April 2021 Books …

Another big reading month with EIGHT books!

Desilu by Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert is the story of the studio built by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, the legendary stars of I Love Lucy. It’s a fascinating, warts-and-all tale, approved by Lucie Arnaz, the duo’s daughter. Arnaz is a much ignored pioneer of early television, and Lucy is a national treasure, at least when she was in front of the camera. I bought this book years ago and never finished it, but was spurred on by an NPR podcast, the premise of which was “Desi Arnaz invented television.” It’s sorta/kinda true: he did improve the three-camera system for filming shows, but he didn’t invent it … and he did sorta/kinda invent the syndication of TV shows and was one of the first TV moguls to own his own show. And Lucy … well, Lucy became the business person after their divorce and helped get both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible on the air. But the portrait of Lucy in this book is one of a dour and humorless woman, far away from her onscreen persona. Still, it’s an amazing and authoritative book, filled with lots of fascinating behind-the-scenes information.

Daredevil Vol. 5 by Chip Zdarsky and Mario Checchetto is a late bloomer for me … I don’t read too many Marvels any more and this one is probably their best book right now, a down-and-dirty, gritty depiction of the blind hero in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. I was curious about this one, since another Daredevil steps in as the titular hero goes to prison, and it does pay off. Checchetto’s art is great, but there’s too many other artists in this particular volume, which kinda wrecks the flow a bit. But I liked this one so much, I went out and bought volumes 1-4, which is kind of unheard of me for me these days when it comes to moribund Marvel, stuck in a continuing spiral of event books.

The Dreamer by Will Eisner is his autobiographical look at how he got started in the fledgling comic book industry in the 1930s … and probably my favorite graphic novel of his. It’s a very insightful look at how comics started, and includes some renamed Golden Age artists that worked with Eisner in his shop, like Jack Kirby and Lou Fine. This is more like a graphic novella, at a slim 50 pages or so, and currently out of print, so eBay is your best choice to find it (or a local comics shop with real graphic novel depth on their shelves). I recommend the version published by DC Comics in the early 2000s as part of “Will Eisner Library.”

Grave’s End by William Shaw is the third in his Alexandra Cupidi series. A couple of dead bodies, a minister of Parliament, a boys’ school, a recluse tunneling under his decrepit home, and a dogged detective … put all these things together and you have, as the Brits might say, “a cracking good read.” Oh, and there are badgers! I love all of Shaw’s books, including his quartet of 1960s London copper novels featuring Breen and Tozer, but Cupidi and the relationship she has with her rebellious teen daughter is pure gold. Thankfully, a fourth Cupidi book is forthcoming, and the first two chapters appear at the end of this paperback as a preview.

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry is the story of two sisters mixed up with the IRA and MI5 right before the Northern Ireland peace agreement. It’s a slow burn, but I’ve read all of Berry’s novels (this is her third) and she writes beautifully. Sisters in trouble seem to be a theme for Berry: Under the Harrows, her first novel, is about a woman looking into the death of her sister in England, and my favorite by this author.

Once & Future Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora is about resurrecting King Arthur, but the high point of this graphic novel is Mora’s incredible art, wonderfully colored by Tamra Bonvillain. Mora is currently drawing Batman in Detective Comics and each page is so good, I’d like to own an original by him (he probably draws digitally, though).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting is where the Winter Soldier’s story begins. A must-read for anyone who loves the MCU movies or the new The Falcon and The Winter Soldier TV series. Since the identity of the Winter Soldier is common knowledge due to the excellent movie, it’s hard to realize what a great storyline this was when it first came out, and you didn’t know it was Bucky at first.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff is her memoir about her years working for a literary agency that just happens to represent J.D. Salinger. It’s a great glimpse into the publishing industry and also a wonderful movie currently available to stream starring Margaret Qualley and Sigourney Weaver. Rakoff’s naivety and her boss’s stern anti-technology stand as computers and emails infiltrate the publishing world are wonderful, both in print and on the screen.

More books next month!

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