Shaft #5 Preview

A preview of Shaft #5 is now available on Google Books. This is the penultimate issue of the comic book series written by David Walker and drawn by Bilquis Evely and is due out on 15 April 2015.

Below is the A cover designed by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz and Ivan Nunes.

Shaft #5 Cowan


Book Review – SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT (2013)

SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT by CRAIG JOHNSON (2013, Penguin, Paperback, 146pp) ∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: Sheriff Walt Longmire is in his office reading A Christmas Carol when he is interrupted by a ghost of Christmas past: a young woman with a hairline scar and more than a few questions about his predecessor, Lucian Connally. Walt’s on his own this Christmas Eve, so he agrees to help her. 
      At the Durant Home for Assisted Living, Lucian is several tumblers into his Pappy Van Winkle’s and swears he’s never clapped eyes on the woman before. Disappointed, she whispers “Steamboat” and begins a story that takes them all back to Christmas Eve 1988—a story that will thrill and delight the best-selling series’ devoted fans.

Spirit of SteamboatCraig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series of novels has gathered a loyal following over the years and spawned a successful TV series. Johnson initially intended this novella to be one of his seasonal short stories offered up free to his fans. The end result was something of more substantial length, but remains a fast-paced and thrilling read. Johnson has a splendid ear for banter driven dialogue and builds strong characters on the back of it.

There is no mystery in this tale, it is based around the selflessness of the main protagonists in trying to save the life of an infant (victim of a car crash) some 25 years earlier. The story goes through a series of setbacks and solutions as Walt and the old-sheriff Lucian, helped by Doc Isaac Bloomfield and co-pilot Julie Luehrman, use an old WWII bomber to fly their patient through a snowstorm to Denver. The story is also framed around references to Dickens’ Christmas Carol and is designed as a modern parable.

Witty dialogue and likeable characters who you want to spend more time with are the key to Johnson’s success. If you’ve not read any of the Longmire books I recommend you start straight away at the beginning (The Cold Dish) and you’ll be drawn into one of the very best series around.

Comic Book Review – SHAFT #4 (2015)

SHAFT #4 (11 March 2015, Dynamite Entertainment) ∗∗∗∗∗
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Bilquis Evely
Coloured by Daniela Miwa
Cover A by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz and Ivan Nunes

Shaft04-Cov-A-Cowan-fbd54Shaft returns to Harlem in search of Marisol DuPree, who holds the key to the murder of his girlfriend Arletha Havens. He comes across Bumma Brooks who takes him to meet businessman Vernon Gates. Gates is looking to trace a package, which holds incriminating material and which Marisol obtained from the recently deceased Jimmy Style. Gates asks for Shaft’s help in finding the package. On leaving Gates’ office Shaft picks up a tail who Shaft overpowers and knocks unconscious. He learns his tail is a police officer. Later, returning the Arletha’s apartment, he manages to find a lead to Marisol’s whereabouts…

The story is working nicely toward the concluding two chapters with different factions hunting for Marisol and the package she is holding. Walker has paced this tale expertly and Evely’s art work remains consistently impressive. The suggested playlist includes the Bar-Kays excellent Son of Shaft and Ray Charles’ interpretation of Over the Rainbow. In fact The Wizard of Oz is used as a metaphorical reference throughout this issue.

Book Review – THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE (2014)

THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE by BENJAMIN BLACK (2014, Picador, Paperback, 290pp) ∗∗∗∗
      BlurbMaybe it was time I forgot about Nico Peterson, and his sister, and the Cahuilla Club, and Clare Cavendish. Clare? The rest would be easy to put out of my mind, but not the black-eyed blonde . . . It is the early 1950s. In Los Angeles, Private Detective Philip Marlowe is as restless and lonely as ever, and business is a little slow. Then a new client arrives: young, beautiful, and expensively dressed, Clare Cavendish wants Marlowe to find her former lover, a man named Nico Peterson. Soon Marlowe will find himself not only under the spell of the Black-Eyed Blonde; but tangling with one of Bay City’s richest families – and developing a singular appreciation for how far they will go to protect their fortune . . .

untitled-benjamin-black-7-marlowe-978144723670201John Banville, under the pseudonym of Benjamin Black, takes on the mantle of continuing the literary cases of Philip Marlowe. I’m a huge fan of Raymond Chandler and his iconic creation. Chandler added depth to his hero as the series progressed peaking with the extraordinary The Long Goodbye (1953). It is from that book that Black takes his lead here.

What starts out as a straight-forward mystery becomes linked to events in Marlowe’s past as he unravels the case surrounding the supposed death of a rich socialite’s lover. All is not as it seems and the mystery, which initially unfolds at a steady pace, gathers momentum in its closing chapters through to its surprise conclusion. Black proves himself to be a worthy successor to Chandler and Marlowe is in good hands.

