Monday, March 07, 2016

Classics Both “Lost” and Reinterpreted

Several times over the past few years, I’ve mentioned that Northern California artist, photographer, and author Derek Pell was creating a pictorial collection of 100 “missing mysteries,” mischievous covers he created for whodunit and thriller novels that never actually existed. For a while, he was posting occasional new fronts from that series on a page of his online magazine, Zoom Street. Later, after failing to find a print publisher for the completed book, Pell put it entirely online as a PDF document.

The bad news is that the PDF now appears to have vanished from the Internet, leaving me with some broken links in The Rap Sheet (grrrr!). The good news is that Pell recently released Missing Mysteries: A Pictorial History of Nonexistent Mysteries through his own publishing imprint, Black Scat Books; you can now acquire a copy of this large-format paperback from Amazon or directly from his printer, CreateSpace (which, like so many other companies these days, also happens to be owned by Amazon). As press materials explain, Missing Mysteries comes “packed with pulp, crimes, dicks, dames, thugs, puns, gumshoes, and stoolies. Loaded with laughs, maps, gaffs, noir, conundrums, puzzles, and quizzes. 196 pages crammed with over 100 full-color cover reproductions, plus startling excerpts, scathing reviews, outlandish blurbs and mysterious synopses.” Pell takes flagrant liberties with the artwork from vintage crime-fiction paperbacks to create new and outlandish façades for volumes you only wish had once decorated bookshelve.

Where else than in Pell’s book, for instance, could you read about Dashiell Hammett’s obscure Sam Spade novel, Murder Is a Four-Letter Word … Raymond Chandler’s Call Me Shallow, But Bury Me Deep … Carolyn Keene’s forgotten Nancy Drew masterpiece, Look at This Dripping Brain! … Norbert Davis’ Sweatin’ Bullets (starring hard-boiled dick Lance Milhaus, the Sweaty Detective) … Edna LaRue’s Shopping Moll … Earl Derr Biggers’ 1942 Charlie Chan mystery, The Man Who Chew Too Much … Brenda Starr’s Typos Are My Business … Ngaio Marsh’s immortal classic, Dead Men Don’t Snore (“After the release of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960, many female filmgoers refused to takes showers fearing the fate of its heroine. A similar phenomenon occurred among married men when this novel appeared, and ‘separate bedrooms’ [as well as divorce] became commonplace.”) … Joe Gores’ Assault and Flattery … Mickey Spillane’s Eat Me Deadly … and of course Agatha Christie’s Waiting for Poirot (“This was Christie’s most ambitious literary experiment, for she knew writing an Existential might end her career.”). Pell’s satire doesn’t lack for sharp edges. His twisted humor is sure to appeal to crime-fiction lovers. It’s only too bad this $29.95 book came out after Christmas.

* * *

Also worth watching for is the English-language version of The Black Dahlia: A Crime Graphic Novel, by French writer Matz (aka Alexis Nolent) and American film director David Fincher, with artistry by Miles Hyman. This work—based on James Ellroy’s grimly evocative 1987 novel, The Black Dahlia—originally appeared in France in 2013. But as the Los Angeles Times relates, it will finally be published in the States on June 7 “by Archaia, an imprint of Boom! Studios. The cover of the new English hardcover edition will feature a brand new image by Hyman.” And what a gorgeous wraparound image it is:

When asked by reporter Tracy Brown whether the infamously opinionated Ellroy had seen this graphic-novel adaptation of his book and provided any “feedback,” Matz responded:
I did get his feedback. The book would not have gotten made if James hadn’t approved the script. The day I sent it to James, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I’d have to trash all this work I had done if he didn’t like it. It made me quite scared and worried and wonder why I took this job in the first place.

But the day I got his feedback was a day I’ll never forget, as it was a short two-word message: “Fantastic job.”

And that was it. It made me happier than I can describe, and I’ll be forever grateful to James for it. David Fincher and I shared a moment of real happiness then, with a little pride, too. Getting this feedback from [Ellroy], whom I admire so much, it was really something.

I believe James is quite happy with the graphic novel.
Happy enough that we are talking about doing another one. I hope it happens.
At 176 pages long, The Black Dahlia: A Crime Graphic Novel is scheduled to be released in hardcover format with price tag of $29.99. You can learn more here. See some interior pages here.

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