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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Six Voyages of Lone Sloane (Graphic Novel)

By Philippe Druillet

Publisher: Titan Comics (August 18, 2015) (originally published in English in 1973).

Hardcover 72 pages

       “The year 804 of the new era. After the great scare, men decided to spread their power over the universe. The infinite sea of stars wore the seal of the human empire. Great caravans of iron were launched to conquer the skies. Time passed and few came back. The universe was keeping its secrets. But a terran, a rogue among his kin, a loner sails to the outer reaches of the great cosmic ocean”
          Lone Sloane was first published in the 1966 French magazine Mystère des Abîmes and continued onto the Belgium comic Pilote (which also gave us the smurfs) Along with its French contemporaries, the author was incredibly influential especially in the field of science fiction comic artistry, eventually bleeding over into American art in the 1970s. Honestly, I am kicking myself that I haven’t read this author before. He is truly a master of his craft. Each panel is intense and precise. It is a crime more of his work hasn’t been translated into English.

          These collected stories are science fantasy. there are space ships and alien worlds yes, but it is rife with magic and alien gods. In the first three pages, Lone Sloane’s ship is destroyed by the alien Throne of the Black God. He is carried on it to a world whose priests plan to use his soul to reignite an ancient personification of destruction. The Earth has been stolen away by alien gods and repopulated with its own worshipers, Sloane eventually begins looking for it. And so on. All of the plots could easily fit into a fantasy setting.
          Each story is loosely tied, with the events or aftermath of the previous tale mentioned in the next episode. But there is no over arcing metaplot, except for a theme of alien gods, whose appearance takes up most of a page are everywhere in this universe. But the story is not why you should buy this book.
          As you can see from above, the art is absolutely superb! The author brilliantly plays with the page, taking as much space as he wants to, creating a psychedelic experience where what is actually happening fades into the background. The images capture your mind and I found myself staring intently at each page before remembering that it was part of a story. In fact, it took me a long time to get through this book as I spent half an hour on each page, just drinking in the cosmic insanity presented to me. Throwing restraint aside, Druillet overawes us with his scope and imagination. Detail is dense, but flowing. Meaning gives way to symbolic madness. Just take a look at the pictures presented and tell me that it does not suck you in.
          And if you do, I’ll call you a liar!


           For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Job: Interviews with William S. Burroughs

By: Daniel Odier & William S. Burroughs

Published: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (March 4, 1989)

Softcover 224 pages

          “I advance the theory that in the electronic revolution a virus is a very small unit of word and image. I have suggested how such units can be biologically activated to act as communicable virus strains. Let us staring with three tape recorders in the Garden of Eden. Tape recorder one is Adam. Tape recorder two is Eve. Tape recorder three is God, who deteriorated into the Ugly American. Or to return to our primeval scene: tape recorder one is the male ape in a helpless sexual frenzy as the virus strangles him. Tape recorder two is a cooing female ape who straddles him. Tape recorder three is DEATH.”
          The book begins with the sort piece “Playback from Eden to Watergate”, originally published by Harpers in 1973. In it he describes the concept of the word virus. As per Genesis, the word came first. Burroughs interprets this as the written word which infested man and evolved into perfect symbiosis with him, manifesting as human speech. He goes on into his playback reality manipulation method involving three tape recorders and/or a camera (this was written in the early 70s remember, cutting edge stuff then). By splicing various sounds from an area from the first two devices and then adding an idea with the third, one can manipulate an effect where you aim the playback, like a high tech voodoo curse. He claims that he has used this to start fires on buildings and shut down restaurants with health care violations and so on. Whether he believes this to be true,  it is just wishful thinking, or him mixing up correlation with causation is anyone’s guess.
          I can never tell how much Burroughs believes his theories (to misuse the term). Are they exultations of a true believer or an intellectual exercise penned with a sardonic smirk? He has always come across as rather intelligent, but susceptible to various weird alternate scientific and therapeutic ideas. His involvement with Scientology and adherence to Wilhelm Reich’s orgone chamber being a few examples.
William S. Burroughs

