Archive for May, 2012

Paperback 533: End Zone / Don DeLillo (Pocket Books 78282)

Paperback 533: Pocket Books 78282 (1st ptg, 1973)

Title: End Zone
Author: Don DeLillo
Cover artist: photo

Yours for: $8

Best things about this cover:
  • Way outside my normal collection timeframe, but the cover (and author) caught my eye—seemed memorable / remarkable—like the last thing you see before you get strangled (to death, presumably).
  • I like that it's a novel about football, but the cover only barely suggests this (title, font, "New Gladiators").
  • That's the opposite of "Fear Hand"—most mid-century covers have a victim POV, with woman reacting to some kind of impending attack. Here, the attacker (in a context that can be only dimly imagined).


Best things about this back cover:
  • Dang, high praise for a novel I've never heard of.
  • "Is God a Football Fan?" is a pretty good tagline.
  • So much for your Nostradamian powers, Cincinnati Enquirer.

Page 123~
"Gary Harkness. Good name. Promotable. I like it. I even love it."
"Relax and call me Wally."
"Right," I said.
If anyone ever says "Relax and call me Wally," you're gonna want to end the conversation quickly and get out of there.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

My Life at the Theater, THE SECRET RAPTURE

Do you see how bland this playbill is? It perfectly mirrors the play. This was the first and only Broadway premiere we have seen. Oh, so excited to see Wallace Shawn, Rex Reed and various other celebrities in the audience. Play was by David Hare, a big success in London, and starring the woman he'd had in mind while writing it: Blair Brown.

It was 1989 and the review in the New York Times the next day revealed the complete disaster we had seen. Beginning with an inability to do a British accent by Ms. Brown, to a lousy set, to a murky agenda, to odd timing, nothing went right. The play closed very quickly. I wonder if we had seen the London version if we would have come away satisfied. Somehow I doubt it.

Looking Back: "Necklace and Calabash"

When I am asked which of Robert Van Gulik's mysteries featuring Judge Dee is my favorite, my answer is always the same: "Necklace and Calabash." First published in 1967, the year Van Gulik died, it is one of the best-developed stories in the series.

Looking back, I find that I did a podcast review of "Network and Calabash" just about five years ago, before I started the blog. You can listen to the full review by clicking here.

The story begins with Judge Dee, the magistrate of Poo-Yang, stopping off in a small place called Rivertown, on his way home. He is hoping for a few quiet days of relaxation before he takes up his official duties again. But, of course, if that were to happen there would be no book, so he is quickly pressed into service, first by the military authorities who are in charge of Rivertown, and then by the Third Princess, the emperor's daughter who lives in her summer residence, the Water Palace, located just outside Rivertown. A valuable necklace has been stolen, and the theft appears to be connected to a large, malevolent plot, whose outline is only dimly visible. Judge Dee must also solve the gruesome murder of a young cashier at one of the Rivertown inns, as well as the mysterious disappearance of the innkeeper's wife.

There are wonderful characters in "Necklace and Calabash," including a Taoist monk, known as Master Gourd, who plays a major role in the mystery - even, at one point, saving Judge Dee's life. The Third Princess is also fascinating, and the various military officers and palace guards are memorable.

While the book does follow many of the traditions of the Chinese detective story, it is quite definitely "westernized" for the enjoyment of today's readers. The Judge Dee books, set in 7th Century Imperial China, were among the first "historical" mysteries. If you haven't met Judge Dee, "Necklace and Calabash" makes a perfect introduction.

Who knew? Another door, another window…

I’m reluctant to pepper you with announcements, having just yesterday advised you about the new low price on Tanner’s Tiger in hardcover, but this one’s a steal, and it won’t last. HarperCollins has opened a window for us all, dropping the price of the first Bernie Rhodenbarr book, Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, to a cool 99¢.

Click away: Kindle Nook Kobo Apple

That’s our window, but it won’t stay open long. June 11 is the day Choosers pumpkins up to $4.99, and takes all my other HarperCollins eBooks along for the ride. (In the meantime, they’re just $3.99—and that’s all the Tanners, all the Scudders, all the Kellers, and all the Burglars.)

And the closing door? That would be The Sins of the Fathers, the first Matthew Scudder book, which HarperCollins has priced at 99¢ for a few weeks now. It’s officially $3.99 now, but Kindle’s been slow to get the memo; if you act fast, you might be able to pick it up right here for 99¢. (But don’t let on who told you…)

Forgotten Books: Fright by Cornell Woolrich

Fright (Hard Case Crime)

Cornell Woolrich's first novel emulated the work of his literary hero, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Judging from the first act of the new Woolrich novel Fright from Hardcase Crime, the Fitzgerald influence lasted well into Woolrich's later career as a suspense writer.

The young, handsome, successful Prescott Marshall could be any of Fitzgerald's early protagonists. New York, Wall Street, a striver eager to marry a beauiful young socialite and acquire the sheen only she can give him...even the prose early on here reminds us of Fitzgerald's "Winter Dreams" and "The Rich Boy." Strivers dashed by fate.

Bu since Woolrich was by this time writing for the pulps and not Smart Set or Scribners Magazine, young Prescott Marshall's fate is not simply to lose face or be banished from some Edenic yacht cruise...but to face execution at the hands of the State for killing a young woman he slept with once and who turned into a blackmailer. This is in the Teens of the last century, by the way; a historical novel if you will.

From here on we leave the verities of Fitzgerald behind and step into the noose provided by another excellent writer and strong influence on Woolrich...Guy de Maupassant. In the Frenchman's world it's not enough to merely die, you must die in a tortured inch-by-inch way that makes the final darkness almost something to be desired. And dying for some ironic turn of events is best of all.

I read this in a single sitting. It's one those melodramas that carry you along on sheer narrative brute force. I woudn't say it's major Woolrich but I woud say that it's awfully good Woolrich with all the master's cruel tricks at work and a particularly claustrophobic sense of doom. Readers will appreciate its dark twists. Collectors will want to buy a few extra copies.