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ONE THING I LOVE TODAY! Moriarty Checks Out Paul Malmont’s Gorgeous New Novel, JACK LONDON IN PARADISE!

Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here. I was enormously fond of Paul Malmont’s debut novel, THE CHINATOWN DEATH CLOUD PERIL,a tribute to pulp heroes and pulp conventions and pulp writers a la THE ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY or CARTER BEAT THE DEVIL, so when he contacted me to ask if I was interested in reading an early copy of his new book, I made room for it at the top of the stack when it arrived. I have read an obligatory amount of Jack London’s work, but I’m not intimate with the full body of work he created, or with much of his biographical detail. I know he lived in some of the rugged terrain he lived about, so I assume he was a fairly hearty sort of early 20th Century man, the gentleman adventurer that seemed to be the enduring archetype of that age. Beyond that, I only know THE CALL OF THE WILD, THE SEA WOLF, and WHITE FANG. Those seem to be the biggest of the popular successes he created, the ones people return to. So when I picked up Malmont’s new one, JACK LONDON IN PARADISE, I didn’t really have any preconceptions. With his first book, I had my own history with pulp that I drew on as a reader. It was only after I finished the book that I went digging to read about London’s life and death, and his second wife Charmain, and his time in Hawaii, and I’m impressed how Malmont’s constructed a story that could neatly fit into the real life details. Based on what I’ve read about the way London died, and the questions that still exist about it, as well as another mystery involving a house of his that burned down, it seems that Malmont’s created a heartbreaking scenario, a crushing read, and he’s done it with a canny combination of invention and impeccably researched fact. This is a much more gentle novel in terms of pace and language than his first one, and he does a lovely job painting a picture of a Hawaii still in transition, before it’s been given over completely to the tourists. Speaking as one of those tourists, repeatedly, I’ve fallen in love with Hawaii. I have no doubt I’ll live there at some point. My whole family feels the same way about it, drawn to it, completely relaxed and at home when we’re there. Malmont effectively layers in the hold that Hawaii can get in someone, imagining how Jack London, running from heartbreak and tragedy and sickness and sorrow, took his wife and bailed out of civilization for a while, hiding out in Hawaii. At the same time, he tells another story that was completely new to me, a footnote in Hollywood history that I thought was total invention as I read the book. Color me shocked to realize that Hobart Bosworth was a real person and, more importantly, he really did have an intimate friendship with Jack London, a business partnership that yielded several London adaptations that were quite successful in their time. I’d love to see his version of THE SEA WOLF sometime. He was an actor, writer, director, and producer whose early work was distributed by Paramount before the larger company absorbed him whole. Just before this merger, during the last year of London’s life, is when Malmont set his novel, and he uses Bosworth as a way into London’s life. Bosworth is drowning in debt, about to lose his studio, and he knows that the only way he’s going to have a sure-fire hit is to have another Jack London picture. Only problem is, part of the reason he’s in debt is because of how badly he’s getting dicked by Paramount in his distribution deal, and as a result, he hasn’t paid London any of the royalties he owes him, despite all the London pictures being well-known hits. So when he tracks Jack and Charmain down, in Hawaii, on retreat, they’re not exactly happy to see him, and they’re not exactly eager to help. Jack and Charmain’s marriage is one of the story threads, Jack’s health is another, Bosworth’s goal of getting London to write him a new original script is a third, and what makes this such a rich, mature work is the way he paints every party in this painful slow motion tragedy with a forgiving quality. Malmont doesn’t canonize London at all. He draws him as complex, alternately weak and impervious, a devoted husband and a shameless cad, a hyperproductive artist and a slave to the words. Same with Bosworth. He’s ultimately somewhat sympathetic, but he is not above reproach. Many of his actions are selfish, pathetic, manipulative. And yet, there’s a charm and an exuberance to the way he pursues anything that might help him save his studio. He cares about making pictures above all else, and his zeal is certainly impressive. Charmain, though... she’s the character I’ll really carry away from the book with me. She’s the most richly imagined and complicated person here, and it’s the second time he’s written a married couple this strong. In CHINATOWN, he created a neo-Nick and Nora out of Lester Dent and his wife, a bantering pair of adventurers who were the most fun thing about the entire endeavor. This time, we’re coming in once the fun’s over. Charmain can’t give Jack the one thing he really wants: a son. They had a daughter, but she was stillborn. The gulf between them is growing emotionally, but Jack’s almost totally dependent on her because of his chronic illness and his need to be medicated almost constantly. The way Malmont charts the dark waters of Charmain’s heart is breathtaking writing, and it kept me hooked to the very last page. Overall, this marks a sophomore effort that’s every bit as ambitious as his debut, but what makes it more impressive is the way he has taken real life figures, writers in both books, and made them into living breathing people on the page. He’s not writing biography, and he’s not reinventing them in any simplistic way. Malmont seems compelled to dig into what it is that makes these artists who they are. Why do we still read the work of Lester Dent or Walter Gibson or Jack London? What was it in their lives that we still discern in their fiction? I’m curious to see where Malmont’s interests lead him next time, but for now, I’m content in knowing that this guy’s no one-trick pony. His is a storytelling voice that I will gladly indulge any time, and I highly recommend keeping an eye out for this one when it hits bookstores in January of 2009.


Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles

Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 9, 2008, 7:13 a.m. CST

    First baby,,

    by The real Jack Bauer

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 7:25 a.m. CST

    Loved CHINATOWN DEATHCLOUD PERIL

    by RenoNevada2000

    I really enjoyed CHINATOWN DEATHCLOUD PERIL and was hoping he would be putting out a second book.<br> I'm realizing that I really like stories that weave around real authors' lives like CHINATOWN DEATHCLOUD or Mark Frost's 2 Arthur Conan Doyle books (THE LIST OF SEVEN and THE 6 PROPHETS... too bad that series didn't continue). I'm looking forward to Meltzer's BOOK OF LIES which involves Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. I know that there are a few short stories featuring HP Lovecraft squaring of Cthulhu-ian horrors. Does anyone have any other recommendations?

