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So here’s one of those books that’s been sitting on my shelves at home for about three decades now:
I bought it from the local Waldenbooks (R.I.P.), having spotted this blurb on its cover:
…since I was totally in the bag for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
and certainly in the market for something similar to read.
From what I can recollect via my vague, age-addled memories of the actual experience of reading the book, it wasn’t quite the madcap zaniness I was primed to expect from the Hitchhiker’s Guide comparison. My sense was that it was certainly a denser book, packed with more information and detail than the casual experience of the Douglas Adams oeuvre, and maybe one I wasn’t quite just ready to experience yet.
Here’s the back cover, to show you what I was up against:
Well, if Coast to Coast AM
regular Whitley Streiber liked it, certainly I should give it another go. In fact, I keep meaning to. Every once in a while, I’ll glance at its spine on my bookshelf, and always the quiet half-formed thought “I should reread that
” flashes through my brain for the split-second the title registers with me. It used to be that I’d reread books on a fairly regular basis, but now I have a lot more books (and comics!) and more new
ones arriving on a regular basis, revisiting old tomes is a luxury I just don’t have much time for. But Terra
is different, mostly because I suspect my desire for another Hitchhiker’s
may have colored my initial reading, and I want to give it a fairer shake than I did.
And even if I never get around to reading it again, at least I have that peculiar cover to enjoy.
So the few of you who are left from about four-and-a-half years ago may remember a series of posts discussing movie novelizations (1 2 3 – sorry for all the dead Haloscan links and minor formatting issues you’ll find there). Well, I have a new one to add to the collection, acquired just in the last week:
I had no idea there even was
a novelization of Clue
, that fine, underrated comedy from lo all those years ago (i.e. the mid 1980s). But here it is, staring us in our faces, daring us to believe in it.
A couple of notes:
1. Yes, like the movie, the book has multiple endings. However, the novelization has four endings, with Chapter Twenty presented four times as Versions A through D, whereas the film has only three endings. A quick skim through the endings shows that Version C is the one that isn’t in the film, and I’ll reveal in the comments later today who the culprit is and his/her eventual fate, if you’re curious.
2. The novel’s dedication reads “This book is dedicated to Those Who Got Away With It.”
3. When I first glanced at the cover, I briefly thought it said that the author was Malcolm McDowell. For that one very glorious moment, I believed I beheld the greatest book ever produced by human civilization. As it is…well, it’s pretty close.
4. Some comic book connections: the book was a Fawcett Gold Medal Book (published by Ballantine Books), Fawcett having been involved in comic book publishing to some minor extent.
And the film was produced by Jon Peters and Peter Guber, who would later produce a superhero film of some note.
And some of the actors were probably in comic-related movies, too, but I’ll let you guys figure that out since I’m sure if I did it, I’ll forget something.
So anyway, that’s my neat acquisition for the week. Now to find time to actually read the thing.
• • •
In some site news, I have now disallowed further commenting on posts older than 90 days, and I’m thinking about reducing that amount of time to 60 days or even less. I’ve had a few too many drive-bys leaving rude or nonsensical comments on older posts, and while I like to encourage commenting here, I’m no longer in the mood to put up with folks causing problems. That hopefully will also cut down the amount of attempted spam comments I get, too.
Anyway, that’s that.
Well, actually, about my girlfriend and her teammates, too, as the book is about her high school volleyball team taking the California State Championship in 1986. (Here’s a contemporary report about the event from the Los Angeles Times that singles (“twinsles?”) out my girlfriend and her twin sister for their efforts.)
My girlfriend found out about this book during a visit to our former high school, and I promptly went into a search for the darned thing, which took me a bit…it’s a self-published tome, and was in seemingly short supply less than two years after its release. I managed to find one seller in Philadelphia who had a copy, and just yesterday it arrived in the mail.
I knew I was in for a good time when I read the first part of the opening line:
“A yellow 1975 Toyota sedan stealth along Oxnard street….”
Yup, that’s “stealth” as a verb, and not a usage with which I am familiar. Also, later on the page the authors make it clear that by “Oxnard street” (capitalization as in the original) they actually meant “Oxnard Boulevard.” BONUS: on the same page a car has a “stirring wheel,” which I guess you use in case you need to do a little cooking on the way to your destination.
So, yeah, this is some book. All the place names remain more or less the same (names of cities, the schools involved, etc.) with the exception of the aforementioned Oxnard Boulevard, while the people all get pseudonyms. The name of our high school’s volleyball coach is so barely changed I wonder why they bothered, and my girlfriend Nora and her sister Maria become “Rosalu” and “Rosalie,” respectively, I think. And before you ask, no, I’m not going to start calling Nora “Rosalu” because she’ll put me in the hospital.
