly expected to underwhelm but which, surprisingly, impressed. Mightily.  No, it’s not an action movie (in the Hollywood sense of the term) but the script is breathtaking in its conciseness, the direction gorgeous, and the performances outstanding.  What more do you want?

It’s DC Comics’ version of Hill Street Blues, a series that focuses on the lives of the dedicated officers who are tasked with cleaning up after the likes of Catwoman, the Joker, and, yes, even Batman.  Writers Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka deliver a gritty procedural that simultaneously grounds Gotham City and makes it come alive in a way I’ve never seen (or, quite frankly, believed) before.  With the exception of one questionable beat in which someone just happens to overhear a secret – uttered by a character who just happens to be talking to herself (!), it’s a tight, noir masterpiece.  The art, by Michael Lark and the others, is perfect.

So I picked up about a dozen titles on The Top 100 Mystery Novels of All Time list compiled by the Mystery Writers of America and have, thus far, read six.  All fine reads but I suspect that much of the praise heaped on these books are the result of contextual consideration, an evaluation based on the books as a product of their time, their strengths and weaknesses weighed relative to their historical significance rather than standalone works judged by more contemporary standards.  In five out of six reads, I found myself making excuses for some of the clunkier narrative elements.  The Talented Mr. Ripley was the exception.  Patricia Highsmith crafts a novel so engaging, so unnervingly suspenseful, that I skipped my bedtime and stayed up until 3:00 a.m. to finish it.  And, unlike most of today’s books, movies, and t.v. shows – it kept me guessing at every turn.

11 thoughts on “October 9, 2012: In which the author recommends stuff!

  1. ..totally agree!

    GOTHAM CENTRAL was a great DC series! Always loved the cameo appearances of some of Gotham’s more “interesting” citizens throughout the run and how the GCPD couldn’t stand Batman. The only comic series that when you read it, you could literally hear the “Law & Order sound effect” at times. But once Renee became the ? and Crispus the new Spectre then GC was pretty much written off forever.

    Also the RIPLEY books are a great read! One of the most interesting characters of modern day fiction. The Ripley movies aren’t that bad (although they change a lot), the books are most definitely better. I still don’t know why no one has ever tried to make a Ripley tv series (ala Masterpiece Theater style) or even a movie mini-series format (like A&E did with the Horatio Hornblower stories).

  2. @ Sparrowhawk – Reading the blog, silly! (Also catching up on some comics – I’m really far behind).


  3. I’m glad you enjoyed The Talented Mr Ripley. While the film can’t completely capture the book, its well worth a watch too.

  4. Believe it or not, I’ve been enjoying The Hunger Games series. I’ve just started book two. Before everyone starts making fun of me for being a 43 year old man reading a teen novel, I’m reading it mostly because it’s a free borrow book for my Kindle. And with the wife out of work, I’ve got to budget what I can. Books are no longer a priority.

    It is as expected, an easy read. And if you overlook the teenage girl love angst, not a bad story. Of great interest to me is the dystopian future of the United States, ruled by a heavy handed and brutal totalitarian government. I’d like to know more about “The War”. Maybe Suzanne Collins will right some prequels. (fingers crossed)

  5. It’s always great to find authors you love to read! There are a few authors that I buy ASAP: David Baldacci and Robert K. Tanenbaum are the first two that come to mind. I’ve never been disappointed buying those two authors without reading the cover.

    Cookie Monster cake:

    I’m heading to Atlanta tomorrow. My cousin is meeting us at LaFonda (a Cuban place) and she also suggested The Flying Biscuit for breakfast. Any other restaurant suggestions for Atlanta?

  6. Drive is streaming on Ntflx, so true that it was one of those that I went into with low expectations and ended up loving. I was so not feeling Ryan Gosling before Drive but now I’m a…Gosler, or whatever his fans are called. He was also terrific in Crazy Stupid Love, another film that was way better than I thought it would be.

    I’m currently nursing a deep fascination with Call the Midwife, and I’m hunting down every clip of Miranda Hart that I can find on youtube. I’d never heard of her before Midwife aied and now I’m about as huge a fan of hers as I was of Robin Williams when I first saw Mork & Mindy and wrote in my diary that it was the best show ever created in the whole world.

  7. Just an FYI to the comix fans here, Time Warner’s career website has two full time jobs posted at DC Comics in CA and NY; they can also be found by searching Warner Bros career website under openings in publishing:

    Job Title :Group Editor, Digital
    Time Warner
    Division DC Entertainment
    WB Business Unit DC Comics
    Location United States – California – Burbank
    Requisition # 132950BR

    Posting Job Description SUMMARY OF POSITION:
    DC Comics seeks a Group Editor, Digital for the Editorial (West Coast) department. Position will manage the west coast editorial team in developing and producing comics for digital and print release, including new digital content, All Ages comics, in-bound licensed comics, and custom creative projects.

    Senior Letterer
    Time Warner, Division DC Entertainment
    WB Business Unit DC Comics
    Location United States – New York – New York
    Requisition # 132786BR

    Posting Job Description SUMMARY OF POSITION:
    DC Comics seeks a Senior Letterer for the Manufacturing & Production (East Coast) department.

  8. _#jimfromjersey…I too loved the Hunger Games books, esp the consequences of being a rebel. Much more engaging than turning into a vampire who only sparkles in the sun! Sometimes there is no Happy Ever After- just getting up the next morning and starting the laundry

  9. Take the cars, Gosling, wannabe mafiosos, replace them with horses, Clint Eastwood & mexican bandidos… yeah its a spaghetti western under that techno music and faux style.

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