• Review: "Monte Schulz proves that his father was not the only talented storyteller in the family.... Monte has carved out his own stake with This Side of Jordan, the first novel of a planned trilogy.... Even though there are moments of brutal violence in the vein of Cormac McCarthy, Jordan is more about the young man facing his future with uncertain terms.... You’ll find yourself enraptured by his style, fittingly written in honor of his father." - Bruce Grossman, Bookgasm
• Review: "Overall, I liked West Coast Blues quite a bit, enough so that it makes me want to search out Manchette's novels that have been translated into English. If you enjoy hardboiled crime graphic novels, you should certainly give this one a try." - James Reasoner
• Review: "Boody’s absurdism is patently blue-collar. There is nothing heady or cynical or mean-spirited in these strips. They owe far more to the tradition of wives tales and folk legends than Kafka. As their syndication would likely demand, Boody’s bizarre comics are Golden Age nuggets of an off-kilter author who found a particular release in his medium." - Erik Hinton, PopMatters
• Review: "Chusid and Economon once again prove to be wise stewards of the Flora archives. [The] Sweetly Diabolic [Art of Jim Flora] reveals many largely unknown aspects of his work, but also fruitfully revisits his classic Columbia-era work. Thanks to the quality of the reproductions and design of the book itself, the vitality of Flora's art comes through on each page. An effective introduction to Flora's art and a satisfying crowd-pleaser for his established fans, Diabolic is another richly entertaining treasury of Flora's 'baroque and subversive' art." - Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins
• Profile: John Mesjak of my3books looks at the works of Jason, with a focus on his "beautiful" new book Low Moon
Monte Schulz's prose novel opens in the spring of 1929, as the 19-year-old consumptive farm boy Alvin Pendergast attends an ill-fated dance marathon he's too sickly to participate in. After a year of his life has been stolen by a sanitarium, Alvin knows he's relapsing, and dreads not only the drudgery of his family's homestead, but a return to the hospital. In this state of mind, an invitation for a late-night slice of pie is too seductive to pass up and before he knows it, Alvin crosses the Mississippi River and finds himself working for a slick con artist named Chester Burke.
Alvin is no match for Chester, who's not merely a con man, but a gangster from Chicago, following the bootleg liquor trade through the small towns of America's middle border. With Alvin in tow, Chester's insouciant disregard for life serves him well as he embarks upon a series of bank robberies and senseless murders. All summer long, Chester assumes the role of a dark angel on Judgment day, cleansing the scrolls of those whose sad fortune had drawn them across his path. Too ill to flee, too morally weak to object, Alvin resigns himself to what seems like certain doom somewhere down the road. Fortunately, Alvin finds another companion on his journey, a lonely, eccentric, and grandiloquent dwarf named Rascal, whose own infirmity binds his and the farm boy's destiny together. Drawn deeper and deeper into Chester's murderous frolic, they come across a curious assortment of characters, from small town businessmen and religious kooks to wayward girls and dance contestants, spiritualists and sideshow freaks. Caught between Chester's villainy and Alvin's own physical deterioration, the young farm boy must make a decision: stick with Chester, who would surely kill him at the slightest hint of betrayal, or muster the courage to stake his life on faith in Rascal's clever plan to save them both. Tired of being afraid, Alvin finally grasps the need not only to outwit the gangster but to find another road to travel. What he discovers about the meaning of home offers a solution to escape and freedom.
This Side of Jordan is a thoroughly American novel told in the voice of a lost generation hurtling toward the Great Depression, and evokes a long ago America of crowded Main Streets and tourist camps, miles of cornfields, rural churches, and musty parlors. It ends on the fairgrounds of a traveling wagon circus that beckons gangster, farm boy, and dwarf toward a startling resolution, and a hard-fought absolution for the two young, frightened collaborators. The narrative of this novel has the momentum of a freight train, but told in the seductive, rhythmic tradition of Southern lyricism reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor and Truman Capote, and filled with vivid, outsized literary characters. If Jim Thompson and Carson McCullers went on a collaborative bender by kidnapping Holden Caulfield, Perry Smith, and Ignatius J. Reilly, they'd have come up with something like This Side of Jordan.
