Thursday, November 01, 2007
Shakespeare Noir. As it should be.
What's that you say? This is supposed to be a book blog? Well... I suppose you have a point. October was a rough month for that. But hey! 31 Flavorites is all over (go read the chats!), Cybils is in full-swing (have you nominated your favorite books?), the WBBT is largely set to go (check out Colleen's site), and I did have that lovely exchange with Julia Denos (I embrace my virtual stalker-self), lest you think I was lazing about doing nothing. Well, ok, there was probably more nothing going on than there should have been. BUT, it's November now. And I's gots lots of books to talk about, so let's start with one of my favorites!
Alan Gratz hit it out of the ballpark with Something Rotten. And no, I'm not saying that just because he's got good taste in television,* or because he took a crazy pill and agreed to answer some interview questions from me. Next week Friday, for the Winter Blog Blast Tour (remember the SBBT?), I'll be interviewing Alan, and I must say, I had a blast coming up with questions for him, and his answers are great so you should have fun reading them (oh jeeze, did I just say I had a blast coming up with questions for the Winter Blog Blast Tour? Do disregard.).
ANYWAY, I was saying:
Gratz hit it out of the ballpark with this one. He NAILED the tone. Something Rotten, as the title of this post indicates, is inspired by two very large hallmarks of literature: Shakespeare and Noir. I wouldn't have thought it, but the two are quite well matched; I mean, Shakespeare tends to be a bit melodramatic, and hardboiled fiction is all about being just slightly over-the-top. The coolest part about taking inspiration from Shakespeare and Raymond Chandler is that the two have been so influential that the audience doesn't really need to be terribly familiar with either to get it. Or the jokes. Even if they don't know who Raymond Chandler is.
Horatio Wilkes has decided to spend his prep school vacation with his filthy-rich (Horatio's on scholarship) best friend, Hamilton Prince. Hamilton's heir to Denmark, Tennessee's lucrative paper plant, Elsinore, but his father has just died suddenly, and since his mother has married his uncle with disturbing speed, things aren't exactly great at the mansion. Soon after the two boys arrive, they discover a message from Horatio's dead father who appears as a shocking specter of the man he once was. Hamilton is convinced that his father was murdered, and Horatio has no choice but help Hamilton find the truth. It won't be easy, in fact, it might just get him killed.
Gratz firmly establishes the intent of the novel right away and by the second page, you not only know the rules, you are fully engrossed. You buy that world. You buy that smart, fast-talking wise-guy teen and his self-indulgent, damaged, friend. You want to BE Horatio. Gratz gives each of his character's just enough depth to avoid becoming caricatures, but keeps the over-exposed raw feel in keeping with the hardboiled/noir style. For pete's sake, Horatio's even got a signature drink: root beer (whereas Hamilton's a bit of an alcoholic).
It's peppered with classic one-liners:
How can you not laugh at: "Her wind-breaker broke in all the right places..." p 14**
Or: "Then again, lots of things take longer then his mother's remarriage. Like toast" p 23.
But doesn't forget:"...there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" p 106.
I mean, seriously.
GIVE THIS TO TEENS. I know you are always looking for good mysteries for them. We always are. This really is the best teen mystery I've read in, well, I don't remember the last really good teen mystery. Probably Golden's Body of Evidence. And I actually like this better (and you KNOW how much I liked those). It's funny. Genuinely funny. And SMART, let us not forget that. It's based on ole Shakes, after all. 'Twould be super fun to pair it with Hamlet (WAY better than when I had to pair Slaughterhouse-Five with the movie version of M*A*S*H in HS. I didn't realize how much darker the movie was than the tv show. Wasn't fun at all.). And if I haven't convinced you to read it and give it out by now... well. I don't know what else to say. Why are you even reading this? Go, like, stack rocks or something if you don't care for my opinion.
I'm kidding. I love you. You can totally disagree with me. I won't tell.
Know what? There'sa gonna be a sequel. Next year. Called Something Wicked. I wonder which play that'll be... hehe. I'm so excited. I'm also not patient. Once you get your peeps addicted, and they clamor for more (and they will), try giving them the movie Brick. It's darker and older (audience-wise) and a little confusing, but awesome all the same. Adults will like Something Rotten, too. I plan on trying it out on a couple of them very soon. Like in the morning.
I think they should totally bring back the fedora. Gratz, are you wearing one on your book tour? You should. *nods*
Oh, and I think the cover totally rocks. So go cover artist Emilian Gregory!
*ok, that made more sense when there was a Q & A bit on his site. I think it said he liked Veronica Mars, Firefly, Buffy, etc. Basically, what I watch - or did, since none of those are on anymore).
**my pagination comes from the ARC. I think they are ultimately wrong. I don't have the actual book, so if someone wants to email me the real pages, go ahead.