Fiction: “The Dead Man’s Brother” by Roger Zelazny

Well.  Normally, I’d post a picture of the book cover, but the uploading isn’t working.  So instead: click this link, and you’ll be sent to the Hard Case Crime bio of the book.

You may remember this title from my reading pile last year. I picked it up again when I got back from Providence, and this time, I was able to keep my head down and power through it. In a week.

Overall, it wasn’t half bad.

The Dead Man’s Brother is a title from Hard Case Crime imprint, a Harlequin-like imprint specializing in pulp fiction. Some titles are newly-written; some are never-before-published pulp fiction (Dead Man’s Brother was never published); and some are reprints of classic pulp titles. Why did I all of a sudden get an interest in pulp fiction? I blame two things: Robert Downey, Jr., and his movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

This isn’t a place to review movies, but if you like crime, comedy, and Robert Downey Jr. swearing a lot, go watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It’s set up like an old pulp fiction novel, but it’s completely modern. RDJ narrates with his usual, fast-talking self-deprecating style, Val Kilmer plays a gay private detective, and Michelle Monaghan plays ‘the girl,’ who has a fascination with the Johnny Gossamer novels that the movie plays off.

Unfortunately for me, Johnny Gossamer was a made-up series. But I went out and picked up a few titles from the Hard Case Crime imprint, and Dead Man’s Brother was the first one I picked up to actually read.

The story was … interesting. Ovid Wiley – yes, that’s his name – is a former art thief, now turned legit, with a small art gallery in Manhattan. One morning he wakes up to find his former partner in crime stabbed on the floor. He calmly calls the police, pleads his innocence, but somehow gets imprisoned for three days. When he gets out, he is brought into a CIA operation involving a priest embezzling money from the Vatican.

So Ovid hops a flight to Rome and starts sniffing around where the priest may have disappeared to. One of the connections is the partner’s ex, Maria, who was banging the priest (oh don’t give me that look – the dude embezzled millions from the Vatican – of course he wasn’t celibate!).

The trail leads them from the Vatican to Brazil, where they walk into another crime, get mistakenly accused, and wind up in a Brazilian jail for approximately a week, where they are tortured to get information.

Turns out, the embezzlement was to further a plot in Brazil about politics and/or protection of the native peoples, and I got kindof lost back there, but the story wraps itself up as nicely as a pulp fiction story can.

The plot is a little outrageous, but that’s the fun of pulp fiction, right?

Grade for The Dead Man’s Brother: 2 stars


2 thoughts on “Fiction: “The Dead Man’s Brother” by Roger Zelazny

  1. Found your blog thanks to this review, and I just wanted to let you know how much I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. You’re a writer of considerable charm.

    Meanwhile, I’ll have to let Shane Black (who wrote “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) know that his movie turned someone onto Hard Case Crime. He’ll get a kick out of that.

    • So I’ve been sitting here for two days, trying to come up with a thoughtful response to your wonderful comment, but all I’ve been able to think is on the level of emoticons and annoying textspeak. (I was going to give you an example of what’s going through my head, but just decided that that would be truly embarrassing for myself.)

      So. I cannot tell you how happy and pleased and humbled your comment made me feel. Here I am, thinking I’m just blogging into empty air (seriously, my site traffic is almost negative, most days), and then to have you stumble upon it, and you were nice and kind enough to leave me a note? Humbled. Seriously.

      I really enjoyed Dead Man’s Brother, and look forward to reading (and reviewing) further Hard Case Crime titles. Thank you, again, for totally making my year.

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