If you had to name the most dangerous and well-connected person in all of Los Angeles, Irwin Dressler would be right at the top of the list. Studio bosses and Union heads used to call him to find out what to do, that day, and lived in fear of him calling them. And let’s not even get started on his mob connections…
So when Junior Bender — unofficial (read “press-ganged”) detective to LA’s criminal classes — gets snatched off the streets by Dressler’s thugs, and plopped in front of the testy and talkative nonagenarian, he knows he’d better mind his Ps and Qs. And that’s a good thing, because the case that Dressler wants Bender to take this time is an unusual one: who stole the career of the most beautiful woman in the world, and left her a Hollywood exile?
It’s a good question, though. Once upon a time, Dolores La Marr was really going places; working her way up from bad movies to good, from the bottom of the bill to the top of the credits, and from casting couches to made men. In time she might have been another Marilyn Monroe, but then a bad night in Las Vegas left her arrested, exposed, humiliated, and dragged in front of Senate committees.
And after that, all she had to look forward to was ridicule and shame, unanswered phone calls, and a lifetime in hiding.
There’s nothing like a murder to ring in the Christmas spirit in Oslo.
The victim was a Salvation Army bell-ringer — a common sight in a country where the organization wears uniforms and speaks of “holy war.” What wasn’t common was the fact that the killer struck the man in public, and then simply melted into the crowd. The signs point to a professional hit, which would make the assassin a hired gun. But who in the world would want to kill a man engaged in charitable work?
Tasked with solving that puzzle is Harry Hole*, who has the distinction of being an excellent and demanding detective, and the curse of being all too flawed of a human being. Harry’s a recovering alcoholic who’s just one or two bad pieces of news away from tipping back into a bottle. He’s still trying to get over the end of his last relationship, the murder of his last partner, and a few other crosses he’s bearing at any given time.
Chief amongst the new crosses is his new boss, who is either a well-meaning stickler for rules or a jerk looking to fire him — maybe both. And then there’s the lady in AA who gets off on both him and his horror stories, and the police telling him he needs to carry a gun, now, and worrying about the blasted lump of sorrow his former boss has become.
A lesser person might just slip into a bottle, drink himself sober, and narrowly avoid freezing to death on the streets. But Harry’s made of sterner stuff — he’ll at least make some headway on his current case before allowing himself such a selfish luxury.
Did you enjoy our last post about great graphic novels arriving at Schuler Books and Music recently? Well, there’s still more illustrated goodness out there! This time, we’ll look at exciting stuff coming from the independents, as well as from DC’s Vertigo imprint.
Hot off the presses is the latest installment of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Nemo: Heart of Ice. It’s 1925, and, a decade and a half after taking control of Captain Nemo’s dread legacy, his daughter Janni — last seen in Century:1910 — is finding the role rather heavy and tiring. So she decides to try and outdo her late father by taking up his unfinished exploration of the strange, Antarctic regions. But the dangerous forces she disturbed on her last bit of piracy are out to get revenge.
And if they don’t kill her, the otherworldly things that lurk out the South Pole just might…
As always, the team of Moore and O’Neill provide an adventurous feast for the eyes and the mind. Those who enjoy Moore’s deft manipulation of overlapping fictions will find this a satisfying read, and have quite the jolly time spotting literary references. And those who’ve been wondering what the author would make of all the various spooky goings-on at that particular locale will find it intriguing, to say the least.
In the mood for some great graphic novels? So are we! Here’s a collection of some of the cool things that have flown into the store, both in April and over the last few months.
Just in time for the build-up for Iron Man 3, we have the final volume in Matt Fraction’s epic run on old shellhead life and times, appropriately-entitled The Future. It’s been a very tumultuous few years, what with the Civil War, the reign of Normal Osborn, putting his life back together after the Siege, and having that uneasy peace shattered again by Fear Itself. But now, after succumbing to the bottle once more during that last crisis, Tony Stark faces the ultimate indignity: he’s been stripped of his armor and his free will, and forced to work for his arch-enemy, The Mandarin.
Stuck in the powerful tyrant’s city, harried by modified foes, and threatened with pain and death every time he steps an inch out of line — or, worse, even slightly disappoints — Stark toils to create mega-weapons for this singularly dangerous man. But what is the Mandarin really up to, and can he stop the man’s dire plans with his head wired up?
Up against the ultimate deadline, Stark forges a coalition of friends and foes. Will it be enough? And if he wins, what shape will the future take…?