Now I haven’t done more than sort of flip through the book, read a passage or two, and identify a pseudonymous volleyball player here and there (“Oh, ‘Delia’ — that’s Della!”), but Nora’s already endured the whole thing. She informs me there are more typos and instances of questionable continuity to be enjoyed therein, and her response to reading passages about her and her sister’s fictional counterparts was a fairly even mix of bemusement and irritation.
The story of our high school taking the championship that year is a good one, I think, and I can understand the appeal of wanting to tell it. Like the L.A. Times article says, the girls on the team were relatively undersized compared to their much-taller competitors, and their team’s victory was very much Underdogs Achieving Success Against Overwhelming Odds, i.e. Sports Narrative Cliché #1. It doesn’t seem as if this book is the definitive telling of that story, however.
Ah, well. Now, I was actually there for that final game back in ’86, when our high school took that championship. And I attended most of the games leading up to it. And I was friends (or at least acquaintances) with a number of people on the team. And I felt the excitement when our school took the victory. So, maybe, I already have my own definitive telling of this story. And Nora, of course, has her own. How could this book ever compete?
So I was going through this collection when I spotted this paperback cover and I said to myself “that’s certainly a head drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith.”
This isn’t a paperback collection of comics, but rather one of a series of prose adventure novels with, as one might guess, a kung-fu theme. As I’ve not read any of these, I am unqualified to comment on the quality of the writing, but a random flip through the book reveals the lines
“Behind Kak he saw the albino and The Moor whirling to the death.”
“His fist flopped through the folds of K’ing’s pants.”
…so there you go.
For more details about this series, including scans of all the covers (plus the British editions), here is a message board discussion on the topic.
At one point in that discussion, someone suggests that the author of this series, Marshall Macao, is Ron Goulart writing under a pseudonym, but Goulart himself says this is not the case.
The back cover:
There’s really nothing quite like Windsor-Smith’s drawing of a face from that angle, is there? (Well, aside from Dave Sim drawing a face at that angle.)
Also, seeing the “Barry Smith” credit reminds me of this story (about a third of the way down the page) that I told you all, long ago.
Recently acquired in a collection, a somewhat rough copy of Vaughn Bodé’s Bodé’s Cartoon Concert:
Reprints, in black and white, strips from the adult magazine Cavalier
(but different Cavalier
strips from the ones reprinted in the Purple Pictography one-shot
from Fantagraphics/Eros Comix, as far as I can tell).
The back cover:
And yes, it’s very naughty. The stories are short, presented one panel per page, kind of like some of the Mad Magazine
paperbacks, only with more nipples. Kind of amusing to think this paperback was published under the same company name that once was emblazoned on every Disney and Warner Brothers cartoon comic book.
When this book was published, I was only four years old, and my interest in underground comix was still at least, oh, two or three years away from coming into full bloom. So, I don’t know how this was marketed, or displayed, or what. I presume this was an attempt by an established publisher to capitalize on the underground comix movement (much like Marvel’s Comix Book), but I have a hard time seeing this racked along with popular fiction in supermarket bookracks. I’m supposing it was targeted at bookstores near colleges, or maybe just shelved in whatever “adult interests” category your larger bookstores had.
Then again, this was the early seventies, and maybe people just weren’t so, you know, uptight, maaaaan. Basically, I’m picturing that the streets were filled with naked people, flowers in their hair, smoking dope, and freely sharing their underground comix with their whole families. …Please don’t tell me if I’m wrong.
Here’s another paperback acquired in the same collection as the Batman TV show tie-in book I recently featured here: a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents reprint paperback from 1966:
I hadn’t known this even existed. It reprints the story in black and white, about two panels per page. I couldn’t scan this bit (and the book is already sold, so I can’t double-check it) but one of the text pages inside described this as “camp adventure,” or words to that effect. To be frank, I’m no T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents connoisseur, but I always got the impression it was played more or less straight. Was it knowing high-camp comedy/satire all this time? …Or maybe it was camp because it was unintentionally goofy while
still being played straight (case in point: the covers above). Or are superheroes just intrinsically
camp, because, you know, c’mon. Or am I reading too much into a blatant coattail-riding of the Batman
TV show’s success with its camp formula? At any rate, I know a few T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents fans who wouldn’t care for that characterization.
Let the hair-splitting begin!
• • •
Speaking of that Batman book
, reader Pietro sent me a photo he took at a flea market in his home country of Italy, featuring an Italian version of what he believes to be the same book:
Pietro notes that the title translates as “The Three Cruel,” which is grammatically odd if still pretty awesome. Thanks for the picture, Pietro!
• • •
So I was in a Twitter conversation about Superman: The Movie
and Superman II
, and as these things usually go with me, the topic of Swamp Thing found its way into the mix. As a result, Daniel generated this fine piece of Swamp art:
The world is just a little bit more beautiful today.