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 9:43 a.m. CST

    NEEDS MORE BREASTFEEDING

    by ArcadianDS

    so we can scare Harry.<p> <i>AICN DOOMSDAY CLOCK - 5:15

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 10:04 a.m. CST

    The real Jack Bauer...

    by LordPorkington

    You said 'first', that means you're a stupid cunt baby!

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 10:58 a.m. CST

    "To Build A Fire' - London's greatest short story..

    by fdp60093

    ..and one of the best ever written - search it out, it's worth it.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 11:53 a.m. CST

    Wow, what an inspired TalkBack...

    by AdrianVeidt

    Anyhoo, "White Fang" was one of the first movies I remember watching as a kid, and it got me into Jack London. Sadly, I haven't read anything by him or cared to look into anything on him for over a decade. Will probably pick this up.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 12:03 p.m. CST

    Chinatown Deathcloud Peril/To Build a Fire

    by Paul Bucciarelli

    The Chinatown Deathcloud Peril was a fun, breezy read full of in-jokes for pulp fans. I've always wondered why Louis L'amour was the only one of the main characters not to have his actual name used. To Build a Fire is simply a superb story. A must read.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 12:11 p.m. CST

    Mori, How Would You Compare it to Carter Beats the Devil?

    by DKT

    I really like Glenn David Gold a lot, and I enjoyed quite a bit of that book, but it seemed to drag in the middle for me. OTOH, I thought Kavalier and Clay was amazing...<br><br> If nothing else, this has really made me want to pick up Chinatown Deathcloud Peril.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 12:19 p.m. CST

    RenoNevada2000

    by DKT

    It is a fun subgenre, isn't it? I loved List of 7 (where the HELL is that movie?) although felt like 6 Messiash kinda failed. <br><br>Chabon's Kavalier and Clay might do it for you, although the real life authors are more secondary/cameo characters than protagonists. William Blake is a prominent character in Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series -- at least in Seventh Son, the book I read (although not the protagonist, and it's a pure fantasy/alternate history story). Also, I haven't read it yet, but Nick Mamatas has written a book called Move Underground which is all about Jack Kerouac fights Chuthulu. How could that *not* be fun.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 12:22 p.m. CST

    DKT

    by Paul Bucciarelli

    You'll really enjoy CDP. I've heard nothing but good things about Carter Beats the Devil and have been trying to catch up to it ever since it was published. I'm a big fan of novels that feature real people as characters. Some of my favorites are Ragtime (awesome book) and Nicholas Meyer's Sherlock Holmes (fuck, I like Ritchie's stuff but why Meyer be directing a new Holmes film?) pastiches.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 12:24 p.m. CST

    How could I forget Caleb Carr?

    by Paul Bucciarelli

    The Alienist fucking rules and The Angel of Darkness is pretty damn good too. The sequel would probably make a better movie and would be a perfect star vehicle for Salma Hayek.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 1:15 p.m. CST

    jack london= entry level bullshit

    by Stengah

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 1:18 p.m. CST

    Stengah

    by Paul Bucciarelli

    =entry level douchebag.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 1:28 p.m. CST

    I'm reading this now

    by DeadPanWalking

    And I'm floored by how much different it is than Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, but how good it is in completely different ways. Jack London in Paradise really sucks you in to a cool, complicated world built by the characters. I'm about 2/3rds the way through and really digging it.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 1:57 p.m. CST

    Paul Bucciarelli

    by DKT

    I'm not sure why I *haven't* read it yet, because everything I've heard from friends or read about it is positive. I'll bump it up a little close to the top of my TBR Pile, erm Shelf.

  • Oct. 9, 2008, 4:30 p.m. CST

    Moriarty, do yourself a favor and read . . .

    by lavaboat

    Jack London's Martin Eden. It's about an illiterate longshoreman who who becomes a writer. Anybody who have ever sat put pen to blank page should read this shockingly unknown classic.

  • Oct. 10, 2008, 12:08 a.m. CST

    lots of good stuff here

    by Bloo

    I'm a big fan of Carter Beats the Devil, but yeah it does kind of drag in the middle, it's still great reading but to me it wasn't gotta read this when I was in the middle...it was a good toilet section, by that I mean reading on the toilet<P>Carr is amazing, I love The Alienest and Angel of Darkness and it's got some great stuff in it, I'm still amazed that those haven't been made into movies or that Carr hasn't done anything with those char. since AoD, he could write an "Alienest" book every year and I'd be happy. His Sherlock Holmes book is pretty good too (The Italian Secretary)<P>I haven't been able to find Kaviler and Clay at my local library yet but I'm hoping to get it soon

  • Oct. 10, 2008, 6:27 a.m. CST

    DKT

    by RenoNevada2000

    I've Read KAVALIER AND CLAY. Loved it. <br> Kerouac vs Cthulhu?!!? Sign me up! (Off to book store)

  • Oct. 10, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST

    Read Matthew Pearl!

    by Atticus Finch

    "The Dante Club" is about three of the Fireside Poets (Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell) trying to stop a serial killer who bases his murders on Dante's "Inferno". "The "Poe Shadow" revolves around the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe.

  • It was ok when I was ten, but I quickly gravitated toward technological, fantasy, Hard-boiled detective, and humorous types of fiction. His writing style seems fine, but I am not really into the subject matter of which I am aware.

  • Oct. 10, 2008, 1:04 p.m. CST

    I am picking up this book though.

    by hst666