"Monte Schulz's novel This Side of Jordan shows that Like Father Like Son -both superb!"- RAY BRADBURY
"Schulz proves himself to be a handy wordsmith in this literarily ambitious novel of pre-Depression America. Hand this straight-faced and multifaceted almost-satire to fans of the southern gothic tradition, all the way from Flannery O'Connor to John Kennedy Toole."- BOOKLIST, Sept. 2009
"I just finished reading a review copy, and I think this is a truly great American novel. Certainly I have not read anything by a modern American (white male) that I have so thoroughly enjoyed in my 13+ years at Tsunami Books. I won't go into the tale; suffice to say those who read this book will bear witness to the beginnings of a great new (American) voice that upholds the power of innocence in a long, dark era."- SCOTT LANDFIELD, TSUNAMI BOOKS
ABOUT THIS SIDE OF JORDAN:
In the idyllic last American summer before the great stock market crash of '29, nineteen year-old farm boy Alvin Pendergast somehow decides he can escape a fatal relapse of tuberculosis by accepting the offer of a job across the Mississippi River from a slick-talking stranger who seems everything poor Alvin is not: smart, sharply-dressed, well-acquainted, and without a worry in the world. But beneath appearances Chester Burke is also a gangster and a sociopathic killer. On their traveling road through the small towns of the Midwest, Alvin quickly discovers how ignorant he is of life beyond the farm.
Fortunately, he finds another companion for this harrowing journey, a curious and clever dwarf whose own pathetic life has offered little resistance to fate, until the circumstances of Chester's cruel itinerary forces both him and Alvin to seek another path, if they hope to survive.
This Side Of Jordan is a story of another America, eighty years distant yet familiar, too, a vibrant and scandalous tapestry of eccentric characters from a nation embroiled in criminal liquor traffic, thrilled by Jazz Age fads and frolic, drunk amid the glittering showgrounds of a booming circus whose flag-topped tents are about to come down. Through mayhem and merriment, past the violence and hypocrisy of Prohibition, along miles of dirt roads and busy Main Streets, we see in this wonderfully evocative narrative a simple yearning for love and hope. This Side Of Jordan is about the distance we travel in America to find our rightful place.
This Side of Jordan is Monte Schulz's second novel. His first, Down by the River, was published by Viking in 1991. Library Journal raved that it compared to Stand by Me and Twin Peaks, and seemed "ready-made for Hollywood." He spent ten years writing Crossing Eden, from which This Side of Jordan is drawn as the first of three interconnected novels; the second and third, Fields of Eden and The Big Town, will be published in 2010 and 2011.
Monte Schulz received his M.A. in American Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He lives in Northern California. He is the eldest son of Charles M. Schulz (PEANUTS).
Finally available for pre-order, one of our most anticipated releases of the year and our second original prose novel: This Side of Jordan by Monte Schulz is a picaresque novel told in the voice of a lost generation hurtling toward the Great Depression. A farm boy meets a violent gangster and an eccentric dwarf, encountering more curious characters as they traverse the American South. Featuring cover art by Al Columbia. This book is now available for pre-order in our online shop following its noteworthy debut (attracting the likes of Ray Bradbury and Joe Hill) at Comic-Con last month. To hook you, we've made the entire first chapter available for free as a 23-page PDF dowload. This book will be in stock and shipping in a week or two, and in stores approximately 4 weeks later (subject to change).
Look, it's my desk, with advance copies of two brand new books on it: All and Sundry: Uncollected Work 2004-2009 by Paul Hornschemeier (you can pre-order it from us and check out a preview here) and This Side of Jordan by Monte Schulz (with cover art by Al Columbia; no pre-order yet, but lots more info about the book here). Both will be debuting at Comic-Con next week with the authors in attendance!
Saturday at BEA was extremely busy, and my enthusiasm for picture-taking waned after a promising start Friday. We hosted a signing with Monte Schulz, whose novel This Side of Jordan is going to surprise a lot of folks this fall. It's fantastic.
That's Monte above, signing galleys for a big line in the autographing area, and graciously answering questions not only about his book, but also his father, Charles M. Schulz, for whom Monte wrote the book. Monte looks uncannily like his father. I couldn't get over this all weekend.
After the show, Gary, Jason and I had dinner with Monte, which included a surreal encounter with Katie Couric that I sadly got no pictures of. But so as not to completely disappoint you, here's a picture of Kathie Lee Gifford:
After a fantastic dinner, Gary insisted on a nightcap. Now, for me, "nightcap" usually involves whiskey. Not Gary. For Gary, it involves ice cream and hot fudge. We cabbed it up to Serendipity, the famous dessert place that I think Gary must own stock in.
Gary ate as much ice cream as Jason, Monte and myself combined, and threatened to eat more before we dragged him out. We continued elsewhere, meeting up with Monte's pals Sid & Karen, talking books until the wee hours of the morning, or to at least what passes as the wee hours of the morning to this pathetic dad who is usually up at 5AM with his one-year-old.
ABOVE: Gary, contended with a gut full of hot fudge.
ABOVE: My requisite Jason Miles Big Hands photo (sorry ladies, he's taken).
