Kurt Power was Niles Golan’s signature character, a no-nonsense private eye and ex-lawyer who, on the days when he wasn’t solving cases involving serial killers, consulted for the police and anti-terrorist forces. He was divorced, with a drink problem and – the clever touch Niles was most proud of – an autistic six-year-old daughter, whose unique insights often provided the key to a difficult case.
In The Fictional Man, every now and again, writer Al Ewing will drop in the title of one of his lead character’s novels into the narrative. Here, thanks to the wonders of searchable Kindle books, are the collected Kurt Power works of Niles Golan (that we know of):
Pudding and Pie: A Kurt Power Novel
Down to The Woods Tonight: A Kurt Power Novel
The Saladin Imperative: A Kurt Power Novel
Power of Attorney: A Kurt Power Novel
Murder Force: A Kurt Power Novel
Edge of Doomsday: A Kurt Power Novel
Pocketful of Posies: A Kurt Power Novel
Little Pig, Little Pig, Let Me Come In: A Kurt Power Novel
The Moon Comes Out As Bright As Day: A Kurt Power Novel
Eye of The Scimitar: A Kurt Power Novel
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe: A Kurt Power Novel
In a perfect world, there would be garish fan art for these books already.
I knew, going in, that I’d like The Fictional Man by Al Ewing; I like him a lot as a comic writer – His Zombo with Henry Flint in 2000AD currently is, without exaggeration, some of my favorite comics in years, smart and funny and self-aware without breaking from the melodramatic “sci-fi adventure” genre that the anthology specializes in – and the central concept, of a man in a world where clones of fictional characters exist, sounded promising. I didn’t know that I’d have such a strong reaction to it.
As I wrote in an email to a friend this morning, it’s not a perfect novel, but in a lot of ways, what frustrated me about it also worked for me in some strange way. It feels too short, and at least two threads feel as if they’re abandoned rather than fully developed, but even in that, I found myself reminded of writers who were once central to my idea of entertainment: Terry Southern (especially his The Magic Christian and Candy), Kurt Vonnegut’s earlier, pulpy and just a little sloppy work.
The central idea is, of course, not a million miles away from something Philip K. Dick would come up with, but the execution is more humanist and optimistic than Dick was capable of, I think (Yet something that still hangs on the idea of personal revelation and everything you know is wrong in some way, too). And outside of prose, I could sense Howard the Duck-era Steve Gerber in there, both in some of the more over-the-top media parody material, but also the humanism and embrace of the outsider and the freak.
There’s a lot to chew on in this book; more than it really lets itself chew on, perhaps – to say more would be to spoil the book, and I really don’t want to, because I want you all to go buy it. But this book left me feeling the same way that Dick, Vonnegut and Southern did, way back when, and for that alone, I’ll always love it.
Yeah, I’m not quite sure what happened to my reading habits this month; I have the feeling that there are books that I’ve read and entirely forgotten in there, for some reason – I normally read more than this, even with the amount of work/stress and everything that’s been going on [UPDATE: I did, indeed, forget something: Sasha Issenberg’s Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, which was more dry than I’d been looking for]. Admittedly, there’s the book I still haven’t finished yet – Hana Rosin’s wonderful The End of Men – that could kinda/sorta be counted, I guess? Otherwise, though, as you can tell, I’ve been leaning heavily on the “Decompression Pulp” this month – El Sombra by Al Ewing being some kind of genius example of the idea, and a ridiculously fun, intentionally trashy story of one man who has barely escaped certain death out for revenge against, essentially steampunk Nazis; it’s really rather great – and trying out Star Wars novels for the first time ever because the high concept of Scoundrels (Pretty much “Hey, it’s Ocean’s Eleven, but Han Solo is George Clooney!”) is somewhat irresistible (The novel is slightly more resistible, it has to be said; it’s not bad, but it’s also nowhere near as fun as it should be).
Supergods was a re-read for work, but also spun out of reading an ARC of Glen Weldon’s really great Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, which I loved when I read and find myself appreciating even more the more I think about it afterwards. It’s the tone, I think; it’s just so very right for something like this. The End of The Line book was a light read because I was in the mood for some good punchy political writing, which this… isn’t, really. It’s another “almost, but not quite” entry. Basically, I find it difficult to wait for the inevitable “Definitive Book of The 2012 Election” to come along. I mean, we’re due one soon, right…?
This may be the greatest opening page to a comic that I’ve seen in years, both in terms of writing and visuals. Just wonderfully ambitious and evocative; you know immediately whether you’re in or out for the whole thing from this one page alone (It’s the first page of Zaucer of Zilk by Brendan McCarthy and Al Ewing, which ran in 2000AD recently and hopefully will get a collected edition sooner rather than later).