          “Translate the Mayan control calendar into modern terms. The mass media of newspapers, radio, television, magazines form a ceremonial calendar to which all citizens are subjected. The “priests” wisely conceal themselves behind masses of contradictory data and vociferously deny that they exist. Like the Mayan priests they can reconstruct the past and predict the future on a statistical basis through manipulation of media. It is the dates preserved in newspaper morgues that makes detailed reconstruction of past dates possible. How can modern priests predict seemingly random future events?”
          The interviews in The Job take place in 1968 and as such several of his views are out of date. For example all of the technology he describes in his splicing technique are obsolete, replaced long ago by smartphones and PCs. Well before the silicon revolution, computers at the time were wall sized monstrosities operating on punch cards and magnetic tape. Your phone now has more computing power than the most sophisticated machine of the day. But don’t knock it, they put a man on the moon with this tech. 
Daniel Odier
          For those who are Burroughs aficionados there isn’t must new here. The book may well have been called a William S. Burroughs’s primer as he primarily reiterates all of his previous philosophical and sociological opinions from previous writings. In fact several times he simply substituted passages from the Nova Trilogy as his answers.
          He makes several good points, as the second quote above demonstrates, on the manipulation of the media to create a false reality and the reshaping of history through images. However again he is out of date. He envisioned one right-wing message (whom he was afraid would use the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy as an excuse to take away our guns) tapered across all mediums, controlled by hidden masters. He didn’t foresee the YouTube age with its constant multiple manipulative narratives overlapping and conflicting where one can create their own narrative and illusionary image of the world. At the time, the masses were only a group of receivers, he did not envision a day where everyone could input as well, thus becoming their own illusionary master. I think he would have approved. 
First English Translation of The Job
          But there is a lot in here that many would disagree with, his praise of Reich and Hubbard being mentioned earlier. He asserts that the concept of a  nuclear family should be ended and that all children should be raised by state run institutions- the same institutions he describes as essentially amoral and evil a few pages earlier. As we all know, this idea worked out so well in its real life applications. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and their Killing Fields and the Romanian orphanages under Ceaușescu that festered with AIDS and mental disorders, being a few instances. Burroughs practiced what he preached however, having abandoned his own son at the age of six.
          He continues on by stating all prisons should be abolished, with no more reasons given than they don’t really do anything more than punish. And eventually wraps up his criticism of the “American Nightmare” by stating that all institutions of Western Civilization must be destroyed. Ho-hum.
          He is most eloquent on the subject of drugs. Advocating a general legalization of all drugs. Heroin, cocaine, and so on should be back to being over-the-counter medications as it was in the early 20th century before the Harrison Narcotics Act. However he believes that this is impossible due to the media’s scare and the money making industry that has sprung up around incarceration and treatment of addicts.
          Drugs are not addictive, according to him, but the exposure to them is, if you can tell the difference. He deconstructs a bit here, by saying that the lifestyle associated with it. The clarity, the lack of responsibility, the absolute focus of your life on the next high means that your life will always have focus.
          However if one wants to kick the habit he devotes fifteen pages to the apomorphine treatment, which he claims is a metabolic stabilizer and reduces the desire for the drug. In 1968 Apomorphine was primarily used to treat erectile dysfunction and, briefly, as a psychiatric cure for homosexuality. At a private clinic Burroughs and several others were administered the drug and said it was the best cure he ever experienced. There have been no clinical trials of the drug ever made. Currently it is used primarily to combat the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.
          Burroughs writes here with his characteristic fluid style, though rarely becoming as hallucinogenic as in other works. He truly is a master of the word and is certainly one of the most poetic writers I have ever read, even when I am shaking my head at nearly all of his arguments. On reflection, I have never more enjoyed reading a person’s opinion that I almost completely disagreed with more.

           For more readings, try my collection of books. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Speed * Kentucky Ham (William Burroughs)

By: William S. Burroughs Jr. (with an introduction by Ann Chamber, afterword by William S. Burroughs Sr.)