Fantagraphics is on it's way to the Big Apple next week for Book Expo America 2009 (Stand #3422 in the W.W. Norton "pavilion") and we're bringing in tow a slew of previews of new Fall titles as well as hosting several signings:
KIM DEITCH (signing Friday from 2-3:00 in our booth 3422 and 4-4:30 in autograph area table 7)
MICHAEL KUPPERMAN (signing Friday from 12-1:00 in our booth 3422 and 4-4:30 in autograph area table 8)
DASH SHAW (signing Friday from 1-2:00 in our booth 3422 and 4-4:30 in autograph area table 25)
MONTE SCHULZ (signing Saturday from 2:30-3:00 in autograph area table 9)
We'll be promoting our summer and fall lines in particular, with advance previews of books like PIM & FRANCIE by Al Columbia, PRINCE VALIANT by Hal Foster, YOU SHALL DIE BY YOUR OWN EVIL CREATION! by Fletcher Hanks (edited by Paul Karasik), LOVE & ROCKETS NEW STORIES #2 by Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez, YOU ARE THERE and WEST COAST BLUES by Jacques Tardi, RED MONKEY DOUBLE HAPPINESS BOOK by Joe Daly, PRISON PIT by Johnny Ryan, BACKWOODS HUMORIST: THE ART OF NORMAN PETTINGILL, and many more.
BEA isn't open to the public, unfortunately, but if you're an attending bookseller, fellow pubisher, journalist, or otherwise sneaky badge-getter, please stop by and say hello to myself, Jason Miles and Fearless Leader Gary Groth.
We sent this press release out this morning, and I thought I should share it with Flog readers as well:
FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS ANNOUNCES THE ACQUISITION OF THIS SIDE OF JORDAN, A NOVEL BY MONTE SCHULZ
THIS SIDE OF JORDAN, by MONTE SCHULZ, will be unveiled at the 2009 Book Expo America in New York City, May 29-31, with an appearance by the author on Saturday, May 30, at 2:30PM in the Autographing Area.
SEATTLE, WA, MAY 20, 2009 --- This September, Fantagraphics Books is proud to publish This Side of Jordan, by Monte Schulz, only the second original prose novel (following 2007's Laura Warholic by Alexander Theroux) in the company's 33-year history.
This Side of Jordan is a tapestry of American life in the summer before the economic crash of 1929, and a quintessential novel of the rural Midwest offered unexpectedly as a crime thriller. Full of American landscapes and totems, images and notions, foibles and fables, beasts and the blessed, it follows the experiences of 19-year-old tubercular farm boy Alvin Pendergast. The novel begins with an ill-fated dance marathon and a chance encounter with a slick con artist and gangster named Chester Burke. Fearing relapse of his consumption and a return to the sanitarium that had already stolen a year of his life, Alvin imprudently follows Chester across the Mississippi River only to enter a vortex of criminal violence and deceit.
With Alvin in tow, Chester's insouciant disregard for life serves him well during a series of bank robberies and senseless murders, the sociopathic gangster assuming the role of a dark angel on Judgment Day, cleansing the scrolls of those whose sad fortune draws them across his path. Too ill to flee, too morally weak to object, Alvin resigns himself to what seems like certain doom. Fortunately, Alvin finds another companion on the road, a lonely, eccentric, and grandiloquent dwarf named Rascal, whose own infirmity binds their destinies together. Eventually, the young farm boy must make a decision: stick with Chester, who will surely kill him at the slightest hint of betrayal, or muster the courage to stake his life on faith in Rascal's clever plan to save them both.
Monte Schulz is the son of Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and in This Side of Jordan one of his ambitions was to recreate the time of his mother's and father's Jazz Age childhood, when America was making the irresistible transition from rural to urban life.
"When I was in my early twenties, and Dad saw that I was developing an interest in writing, he showed me some of the beautiful passages of Thomas Wolfe and John Steinbeck, and lent me his copies of Complete Poems by Carl Sandburg and Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, and Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem. He told me the writer's gift is to be able to express for people certain ideas and emotions they cannot express for themselves," says Schulz.
Told in the voice of a lost generation hurtling toward the Great Depression, This Side of Jordan evokes crowded Main Streets and tourist camps, miles of cornfields, rural churches and musty parlors, with the momentum of a freight train, but delivered in the seductive, rhythmic tradition of Southern lyricism reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor and Truman Capote.
Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth said he was leery when Schulz asked him to read the novel "because, after all, how does the publisher of The Complete Peanuts reject a novel by Charles Schulz's son?" After reading it, however, he was "bowled over by the beauty of the prose and Monte's command over every aspect of the form. It isn't hyperbolic to say that Monte is as good a writer as his father is a cartoonist. That's why we wanted to publish it."
