February 2014 Book Review

As you know I’ve been busy reading film scripts and books on crafting a good screenplay, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try to squeeze in some fun reading where I can. 

I’m slowly working my way through an excellent English translation of the novel “The Time Regulation Institute”  by Turkish author Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar. However that’s not ready for review yet. In recent months I’ve also discovered some new comic books. Well, new to me as they are only just now coming out in English translations.

These are the “Blake and Mortimer” comic books and the reason I was drawn to trying them out is because the author was a close relation - and collaborator - to famed Tintin author Hergé. Tintin has been read and reread many times in my house. There is something about those stories that makes them very compelling. 

So, I thought I’d give Mr. Edgar P. Jacobs and his books a try. I wasn’t disappointed. Though he’s a little more serious than Hergé, and a bit more wordy, his stories do appeal in a way similar to Tintin. 

Our main characters are Captain Blake, dashing British agent of MI5, and his best friend, nuclear physicist, Professor Mortimer. They are intelligent, open minded and up for any adventure. Where Hergé just stays within the realm of reality, Jacobs takes us in a different direction. Some of his stories accept magical realism more readily, such as in “The Mystery of the Great Pyramid” or “The Atlantis Mystery”, where others show us a world with an alternate history where the conflict of World War II is different. In the trilogy “The Secret of the Swordfish” we’re shown what the world might look like if China had been the main aggressor in WWII, seeking and claiming world domination. 

It’s an interesting premise and alternative exploration of war and peace. In particular too the designs for the swordfish weapon show that Jacobs learned much from his mentor. 

The drawings are very reminiscent of Tintin and show Jacobs to be an accomplished artist. The story lines are imaginative and suspenseful, though some of the relationships show the time they were written in. There is a truly villainous bad guy, in the form of adventurer and soldier of fortune, Olrik, which adds imaginative complications to each story. The only negatives I find is that the stories are a bit wordy, with extraneous explanations, but I’m not sure if that’s true for the originals as well or if it’s caused by the translator needing more words. In general the translations could do with a bit of polishing and some of the words chosen seem archaic, and could have been updated without loss of context. Maybe some day I’ll look for a few in the original French to see how Jacobs actually wrote them.

All in all, I recommend these books for a lazy Sunday afternoon when you’re in the mood for some adventure, but don’t want to leave your comfy couch.