Publisher:  The Overlook Press (October 1, 1993)

Softcover 363 pages

          “So, we stood around in the parking lot being sized up, nightsticks tapping palms as if the two of us were going to take on six cops, Joe Frazier’s brother, and a pharmacist, even though I would have liked a crack at the latter. I was paying him, wasn’t I? And he was pinkly proud like he’d just lost his virginity.”
William S. Burroughs Sr.
          Written by the son of the illustrious author of Naked Lunch, this is a foray into his personal experiences in speed addiction and various other criminal activities. His father, Burroughs Sr., famously shot his wife in the head in Mexico, during the drunken game of William Tell. The author, four at the time, was in the room. This is a collection of two book, written in the 60s and 70s, repackaged here after his death in 1981 from liver failure, caused by (surprise surprise) drug and alcohol abuse.  They are not bad reads, but you have to ask yourself if you want to commit to 363 straight pages of drug talk.
In Speed we see him trying to follow in his father’s footsteps style wise. It is reminiscent of Burroughs’s own drug autobiography Junkie, however he might have been too influenced by the book as he hasn’t quite found his own voice here. He attempts to create a speed-freak atmosphere about the entire novel. It is very fast, with the world a whirlwind of drugs, being busted, shooting up, half remembered people, shooting galleries, not eating, not sleeping for weeks, filth everywhere and brutal cops.
Original cover of Speed 1973
With this last one I relate to the police having spent too much of my personal life around chronic alcoholics and junkies, I can certainly understand any cop’s no-bullshit attitude towards them.  The author doesn’t take my view. Writing about a narcotic detective, he states about the cop’s attitude “does this sound like the kind of man who is dedicating his life to alleviating the self-destruction of others?” This is wracked with irony, considering how he died and I couldn’t help but reflect, “Junkie alleviate thyself.”
          The story revolves around his trip from Florida to New York to visit some friends and explore the drug scene which was thriving in the late 1960s at the time. Unlike his father, who tended to shy away from personal autobiographical accounts, Burroughs Jr. seems to be one of those writers who can only talk about themselves. Nothing wrong with that as long as it’s done well. He doesn’t talk himself up, occasionally castigates himself, but shrugs it off with a “this is how is was” attitude.
          Alan Ginsberg shows up in here, simply referred to as Alan, to bail him out of prison several times (3 arrests, no convictions). He didn’t seem to make much of an impression on the author. Appearing in the periphery, chastising the author on his decisions (not unwisely), and offering much unheeded advice on life, politics, and philosophy- which the writer promptly forgot.  One odd snippet dealing with Ginsburg is apparently he offered to show the author a morgue picture of his mother with the bullet hole prominently showing. The author declined.
         With Kentucky Ham he tries to take on a more hipster tone (60s hipster that is) constantly throwing in old slang terms that severely dates the work. The only times you see similar things nowadays is when someone is mocking that decade and its youthful generation. “Look out here you young cats.” It hampered my taking the book seriously.
          We see more of his immortal father in this tome. He goes to Tangier to live with him at the age of thirteen and delves deep into the drug lifestyle, beginning with hashish. In the afterword by Burroughs senior, he says as if he is confused by them not becoming closer. From the text that’s because the senior was stoned all of the time. You can be a parent or a junkie, but not both.
William S. Burroughs Sr.
          It then flashes forward to Burroughs Jr. getting arrested for forging prescriptions and his internment in a federal narcotics hospital, him juking the system, and then going to work on a fishing boat in Alaska. Bringing him back to the points that you can’t make a junkie give up the habit if they don’t want to.
          What I liked about these books is that the author doesn’t glamourize the 60s drug scene. The bad living conditions, the thieves, diseases, and the degradation is put on full display. It also apparent that he loved the drug lifestyle. He may lament a few decisions, but it’s clear that he had the time of his life. Many people fretted over him, but he blew them all off.
Willaim S. Buroughs Jr.
           On the other hand he often makes half-assed rote counter-culture blurbs about American society and the police, which is mostly cribbed from his father’s opinions. Boiled down it is mostly him complaining that he couldn’t get high all of the time, get all the drugs he wanted for free, and was arrested when he did something illegal. No matter where and when he might’ve grown up, it seems that he would have been biologically destined to be a substance abuser and bottom out on life.