More reviews of Shaft #4

Shaft04-1-859fdReviews continue to be largely positive toward the Shaft comic book series, which has now seen four of the initial six-part tale released. Here are some of the latest:-

Dan Pennacchia, “One of the most understated aspects of Shaft is the art direction and set design of the series. Evely does an absolutely stunning job depicting New York City in this era. The backgrounds are never simply shaped around the characters. Instead, the setting always feels as considered as the facial expressions on the leads. Shaft #4 brings readers back into the world through a return to Harlem, as John reflects on the city and his history with his hometown.” (4/5)

Gary Quigley, “Walker does an effective job in portraying the younger version of everyone’s favourite no nonsense Detective, John Shaft. Enough here to please loyal fans and those who are less familiar with the character.” (3/5)

Aaron Halverson, “The story and the art are solid, even if it has been… inspired by other, better, stories.  If you haven’t read those other stories but are a fan of gritty ‘urban’ stories (I hesitate to use the word Blaxploitation since that implies a bit of a camp element that this does not contain, it takes itself very seriously) then there is a lot here for you.” (3/5)

Film Review Round-up – BRANDED (1950), GONE GIRL (2014) and GILDA (1946)

BrandedBranded (1950; USA; Technicolor; 104m) ∗∗∗  d. Rudolph Maté; w. Sydney Boehm, Cyril Hume; ph. Charles Lang; m. Roy Webb; ed. Alma Macrorie.  Cast: Alan Ladd, Mona Freeman, Charles Bickford, Robert Keith, Joseph Calleia, Peter Hansen, Selena Royle, Tom Tully, John Berkes, Milburn Stone, Martin Garralaga, Edward Clark, John Butler. A gunfighter takes part in a scheme to bilk a wealthy cattle family out of half a million dollars by pretending to be their son, who was kidnapped as child. Ladd’s intense performance and the stunning vistas are the best thing about this tale of redemption. Based on the novel “Montana Rides” by Max Brand (as Evan Evans). European version runs 94m. [PG]

Gone-Girl-2014-BluRay-480p-400mb-ESubGone Girl (2014; USA; Colour; 149m) ∗∗∗½  d. David Fincher; w. Gillian Flynn; ph. Jeff Cronenweth; m. Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross; ed. Kirk Baxter.  Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Carrie Coon, Missi Pyle, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Scoot McNairy, Sela Ward, Emily Ratajkowski, Lee Norris, Casey Wilson, Lyn Quinn, Lola Kirke, David Clennon, Lola Kirke. With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. Initially inventive and intriguing, but ultimately it descends into increasing implausibility. Affleck and Pike deliver top class performances to maintain interest throughout despite the contrivances and Fincher keeps the pace consistent. Flynn adapted her own novel. [18]

GildaGilda (1946; USA; B&W; 110m) ∗∗∗½  d. Charles Vidor; w. Jo Eisinger, Marion Parsonnet; ph. Rudolph Maté; m. Hugo Friedhofer; ed. Charles Nelson.  Cast: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready, Joseph Calleia, Steven Geray, Joe Sawyer, Gerald Mohr, Mark Roberts, Ludwig Donath, Donald Douglas, Sam Flint, Bess Flowers, Jean Del Val, Eduardo Ciannelli, Argentina Brunetti. The sinister boss of a South American casino finds that his right-hand man and his sensuous new wife already know each other. Hayworth delivers a mesmerising performance in this stylish but often overwrought noir, which is daring for its themes of sexual repression. Based on a story by E.A. Ellington. [PG]

Book Review – LINE OF DUTY (1974) by Ernest Tidyman

LINE OF DUTY by ERNEST TIDYMAN (1974, W.H. Allen, Hardback, 240pp) ∗∗∗½
      Blurb: Terror prowls the dark streets of a sprawling American city waiting for violence to break out. Some men sleep but others wait for it too, hiding in the shadows. One of them waits in a comfortless room lit by a single glaring bulb, seller of secrets of the organization that could pillage the metropolis. A second comes hunting him with a policeman’s badge shielding a ruthless assassin’s hunger for the kill.. And a third, a just and honest man, begins to know that his hands alone can stop the bloodbath that threatens to engulf his city. Violence is about to come thundering through the night. Before day dawns, a trail of death will be created in its wake.

$(KGrHqVHJDUE63ZSCfoVBPqn7e!TGw~~60_57Ernest Tidyman’s Line of Duty was originally written as a screenplay titled The Inspector and its roots are apparent in the transition to a novel. The story of a cop gone bad, having become a killer for a major crime figure, is interesting and could have made for an intriguing movie. On the page, Tidyman allows his character to breathe giving all the major protagonists a voice. There is no snaking plot line or mystery. The enjoyment comes from seeing the characters react as the truth around Dempsey’s corruption emerges.

Tidyman’s dark humour is apparent throughout as is his knowledge of his home town. He even references a quote from his father Ben (a respected former crime journalist), to whom the book is dedicated: “There is only one reason this burg Cleveland exits. It’s a place to stop between New York and Chicago and piss in the river.”


Shaft #4 – first review

tumblr_ni946mTKiM1rfyagfo1_500BlackNerdProblems have published an advance review of the latest issue of David Walker’s Shaft comic book series, due to be released on 4 March. The review is another positive recommendation awarding an 8 out of 10 rating and stating in its summary:

“Between the mid-life crisis, revenge, and survival, Shaft is one of the best reads on shelves, and as a resident of Harlem I can’t help but enjoy the history and landscape. Looking forward to the story coming to a head and seeing what happens when Shaft comes face to face with Arletha’s killer. However he handles it is bound to change him, for better or worse.”

The art work for the main cover (above) is again by Denys Cowan & Bill Sienkiewicz.