Vincent S. Moore Presents:
Howdy there, folks.
Things are a bit crazy around the Omnium Gatherum sanctum these days. So I have to skip having a column on one topic and just talk about a couple of items on my desk until next time.
I just finished reading In The Night Of The Heat by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, presented by Blair Underwood.
This was the second Tennyson Hardwick mystery set in and around Hollywood for the most part. Ten, as his friends call him, is a struggling actor with a shady past and this book opens with his acting career once again on the rise. The only bumps in the road ahead are his past and his present filled with his aging and ailing father, a young woman he saved from the sex industry in the first book, and his on-again, off-again relationship with a female reporter. Now, there wouldn’t be a story if his life went according to his plan and so when his past catches up to him, offering him a choice between furthering his career on the casting couch or killing his reborn career, Ten finds himself in hot water. Add in an encounter with an O.J. Simpson stand-in who ends up dead, and you have Ten struggling once again to save his life and livelihood.
I enjoyed the book since I was in the hands of two excellent writers in Due and Barnes. It was well written. However I didn’t enjoy this second book as much as the first. It is very early on in a series that will, hopefully, continue for a number of years. And I understand that even series characters can go through growing period before certain aspects are nailed down and become iconic. But the narrative drive I felt in the first book wasn’t completely as powerful this time out. I felt the family relationship elements intruded at the wrong times and for far too long. And Ten, as someone once trained as a bodyguard and caught up in a previous, puts himself into dangerous situations too easily and blindly, only to pray for reprieve just as or even more strongly so than he does take action to save himself. That worries me.
I recall that Mr. Barnes once commented that part of his reasoning for working on such a series of books was to create fiction that could be passed along to black men by their women, thereby reaching two audiences with one book. At this point, I’m not sure this will work, even though I applaud the efforts.
Here are my reasons why I don’t think this goal will be reached.
One, when I read a mystery, I want to see the hero, even if he or she is an amateur, be able to handle themselves. Whether it’s Nero Wolfe or Easy Rawlins, the reader is dealing with a hero that understands from the moment the case is accepted that life and limb are at risk. Tennyson Hardwick, for even a second outing, oftentimes forgets that he’s looking into dangerous business that might have dangerous and deadly people attached to it. His resumé includes a set of skills that should come in handy yet he doesn’t really rely on those very skills as much as he should, given the circumstances.
Two, while the family elements add color to the story, their placement took me out of the story. I guess I’m not into soap opera or family drama as much as I used to be. Or that it’s hard to enjoy those very family moments when the mystery itself is still unresolved. I don’t know. The overall feel of the story was almost too diffuse for my liking.
Three, I don’t know about any of my readers out there, but the best way to make sure I probably won’t read something is for a woman in my life--my mother, my wife, a good friend, etc.--to recommend it. Because nine chances out of ten I won’t like it because it appeals to their tastes and sensibilities and not mine. So far, the Tennyson Hardwick mysteries are geared more towards a female audience than a general audience. The action scenes are good but feel a bit distant. The relationships Ten has to deal with are more important than the case itself, which is really the point of any mystery story. Which is fine, if you want only to appeal to women. If these books have any chance of catching on with men, whether through the women in their lives or independently, then a much better balance between mystery and family drama, action and romance has to be reached.
I’m enough of a fan of Mr. Barnes’ work to give the upcoming third book a shot. But if it doesn’t do the job I expect, i.e., give me a good mystery to read, then it will my last.
On the flipside, I’m probably like a number of people in the last few weeks to discover the World Of Hurt (worldofhurtonline.com), the Internet’s #1 Blaxploitation Webcomic, as it calls itself.
And I have to say it isn’t completely undeserved.
Having grown up during the 1970s, my childhood was filled with movies featuring tough black male heroes, taking no mess from The Man, loving all the women possible, and meting out justice in his own style. The same can be said for creator, writer and artist Jay Potts. His experience of and love for those blaxploitation movies--good, bad, and otherwise--is on full display with his creation.
World Of Hurt stars Isaiah Hurt, also known as Pastor, a man about town and troubleshooter in the fictional town of Pointe Blanc, California during the 1970s. The Hollywood pitch for the strip is Superfly meets The Equalizer. I’m not sure that’s quite right. After all, there was Trouble Man and Pastor Hurt fits as much into that mold as anything else. But to each their own and it’s not like I’m not a satisfied reader of the end results, regardless of how one describes it.
World Of Hurt creates a full realized world filled with characters that had lives before the first panel ever went on display and that’s just what a reader wants. Pastor Hurt especially fills every panel with his presence, being both larger than life and down-home all at the same time. And that’s his power both inside and outside the strip.
Suffice it to say, I dig what I’ve read so far. I just wish World Of Hurt updated more than once a week. Which is a good thing.
Let’s make World Of Hurt so successful that Mr. Potts will have no other choice than to make it his full time job, with updates five or six times a week.
So Twilight kicked butt this weekend at the box office.
Congratulations to the cast and crew and to the book’s writer Stephenie Meyer for creating the franchise.
And so now the postmortems begin, with lots of folks commenting on whether this proves that Hollywood doesn’t really know what women want or that fangirls can truly drive a successful movie without the boys involved or a million other bits and pieces of those vast areas where economics meets philosophy meets reality.
Look, it’s pretty easy to see what women want.
Love and romance. Chivalry. Bad boys that can be made into good guys. A liberal dash of beefcake. The struggles to create a relationship, to keep that relationship against the pressures of the outer world, to give into the expectations of that relationship, and to risk the consequences of a relationship.
You know, exactly what most romance novels offer. You know, that genre of fiction that counts for 50% of all mass market paperback book sales by the last numbers I know.
I’ve been coming to the realization that there is a stark difference between what women want and what feminists want. As long as pop culture makers and pundits refuse to admit there is this difference then these very same people will continue to shocked whenever something comes along that plays to these deeper concerns and longings within many but not all women.
After all, this is the same reason why Tyler Perry makes money when Hollywood itself can’t launch any black films to save their lives. Short of playing to ghetto stereotypes and sob stories, that is.
And trust me, the real reason why any fanboys are complaining about Twilight is that they think romance is boring. And it is to most guys. So fangirls will swoon and fanboys will bitch and moan and there really isn’t a solution to the situation. Each will just have to learn to live with this latest divide between them.
Maybe in this post-feminist age it is way past the time we embrace that men and women are different from each other and there is neither a hive vagina or mass penis. Some but not all women love Twilight. Some but not all men like superheroes. There are general traits men share with other men and women share with other women and there are traits as individual to each person as snowflakes are to each other.
Deal with it.
That’s it for this time out.
Happy Thanksgiving for those who celebrate it.
Until next time.
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