From a lost island to Vietnam to Detroit: books read

YOUNG HELLBOY: The Hidden Land by Mike Mignola, Thomas Sniegoski and Craig Rousseau is a slight but pleasant book, enjoyable to read but something that could have been two issues rather than four. An attack by a religious zealot strands Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm on a mysterious hidden island. There they meet pulp legend Scarlett Santiago, explore a lost temple and awaken a pissed-off vampire queen. This young take on Hellboy, full of piss and vinegar is a lot of fun and I really hope Mignola’s planning to use Scarlett some more (she’d fit very well into the stories of Sarah Jewell or the Lobster)>

FLIGHTS OF FANTASY: The Unauthorized But True Story of Radio and TV’s ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN by Michael J. Hayde, was one I bought as research for Alien Visitors but never got around to reading (neither the radio nor the original George Reeve series was central to my superhero chapter). This is a very exhaustive look at the casting, writing (the TV show borrowed several Batman stories and reworked them for the Man of Might), performing and marketing for the series, including the emphasis on social issues in the radio show (e.g., the anti-KKK serial that became the Superman Smashes the Klan graphic novel). Slightly more detail than I wanted to know but still satisfying.

The RESIDENT ALIEN comics series by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse is, of course, the source for the TV show, though considerably lighter in tone. In Welcome to Earth, Harry gets dragged into investigating the murder of the local doctor and stepping into his place; in The Suicide Blonde has Harry investigate another murder when it looks like the local mayor is the prime suspect. Hey, as Harry observes, solving crimes keeps him from getting bored! Fun, much more the SF/murder mystery TV show mashup that I expected the TV show would be.

THE QUIET AMERICAN by Graham Greene is a British journalist’s story of how his idyllic existence in French Indochina — opium in the evening, beautiful Vietnamese mistress by his side — is ruined by Pyle, a morally uprigh, rather naive American who’s determined to “save” Harry’s mistress from her life of sin. Worse, it turns out that in hunting for a “third force” that will overthrow both Ho Chi Minh’s communists and French colonialism, Pyle’s indirectly responsible for the recent spate of bombings in Saigon.

While I like the other Greene novels I’ve read (Our Man in Havana, This Gun For Hire, Ministry of Fear) this one didn’t work for me at all (I did enjoy the Michael Caine/Brendan Fraser film adaptation). It’s well-written but the idea Americans are stumbling into disaster in ‘nam is hardly as fresh now as when this came out. There’s a whiff of condescension — Americans just don’t get the developing world the way the British Empire did — and Pyle just didn’t seem believable. Again, that’s partly timing — I know now the U.S. was actively supporting French colonialism (better colonized than independent and communist!) and naive idealism wasn’t as big an issue as arrogance and hubris. Overall, not a win.

Ever since learning Humphrey Bogart’s 1937 film Black Legion was based on a real group I’ve wanted to learn more about it. When I saw TERROR IN THE CITY OF CHAMPIONS: Murder, Baseball and the Secret Society That Shocked Depression-Era Detroit by Tom Stanton I picked it up, but I’m still not satisfied. Stanton does a reasonably good job showing how ex-Klansman Bert Effinger ruthlessly pressured local men into joining and entertained dreams of biowarfare in Jewish neighborhoods or even taking over the federal government.

Unfortunately Stanton tries to pull a Devil in the White City by paralleling the Black Legion with Detroit’s sport successes during the same era: the Detroit Tigers (they won the penant) take center stage with Joe Louis close behind, but we also get the city’s football and hockey teams too. Trouble is, unlike the parallels of the White City and Black City, there’s really no connection between the sports stuff and the Legion. Stanton does a good job on the sports but I’d have preferred more on the bad guys’ doings, though it’s clear a lot of what happened will never be uncovered.

#SFWApro. All rights to images (cover by Matt Smith) remain with current holders.


1 Comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

One response to “From a lost island to Vietnam to Detroit: books read

  1. Pingback: A friend’s space opera, polygraphs, classics and an auteur: stuff I’ve read. | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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