March 2021 Books …

Seven books this month! Yes, three are graphic novels, but they count, too, dammit … This retirement thing has hidden benefits! I am well on the way to my 2021 GoodReads goal of 50 books, with 18 so far this year.

True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee is Abraham Riesman’s devastating bio that will more than likely make you rethink how you feel about the Marvel Comics co-creator and will probably make you cry. His telling of Stan’s final few years is a particularly fascinating train-wreck. I’ve always felt that the Marvel artists (Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita, et al) were never better than when they were working with Stan as a writer, but when you take away those guys, there’s really not much that’s all-Stan. He was a great editor and a great promoter, but I’m definitely in the Marvel artists’ corner when it comes to who did the heavy lifting in the creation of these endurable and much-loved characters (although that love comes primarily from the movies). Still this is a far cry from Danny Fingeroth’s Stan-loving bio of last fall, Stan Lee: A Marvelous Life.

Later is Stephen King’s later-est, and it borrows The Sixth Sense’s hook, but does it so much better. It’s a quick read about a boy with a special power and all the horrible effects that come with it. King has a knack for first person narration and it’s very well on display here. I also love the fact that every five years or so, King forsakes his “big” publishers and gives a little gem like this to Hard Case Crime.

Burning Bright is Nick Petrie’s second Peter Ash novel. I enjoyed the first book in the series more, but this was still an enjoyable read and fleshes out Ash’s appeal, plus introduces a new character, June Cassidy. This one moves into a little bit of science fiction, though, with the quest for a ground-breaking new form of AI and the people who will stop at nothing to get it. Petrie has six Ash novels out so far, and I hope to read one a month for the next three months, while I wait for the latest one to appear in paperback.

The Barbizon: The Hotel That Set Women Free by Paula Bren tells the story of the NYC hotel for women that was part dormitory, part social club, and its impact on culture in the city. Bren roams far and away from the hotel itself and talks more about things like the magazine industry (particularly the college-age guest editors at Mademoiselle magazine), so this is much more than just about the hotel. Those guest editors include such famous-to-be authors as Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion.

That Texas Blood is a little piece of graphic novel noir that has great art and coloring by Jacob Phillips and interesting characterizations and story by Chris Condon, but it unfortunately gets a bit confusing at times and I’m not sure I understood what really happened, never a good sign in any book, comic or not.

Flake is another graphic novel, this one by Matthew Dooley, whose works reminds me a little of Chris Ware, very precise and evocative. It’s about dueling ice cream truck salesmen in England, who just happen to be half-brothers.

Breakwater by Katriona Chapman is a graphic novel about a lonely woman working in a movie theater in Brighton, UK. She encounters a new employee who she becomes close to, but closeness has its own price. This story explores mental health issues and is particularly sensitive, but has a surprising ending.

More books in April!

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