Monday, May 16, 2016

Darwyn Cooke R.I.P.

Many condolences to the family of artist Darwyn Cooke, who (unexpectedly to fans) passed away yesterday from cancer. He was 53. Cooke was a superstar creator with a future-retro style that was all his own--a style I loved.

I met Cooke for the first and only time last year at the 2015 Cincinnati Comic Expo. The only book I had taken for any artist to sign was Cooke’s DC: New Frontier Absolute Edition, a story about DC Comics heroes taking place in the 1950s. The above photo is Cooke signing my copy, including a Green Lantern head sketch that I will treasure forever.

I told him how much I appreciated his work, and the illustrations he did for the reissues of Richard Stark’s Parker crime novels. I asked him if he would make his way through all of Stark’s novels—he said he probably wouldn’t live that long. How unfortunately prophetic that statement seems in hindsight. Did he know then? Darwyn Cooke is gone too soon, but the man generated a body of work to be proud of. A true artist and auteur. 

Here are some samples of Cooke's art:

Friday, May 6, 2016

On Politics ...

I've been struggling with exactly what to write about the present election cycle and its multiple Keystone Kops ... then ace author Larry Correia comes along and sums up my feelings perfectly with a short essay on his website, Monster Hunter Nation. Click here for his thoughts, I couldn't have said it better myself. Any summation of the present state of the GOP that starts with "Well, we're boned," gets my vote.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Books – The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher

Imagine an enticing mystery story with Harry Houdini at his medium-busting best, phony clairvoyants (a redundancy if there ever was one), a naive Arthur Conan Doyle, intrigue, steamy affairs and tainted money changing hands. All of these subjects are covered nicely in this complex, non-fiction tale of Houdini exposing Margery Crandon, a self-proclaimed psychic nicknamed the Witch of Lime Street. It’s also about the dissolution of the friendship between Houdini and Sherlock Holmes author Doyle over the existence of the supernatural.

Houdini (born Erik Weisz) vociferously disliked “mediums” and their contrived dog and pony shows. He would attend their séances and debunk them, sometimes afterwards and sometimes in the middle of a séance, while the medium was pretending to talk to dead people. His reputation was so fearsome to these charlatans he was barred entrance to most gatherings and eventually had to infiltrate in disguise.

Enter the magazine Scientific American, who actually sponsored a contest for anyone who could prove spiritualism actually existed. Houdini was one of the judges. The most promising contestant was a Boston housewife called Margery. She would speak with the voice of her dead brother, regaling guests with anecdotes from his life, as well as endless opinions, poems and other witty repartee. Her biggest defender was Doyle, who was 100% devoted to belief in mediums and spiritualism.

Houdini squared off against Margery many times, and she and her team were prepared for him. Moreover, even though he not only explained her tricks but also demonstrated how she accomplished them, she still had her unshakeable supporters. The once-strong friendship between Houdini and Doyle ended up fraying and breaking, partly because of Margery but overall because of Doyle’s unwavering devotion to spiritualism contrasting with Houdini’s skepticism. The book tackles the battle royale between Houdini and Margery, the relationship between him and Doyle, and the eventual fates of all the main characters.

The Witch of Lime Street draws well not only its characters; but also the allure of spiritualism in 1920s America. It’s a riveting read.

Rating: **** stars out of 5