Saturday, January 27, 2007

“Men’s Adventure” Debuts on Monday

Unlike some people we know, “stay the course” has never been our catchphrase or limitation at The Rap Sheet. We think it’s important to try new things, whether they be online polls or guest bloggers (see here and here). So when Dick Adler, who reviews mysteries and thrillers for the Chicago Tribune, and is a Rap Sheet contributor, proposed writing a crime-novel-in-installments for this blog, we jumped at the opportunity.

That work, titled Men’s Adventure, will begin its exclusive first run in The Rap Sheet on Monday. We’ll offer new chapters each Monday after that until the story reaches its conclusion. Adler says the finished product should run “about 60,000 words altogether--which means 50-plus chapters.” Weekly installments will be archived, so that readers coming to the story late can catch up.

As you may already be aware, the 69-year-old Adler, a resident of Ventura, California, has been penning book reviews for the Trib for the last decade and a half. He’s also the author of one previous novel, an e-book called The Mozart Code (1999), which Tom Nolan reviewed favorably in January Magazine. And he was the co-author, with former California Governor Edmund G. (“Pat”) Brown, of Public Justice, Private Mercy: A Governor’s Education on Death Row (1989). Adler’s most recent book is Dreams of Justice: Mysteries as Social Documents (2005), a collection of his reviews and essays. His writing has appeared over the years in magazines such as Los Angeles, New York, the London Sunday Times Magazine, American Heritage, Playboy, Life, and TV Guide. He’s worked as a newspaper and magazine editor in New York City, London, and Los Angeles. But he started his editing career at Argosy, a fiction periodical turned “men’s magazine,” in 1956. That, Adler says, was back in the days “when Erle Stanley Gardner (of Perry Mason fame) was heading up a section called The Court of Last Resort, which used writers like James T. Farrell (author of the Studs Lonigan trilogy) to help unjustly convicted prisoners.”

Adler will draw on his experiences at Argosy during the ’50s to compose Men’s Adventure. He explains that, in this serial novel, “Gardner becomes Perry Marcus, Farrell turns into Saul Cooperman, Argosy transforms itself into Viking,” and his editor-detective protagonist from The Mozart Code, Ivan Davis, “joins a cast which includes such other real-life people as Harvey Matusow (one of the strangest figures of the Joe McCarthy witch hunt) and writers like Mario Puzo, who wrote The Godfather while he was churning out stories for the world of pulp magazines.” At the same time as Men’s Adventure introduces readers into the colorful and arcane realm of New York-based pulp publications, it will explore the damage done to so many lives by U.S. Senator McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) in his obsessive pursuit of alleged Communists both inside the federal government and without. (Anyone who’s read Edward Wright’s most recent historical novel, the Ellis Award-winning Red Sky Lament, should recognize the potential delights and drama of such a yarn.)

Asked what inspired him to develop Men’s Adventure in The Rap Sheet, Adler points to another serial novel, Jezebel’s Tomb, currently rolling out in the pages of The Washington Post. Written by David Hilzenrath, an investigative reporter on the Post’s financial news staff, Jezebel’s Tomb weaves together historical mysteries (the tale of an “unusual text found in a cave near the Dead Sea” and the suicide of a Jerusalem merchant) with the modern-day bombing of one of Jerusalem’s premier archaeological museums, supposedly by Palestinian terrorists. The 2,000-year-old missing document, last seen toward the end of 19th century, may hold a dangerous secret for the 21st century. New installments of Jezebel’s Tomb are being posted each Monday and Thursday.

Hilzenrath admits that, after researching his novel in the United States and the Middle East for more than a decade, but being turned down by publishers, he resorted to electronic distribution as a final resort. Adler, on the contrary, hasn’t yet shopped Men’s Adventure to publishing houses, though he would like to see interest generated by its appearance in The Rap Sheet. “I’m hoping they’ll call me,” he says. “If not, I’ll give it to an editor or agent.”

For the time being, Men’s Adventure simply gives Adler a chance to revisit an era and environment that he remembers with some nostalgia. “I was [at Argosy] for four years, then went over to True for another two years,” the author recalls. “What I learned from both was that there were many ways to tell an exciting story, which--in an age before TV series--really caught readers’ attention.”

We trust you will find some of that same excitement in the coming weeks, as Men’s Adventure takes shape on this page. Please let us know what you think.

(Photograph by Jane Adler)

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