Saturday, December 30, 2006
So what have I been reading over the Holidays? Lots of stuff. Read Fear of the Dark, which is the third in Walter Mosley's series about Fearless Jones. I'd read Mosley's other series character, Easy rawlins for several years before I thought the series went a little stale and abandoned it. The new series has much in common with the old. It's set in the 1950s in Los Angeles and follows the exploits of two black men, Paris Minton and Fearless Jones. They're polar opposites with Paris being afraid of nearly everything and Fearless being, well...fearless. The books remind me a little of Raymond Chandler in that they don't really seem to have plots. Just a lot of character development broken up by the occasional action scene. There's a lot of meditation on race, hatred, and the human condition. Interesting stuff.
Also read Philip Jose Farmer's A Feast Unknown. This is the X-rated version of Farmer's Tarzan/Doc Savage pastiche. I'm serious. The sex and violence in this book is so over the top, I can't believe it was written almost 40 years ago. It's still strong stuff to this day. It's unfortunate, because plot wise and idea wise, this is one of Farmer's best books, but the content would keep me from recommending it to just anyone. It is definitely not for the squeamish.
Caesar: A Biography. It's a biography of Caesar. Duh. This one's by Christian Mieir, and it's one of the better bios of Julius Caesar I've read. Concise and accessible. I'll be recommending it to folks who are interested in the Roman civilization. And really, if you're an American you should probably study the Romans at some point. Our government is based on their republic and the more I read about them, the more parallels I see between the Romans and the US. Not all of them good.
Tarzan and the Castaways. One of the last Tarzan books that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote. Basically as Tarzan books go, everything after Tarzan at the Earth's Core, book 13 of 24, is downhill. ERB was reportedly tired of chronicling the adventures of the jungle lord and the books became more and more formula ridden and uninspired.
Burroughs seems to have gotten a second wind with The Castaways, However. He takes a captive Tarzan out of Africa and into the South Seas where he tries to help the survivors of a ship wreck survive on a dangerous island. There's a lost city, of course, but this one is populated by the remnants of an Aztec colony, which is a bit more plausible than some of ERB's other lost race stories. A lot of fun.
Jongor Fights Back. The last of three books by Robert Moore Williams about Jongor, a Tarzan clone who is actually something of a predecessor of Marvel Comics second incarnation of Kazar. Jongor rules over a jungle in a place called Lost Land, populated by dinosaurs, beast men, and other odd creatures. As far as Tarzan rip-offs go, this one is pretty entertaining. The Jongor stories were originally published in the pulps in the early 1950s, so it's very possible that Jack Kirby, a voracious reader, was familiar with Jongor and might have had Jongor and the Lost Land in mind when he and Stan Lee introduced Kazar and the Savage Land in the pages of X-Men.