Friday, June 11, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 128 (6/11) -- The Corpse Wore Pasties by Jonny Porkpie

Charles Ardai's Hard Case Crime is easily the most consistent publishing program running today -- every book is a thoroughly entertaining slab of hardboiled pulp, whether new or old. Every month, there's another Hard Case, full of dames and bullets, poor saps and tough cops and noir atmosphere. They might not be art, but they know exactly what they're doing, and they all do it right.

This particular book was the Hard Case for December of last year -- it's taken that long for me to convince a local library to lend me their copy of it -- and is just as hard-boiled as all of the rest, though in a slightly more va-va-voom direction than usual. Jonny Porkpie is both the hero and the author of this novel, written as if it were true -- and Porkpie is also the self-proclaimed "Burlesque Mayor of New York." (Because, if you're both willing to take your clothes off in public and brag about it, you can call yourself whatever the hell you want.) So this particular murder mystery takes place within New York's downtown burlesque scene, where, in the very first chapter, serial act-plagiarizer Victoria Vice drinks from a bottle of (supposedly) fake rat poison and dies a very real death.

Every one of her fellow performers had a reason to kill her -- but it was Jonny who handed her the fatal bottle, and it's Jonny that the local police like for the crime. But he's also the only person he's sure didn't kill Victoria. So the burlesque mayor has to become a sleuth in a breakaway shirt if he wants to stay out of prison....

The Corpse Wore Pasties also features a suitably pulchritudinous cover by Ricky Mujica, depicting Nasty Canasta [1], who appears in the novel as herself (Jonny's wife), and GiGi La Femme (whom I suspect may have partially inspired the character of LuLu La Rue). It's a brand-new novel, so it's not quite the platonic ideal of a Hard Case Crime book, but it comes darn close. (It's also a bit lacking in the serious violence department, which I'm sure Porkpie appreciated.) And it has one of the great titles of all time, one that we all should be proud to read on our particular local mode of public transport.

[1] Yes, a female burlesque performer named herself after the villain from Drip-Along Daffy. No, I don't know why. I'm sure she has her reasons.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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