This Side of Jordan is Schulz's second novel. His first, Down by the River, was published by Viking in 1991. Library Journal raved that it compared to Stand by Me and Twin Peaks, and seemed "ready-made for Hollywood." He spent ten years writing Crossing Eden, from which This Side Of Jordan is drawn as the first of three interconnected novels; the second and third, Fields of Eden and The Big Town, will be published in 2010 and 2011. This Side of Jordan will be published as a jacketed hardcover this September by Fantagraphics Books, with a painted cover by noted cartoonist Al Columbia. Schulz will make his first public appearance promoting the novel at the 2009 Book Expo America, signing galleys on Saturday, May 30, at 2:30PM in the convention's autographing area. A West Coast tour will follow in the Fall (dates and locations t.b.a.).
Schulz received his M.A. in American Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He lives in Northern California.
In our news section, we're pleased to bring you the lowdown on our books and comics slated for release in August, 2009, as will be seen in the pages of Previews. It's a big month! The list includes:
• The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 by Charles M. Schulz • The Complete Peanuts 1971-1974 Box Set • Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 1 by Roy Crane • Rock Candy by Femke Hiemstra • This Side of Jordan by Monte Schulz • Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai • Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by the Hernandez Brothers • Like a Dog by Zak Sally
We also put up our actual Previews spread as a print-quality PDF file, just for fun. Jason Miles designed it and it'll clobber your eyeballs like a roundhouse from Capt. Easy himself. Click on through for the full dirt.
• Review: "...[T]he primitive funnybooks rescued from obscurity by Greg Sadowski in Supermen! The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes 1936-1941 contain within their awesomely naïve and rudimentarily brilliant pages all the seeds of the postmodern graphic novel... Compounded equally from pulp fiction, movies, newspaper strips, and sheer desperate commercial-deadline-brainstorm lunacy, these early superhero tales created their own fresh synthetic mythology and compositional tools on the fly." - Paul DiFilippo, The Barnes & Noble Review
• Review: "[Bottomless Belly Button] reads almost like a John Updike novel... [Dash Shaw] really utilizes the medium to its fullest capacity..." - Benn Ray (Atomic Books) on WYPR (Baltimore public radio - streaming audio)
• Review: "[The Wolverton Bible] is fascinating read; it's a fascinating document by one of the most important illustrators of the 20th century." - Benn Ray (Atomic Books) on WYPR (Baltimore public radio - streaming audio - same link as above)
• Review: "Fantagraphics’ collection of the four issues of Blazing Combat blew me away from the start. The size and heft of the hardback reminded me of my textbooks from my school days. And once I cracked open the book, I found myself getting a hell of an education with this one."- Tim O'Shea, Robot 6, "What Are You Reading?"
• Review: "If nothing else, Supermen! puts Fletcher Hanks’ career in perspective... These are comics designed to make you tear your hair out waiting for the next issue, just to see if these guys could top themselves. Great fun all around." - Tom Bondurant, Robot 6, "What Are You Reading?" (same link as above)
• Review: "Jason is an expert at expressing a complex idea with simple visuals and dialogue. Most of his works contain little to no dialogue, actually -- entire stories can be read in facial expressions, twitches, color changes and movements. The entirety of Tell Me Something contains 7 lines of dialogue. It tells the story of 2 lovers and the trials they go through to be together, using dual layered story arcs differentiated simply by the panel borders to convey depth and reshape the story into an intriguing form." - The Inside Flap [Ed. note: Tell Me Something is out of print, but will be collected along with other Jason stories in a forthcoming hardcover]
• List: For Robot 6, Chris Mautner names "Six ‘retired' artists we'd like to see return to comics," including Brian Biggs ("...Frederick and Eloise [brings] a whimsical, storybook approach that never seem[s] overly twee or sweet. Indeed, [it is] often grounded by some dark undercurrents, not to mention backed by some serious artistic chops"), Dave Cooper ("Surreal, mind-warping books like Suckle, Ripple and his ongoing series Weasel, which chronicled a number of sweaty, paunchy, disturbingly neurotic and oversexed characters, had Cooper earning acclaim equal to the likes of Clowes and Ware"), and Mary Fleener ("...[S]he remains one of the most original voices in comics, with an art style that’s completely her own (no one draws a sex scene like her)." [Note to Mautner: Mary Fleener had a new comics story titled "Niacin" in Hotwire Comics Vol. 2, which we put out last year])
• Interview: At Robot 6, Tim O'Shea talks to Esther Pearl Watson about Unlovable Vol. 1. Choice quote: "I was a lot like Tammy and still am. It’s everything I fear."