May 16, 2012

Sounds like a fun read

From Splitsider comes this review:
The Novels of John Swartzwelder, the Most Prolific Simpsons Writer Ever
John Swartzwelder is the J. D. Salinger of comedy writing. The prolific Simpsons writer (he's written 59 episodes of The Simpsons, far more than any other writer, even when the show is quickly approaching five hundred episodes) is as well known to his fans for his eccentricities as his writing.

He was allowed to send his scripts in from home because the other writers couldn't stand his chain-smoking. When he could no longer smoke in restaurants, he bought his favorite booth from his favorite diner and had it installed in his home.

Swartzwelder's final Simpsons was in 2003, and since then he has written a novel a year, all self-published, when realistically, he could barge into any publishing house and declare �I've written 20% of all Simpsons episodes� and be handed a contract. I read all eight of Swartzwelder's novels in a row and have put my impressions together here, hopefully in a way that's slightly less absurdist than Swartzwelder's prose.

The Time Machine Did It: This book is a verbal cartoon; a literary Marx Brothers movie. In its way, Time Machine is actually more cartoony than The Simpsons. There's no pathos, no moral, just screwball, anything-for-a-laugh comedy. The protagonist is Frank Burly, a private detective who freely admits that he's not very observant, which is kind of a problem in his field. To reach his office, prospective clients have to walk past the offices of three more competent detectives.

Burly is hired by Thomas Dewey Mandible the Third, �a scraggly, smelly specimen� who claims to be a multi-millionaire. Mandible woke up one day to find that everything he owned (including his mansion and his stocks) have been stolen, but he has hired Burly only to return a small statue. To prove how serious he is, Mandible gives Burly not just one, but five blank checks.

After some snooping, Burly realizes that it all has to do with a stolen time machine, housed inside of a briefcase and invented by a Professor Groggins, who got the idea from watching science fiction movies (a theme Swartzwelder will revisit in the future). It turns out that the hard part of inventing is actually thinking up the idea. But once things like disintegrating rays and teleporters have been thought up by television writers, building real ones are surprisingly easy.

And like Chekov said, if you introduce a time machine in the first act, it has to go off by the midpoint. Time Machine's most creative scenes are the ones where Burley finds himself trapped in the 1940s. Unlike the later Frank Burly novels, The Time Machine Did It ends with Burly being surprisingly resourceful and clever, actively bringing about the resolution.
Seven more reviews at the site -- looks like some fun summer reading. Swartzwelder has his website here: Kennydale Books His books are available on Amazon. Posted by DaveH at May 16, 2012 7:01 PM
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