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Friday, November 02, 2018

Comic Cuts - 2 November 2018

Finally, finally, I finished the index for the latest volume of Forgotten Authors. Previous volumes have taken a couple of days, but this one just seemed to take forever. I'm allowing anything to distract me these days. My e-mail has been playing up and I've spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to figure out quite why but achieving nothing. It also turns out that, Ebay is like a kettle and nothing happens while you're watching it. Squirrels are fun to watch, as are robins, the neighbours' cats, collared doves, pigeons... but amusing as it is to watch the antics of these critters, it isn't getting the work done.

Another huge distraction was a discovery about one of my "mysteries that have me mystified" authors. I've had a fascination for lost and forgotten writers and artists since my schooldays, first through wondering who was drawing the comics I was reading, and then discovering that writers used multiple names to publish their work. I've had a particular fondness for old paperbacks from the 1950s, because they used such outlandish pen-names and because someone once told me that I'd never be able to discover who was behind those names. Red rag met bull in that moment.

Many of those names have now been resolved. There is still an awful long way to go, but many of the key writers have now been identified and we know at least something about their lives as well as the bare bones of their writing careers. Over the years I've returned to some of the more mysterious writers time and time again, trying to chip away at the anonymity of the authors behind many of the most lurid pen-names.

Well, one author was identified this week and the picture of his career is fascinating. We knew him as an actor and author; what we didn't know was that he was also a house-breaker and a jail-breaker! I'll reveal all once we have the full story... and I should acknowledge that the key discovery wasn't mine, but that of a friend. But I get the fun of writing it up.

There are still a few mysterious authors out there. I'd say the one bugging me the most these days is J. A. Jordan.  I still haven't managed to discover anything about him since I last visited his work back in 2009.He wrote over 50 novels, but there's not a thing known about him.

There are a couple of things I still need to do before volume four is finished. There's the cover to do and I also need to rearrange the footnotes into end notes for the e-book edition. But the actual writing is now finished and the long-awaited Fifty Forgotten Authors project has hit its target and an astonishing 280,379 words. For something I expected to top out at 100,000 words back when I started, it has been a mighty interesting project and about 180,000 words of pure indulgence!

I've finally caught up with Tin Star, starring Tim Roth (try saying that fast six times), Genevieve O'Reilly, Abigail Lawrie and Oliver Coopersmith. It's a 10-parter originally shown on Sky Atlantic last year that I've been wanting to get to for ages, having heard it was good. And it is. Good. Tim Roth is brilliant as he always is—he's been let down by films, e.g. The Incredible Hulk, but I can't think of any film or TV series where Roth has knowingly given a poor performance.

He doesn't always play nice characters (recent TV shows include 3 seasons of Lie to Me as an arrogant psychologist who is an expert in reading body language and micro-expressions, and murderer John Christie) but not every show needs a stereotypical hero. Here he definitely isn't a hero; everything he does is driven by anger and booze. A blackout drunk, Jim Worth has sworn off the bottle and is two years sober when we first meet in his new job as the Chief of Police in a small Canadian town. That doesn't last long: his five-year-old son is killed by a group of men from Jim's past and Jim, a former undercover cop, has to drink to unleash his violent, psychopathic alter-ego, Jack.

OK, so it doesn't sound too promising, but you'll be carried along by the pace of the story. There are a few "wait...what?" moments that you just know are necessary to the plot, mostly confined to leaving vulnerable people alone in empty places so they can be attacked/kidnapped/wooed; the most stupid example is when a woman hands her unarmed daughter a rifle as she tries to persuade her not to shoot someone. It's not the first TV show to turn smart characters into idiots for plot purposes.

The show makes great use of its setting near the Rockies, with long, sweeping shots and beautiful panoramas of rivers against mountainous backgrounds. There are some oddities that I can't figure out whether they're coincidences or deliberate, like the number of times we see a car doing a U-turn or people turning back along the route they're travelling on. I might be trying to find deeper meaning where there isn't any. The "24 hours earlier" flashback device is overused, and it came to a satisfying and final conclusion which, due to the fact that Sky are trailering a second season, isn't final...

I'm not selling this very well. I think it best just to say that if you're a Tim Roth fan you'll love it. If not, you'll probably think this is a character worth a single, self-contained series. That story is told, so let's move on.

Our random scans this week are a galaxy of stars...

(* image from Tin Star 2 is © Sky.)

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