As ever, Salvador Larroca’s art is brilliant, and acts as a perfect medium for the satisfying finale of a well-done run that’s been just as brilliant, and paves the way for the new Marvel we’re currently enjoying. If you’ve been snapping up the collections as they’ve been coming out, you’ll want to get this as soon as possible. And if you’re new to Iron Man, you’ll want to go back to the start, just to be able to understand how good a book this has been.
If there’s one thing we Booksellers at Schuler Books and Music love, it’s when a customer wants a total, complete, no-holds-barred recommendation for a good book. You could comb through our Staff Picks section or the Indie Next list, of course, but nothing beats having someone talk you into taking a chance on a new book from an up-and-coming author, or an old favorite, or something that slipped everyone’s notice but deserves to be read. We call it a Hand-Sell, and it’s one of the best parts of the job.
In keeping with that idea, I thought I’d do something a little different, this week, and try to remotely Hand-Sell you on three of my favorite, understated titles. They run from spooky to tense, with a little funny-but-sad thrown in for good measure.
So, are you ready to be sold on something? Then let’s begin…
Meet Carter Tomlin. Once, he was a hardworking and successful businessman who was proud to be able to provide for his family. He had a wife, kids, a nice house, a good track on a senior position, and things were great.
But then he lost his job, courtesy of recent harsh economic realities, and his life started coming apart. And that’s because Carter was too proud to declare bankruptcy, and with the severance package money dwindling, and bills coming due, he made a bad decision that changed everything.
He robbed a bank, like a total amateur, and got away with it.
To those of you who care – Happy March Madness! If watching two or three dozen games over the next few weeks isn’t enough, you can always grab a copy of Tom Hagar’s excellent The Ultimate Book of March Madness to read between tip-offs (tips-off?). If you fall on the normal side of the fence, however, and that would just be way too much basketball, here are a few suggestions of a completely different kind:
Devil in the Grove - Gilbert King. One of the paradoxes of reading is how much you can enjoy the experience of a book even though the subject matter may be repulsive and shameful. Mr. King’s book is a meticulously researched and skillfully written account of the Groveland Boys trial in Florida, shortly after World War II. The story, young black men falsely accused of raping a white woman in the Jim Crow-era South, played out countless times over several decades. What makes this book page-turningly compelling is the size of its heroes and villains.
Young NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall saw this case and a handful of others as opportunities to slowly pick away at the “separate but equal” laws on the books in many states. He and his staff risked their lives on many occasions, in states where the KKK was riding a crest of power and influence. Future Supreme Court Justice Marshall and the men and women who braved the battles with him were true American heroes – driven, daring and passionate. On the other side, I can’t recall in the darkest of fiction a more repellent villain than Sherriff Willis McCall of Lake County, Florida. Both a pawn of the powerful citrus-growers of the era and the standard-bearer of racism to his constituents, there’s no temptation as you read to excuse him as a product of a different time or influenced by his environment. This was a man fully capable of hating anyone not sharing his skin color or beliefs and acting on that hatred without conscience. That he held office until 1972 is a glaring reminder of how slowly change can happen.
A disturbing, yet thrilling read, too true to have a simple happy ending. It would be fair to say we’re still working toward the book’s resolution.
The Art Forger - Barbara Shapiro. Ms. Shapiro takes a true event, the theft of thirteen major works of art from Boston’s Isabella Gardner Museum in 1990, and turns it into a fine left-field mystery novel. You’ll learn more about the world of art forgery, both legal and not, than you ever thought you needed to know; but it’s all part of a compelling romp through the surprise and suspense of a very well told story. It’s pure coincidence that the FBI announced just last week that they had finally indentified the real-life thieves, and were much closer to solving the case after all these years. I can’t help but wonder if Ms. Shapiro’s research for her book played any part.
Breakfast for Dinner - Lindsay Landis & Taylor Hackbarth. I’ve never been one to adhere to the rules of certain-foods-for-certain-times-of-day in the first place. If I want something savory for breakfast or sweet and comforting for dinner, I don’t let the clock make the decision for me. The authors take that idea even further; creating original, unfussy and delicious recipes that bring the ingredients and flavors of breakfast food to the evening meal. The recipe titles alone will give you a great idea of both the author’s playful creativity and why I’ve become so attached to this book – Italian-Style French Toast, Parmesan Beignets, Breakfast Sausage Ravioli, Bacon Fried Rice, Espresso Baked Beans – need I say more?
Thanks for taking the time to read, and I always welcome and appreciate any feedback you may care to offer. Let’s share recommendations – that well never runs dry.
Until next week,