Dig It: The Dead Beat Scroll

the dead beat scroll

A feature at The Rap Sheet blog (link below) is a good enough recommendation for me, and even though I only saw Shamus and Barry Award nominee Mark Coggins’ piece about the Beats, Jack Kerouac and his new August Riordan novel The Dead Beat Scroll on Monday, I knew I had to have it. The book was in my hands Wednesday A.M., which is mighty quick, and I dove in that evening. Indie mystery/crime fiction publisher Down & Out Books did a fine job with this handsome trade pb, each chapter offset with evocative full-page B&W photos.

Private investigator August Riordan is out for vengeance when his former partner is murdered. The investigation leads him to an unresolved missing person case and more gruesome murders, pointing to a lost Jack Kerouac manuscript, presumably worth millions. This is my first time with a Coggins’ novel, my intro to his August Riordan character, and so far so good. Glad I took a chance on a hard-working writer who never got on my radar for some reason. Research into Chicago’s more provincial late 1950’s Beat scene has been among the things I’ve had to dig into for my own projects lately, and while Coggins’ novel isn’t that kind of a retro setting, it’s fitting in nicely. I’m liking The Dead Beat Scroll thus far…I bet you will too if you check it out. And look up author (and photographer, BTW!) Mark Coggins site while you’re thinking it over (link below). I’ll assume the stunning shots in The Dead Beat Scroll are his.

https://therapsheet.blogspot.com/

https://www.markcoggins.com/

Straight From The Fridge, Dad

straight from the fridge dad

Just about any book with a Richie Fahey cover illustration will make me pause for a second look, and the cover designed by Jesse Marinoff Reyes for the 2000 edition shown here of Straight From The Fridge, Dad – A Dictionary of Hipster Slang by Max Decharne features a terrific Fahey piece.

“Think of it as a sort of Thirty Days To A More Powerful Vocabulary for the beret-wearing, bongo-banging set” the back cover says, but it’s actually more than that.

I have several books on retro slang, most of them pretty slim things, written and published as novelty items, I suppose. But apparently it took someone who divides his time between London and Berlin to put together a more comprehensive and detailed book on mid-20th century American slang, digging deep not only into the 1950’s-60’s Beat Scene but further back into the Jazz era and reference works like Babs Gonzales’ Boptionary, Del Close and John Brent’s How To Speak Hip LP and hipster lingo dictionaries from Cab Calloway and Lavada Durst. Decharne’s Straight From The Fridge, Dad is nearly 200 pages of slick words and expressions that fit right in anywhere from a 1920’s speakeasy to a 1940’s crime novel and all the way up to a late 1950’s Greenwich Village coffee house. If you dig retro or just love words, you’ll love this book, and if you’re writing anything set in the 1920’s through 1960’s, you’ll find a word or phrase — or two or more — to slot in quite comfily in your own work. Though nearly twenty years old, the book’s been re-released in several editions (all with nifty cover art, though I’ll still go with the Fahey illustration) and is available new and used online and seen frequently in bookstores. Get yourself a copy, and then arrange that beret just-so atop your head, make yourself an espresso or pour a shot of MD 20-20 and settle in to a dictionary that’s actually fun to read.

Nowheresville

nowheresville

I think Mark Ricketts’ Nowheresville originally was released as a four-part conventional comic series from Calibre Comics. If so, I’ve never seen it poking out of any comic shops’ back-issue bins, but then I don’t go rummaging through them much, always sensing they’re off-limits to all but the dedicated hard-core. Or at least, that’s the vibe I often get. But, it was released by Image as a 192-page digest-sized trade pb, and if you like noir-ish crime fiction, colorful word-smithing, edgy black & white art and most of all, the 1950’s beat scene, you’ll love Nowheresville.

When a low-life NYC smut photographer emerges from his darkroom, he discovers that the model he left helplessly trussed up and gagged in lingerie, stockings and heels on a makeshift set’s divan has just been murdered. Oh, it’s a set-up, no question, but the cops don’t seem particularly interested in finding out the truth, only deciding who they’ll pin this one on. Which leads us to the graphic novel’s hero, almost-too-cool-to-be-real Chic Mooney, good looking, poetic, oozing hipness but still a badass. Lured into the case, he’ll have to reckon with a crooked cop who’s got it in for him, a particularly vicious gangster, his junkie drummer pal and, perhaps worst of all, his own ex, now an utterly ruthless Hollywood star who isn’t only a femme fatale on screen.

nowheresville 2

The art’s strictly solid black and white, all stark and jagged like some kind of 1950’s abstract expressionist art…if it was done with a bottle of India Ink and a stylus, that is. It’s stylized and terrific, but it’s the scripting that’ll get you, riffing on fifties slang that’s a real treat to read. The plot may meander here and there, but you don’t seem to care, because it remains a fun read even if you’re lost for a page or two.

I stumbled across this book by accident in a used book store’s graphic novel section. But I think it’s still available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s site. Or, maybe your local comics shop has it. I hope they do…check it out, man.

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