June 2021 Books …

I slowed down a little in June, due to a quick getaway trip and a large biography, but I enjoyed everything I read nonetheless.

Once and Future, Vol. 2: Old English by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain
It’s really the art by Mora and the vibrant coloring by Bonvillain that make this story of King Arthur trying to return to rule England in modern times memorable. Gillen’s story trots out Beowulf and Grendel and we all know you should never take a class that requires you to read Beowulf. But I’d love to see Helen Mirren play Gran in a movie or TV series adaptation. Still digging this series enough to get the next volume, which is out the end of July.

Light it Up by Nick Petrie
The third in the Peter Ash series by author Petrie, this one takes the taciturn hero to Colorado to help a friend, where there’s big money in the pot business, especially when it comes to dealing with the money it brings in, which the banks won’t touch since selling marijuana is still a Federal crime. Again, Petrie’s incredibly cinematic writing powers this series … I’d love to see a Bosch-like TV version (but without Helen Mirren).

A Fire Story by Brian Fies
I read this heart-wrenching true story from writer/artist Fies when it first came out. This new paperback edition adds roughly 32 new pages to the original, which chronicles the loss of his home during still another season of wildfires in Northern California. Lucky to get out alive with his wife and pets, Fies’s story is one of how to survive in the wake of unthinkable loss; touching, tragic, and moving all at the same time. It also contains great advice for people who suffer the same loss of home and property, a sadly recurring event in California and other states these days.

Daredevil, Vol. 2 by Chip Zdarsky, et al
This second volume collecting Chip Zdarsky’s run on Daredevil veers a little too much into organized religion for my taste, even though Daredevil has had a religious bent since the Miller/Mazzuchelli era. The lack of Marco Checchetto art in this volume also hurts, but it’s still the best book moribund Marvel is publishing right now. Still, one issue with art by Jorge Fornes is a standout

Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris
This voluminous biography of the famed comedian/director is what has kept me most busy in June. I read both of Mark Harris’s previous movie-centric books, Pictures at a Revolution and Five Came Back and enjoyed them both. I knew of Mike Nichols (he’s a prominent person in Pictures, which The Graduate is a strong part of) from both Nichols and May, a 1950s-60s comedy team, and as a movie director, but I never knew he was such a major Broadway theater director. This is easily one of the most enjoyable and readable biographies I’ve ever read … it just flows. Nichols is an absolutely enthralling personality, funny, witty, super-intelligent, personable, empathetic, passionate … the list of superlatives to describe him is endless. He bounces from project to project, some great, some near great, some, well … not so much. But the same person who directed The Graduate directed Spamalot? And the original The Odd Couple on Broadway (with the oil-and-water duo of Art Carney as Felix and a very difficult Walter Matthau as Oscar), plus other Neil Simon plays? And the Angels in America mini-series for HBO? It’s unreal how prolific and diverse his work was.

This Was Hollywood by Carla Valderrama
Another in the series of TCM books published by Running Press, this book is absolutely beautiful and based on Valderrama’s Instagram account of the same name, but with—obviously—much longer stories. Entertaining tales of Hollywood centering on (in some cases) lesser-known stars, such as Vera-Ellen and Susan Peters, but also more well-known names like Eleanor Powell, John Garfield, Paul Newman, and Rita Hayworth. The real star of the book is the layout, which has a kinda retro/movie fan mag type of vibe to it. Valderrama’s writing is good, and the selection of photos is wonderful. You can bounce around in this book, reading what interests you, since it’s more article-oriented.

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