           For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Complete Jon Sable Freelance Volume 5 (Graphic Novel) (Action)

By: Mike Grell

Published: IDW Publishing (November 14, 2006)

Softcover 140 pages

          Collecting issues 22 through 27 of the creator owned independent comic published by First comics in the 1980s. Here we are close to halfway through the 45 issue initial run. Grell, perhaps tired of the single issue shoot-em-up format, gives us two overlapping arcs, lasting three issues each.
          The stories were a definite attempt to appeal to a more mature audience, and not just because of the sex scenes. Of course, I don’t understand why the sex is only for mature audiences, as the adolescent me would’ve appreciated it a whole lot more than the current older version. And there are a number of very well illustrated ones in this collection. Not hard core penetration, but let’s call it “tasteful nudes”.
          We continue on with Sable’s self-reflection on the direction of his life. What’s bothering him is his evolving relationship with Myke, the good girl character, for whom he has strong feelings.  He knows however that they would have to give up a part of himself were they to go further. But his overwhelming urge for action and adrenaline, clings to him. He loves the absolute certainty of having a mission and goal, as opposed to the rest of his rudderless existence. Like a junkie claiming that this will be his last fix, Sable looks for any excuse to chase the dragon. He knows it’s bad for him, but cannot help himself.
Mike Grell
          This introspection is what sets Jon Sable apart, as opposed to a character like The Punisher, who is generally only seen to kill criminals “for revenge”. Emotions like that eventually burn themselves out. A man can only swallow it for so long before he spits it back out. Sable’s addiction and his struggle with it, seems real.
          The first arc has Sable going after The Sparrow, a freelance assassin, essentially Sable dark mirror, with whom he has tussled before. Having recently broken out of prison and landed illegally in Israel, The Sparrow is planning some sort of terrorist attack. The CIA contact’s Sable to track him down and either bring him in or eliminate him, they much preferring the latter. After a series of violent escapades dealing with backstabs from the CIA and the IDF, Sable tracks down his target and makes a choice. Why I like this story is because there isn’t a big grand standoff between the two characters, they never even meet once. The only encounter is Sable starring at the target through a telescopic lens.
                    The second arc has Sable and Myke at his old family cabin where he tells her the story of his family and how his parent’s met. It was during WWII, Sable’s mother was an agent for the French Resistance and his father was an on the American side. She helps to smuggle him out of France after his plane is shot down. After a one night stand during the escape Sable is conceived. As always Grell’s use of action is superb, brutal and real. He never falls into the unrealistic trap of the characters having a conversation in the middle of a fist fight, which seems to be a mainstay of comic books. I never look at one of his scenes and think, “Well that’s just ridiculous.”

           For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Complete Jon Sable Freelance Volume 2 (Graphic Novel) (Action)

By: Mike Grell

Published: IDW Publishing (July 12, 2005)

Softcover 176 pages

          The continued slam bang brooding action stories of Jon Sable, Freelance. This book collects issues 7 through 12 of the creator owned independent series. It further illustrates the adrenaline junkie nature of the main character. Whenever he is not risking his life or shooting people, he is a brooding wreck, questioning everything about himself. It is only when he is in the field does he truly come alive.
          The first story is “The Target”, a claustrophobic tale of Sable protecting a witness to a murder, the killer is naturally trying to shut this damsel in distress up. Granted the plot is one that we’ve seen over and over again, but it has some good action and an excellent ending. It also presents the reoccurring character of Jason Pratt. A former stuntman for Errol Flynn, Sable first met him while training for the Olympics fencing team. He is an interesting character, outwardly flamboyant, but very lonely in reality. He has no other friends and his family refuses to see him. Looking for a last hurrah, he constantly hounds Sable to include him in missions, with little success.
          “Murder is the Last Resort” is a mystery, where Sable is hired to find a thief and clear another damsel in distress of the crime. The story comes across as ho-hum, until the very end where we are smacked in the face by an amazing twist that immediately had me flipping pages to see what happens next.
          Building on the previous story, “Cliffhanger” has our hero accidently become involved in terrorist threats, back stabbings, and nuclear devices. I ripped through this one quickly, being enthralled in the tale. It certainly has the highest body count of any Jon Sable issue that I’ve read- if that interests you.
Author Mike Grell
          “Triptych” the fourth story is different from the others collected here. Not a blood soaked adventure tale, it is an introspective look at Jon Sable when he puts his guns down. It demonstrates his addiction to action, as he deliberately picks a fight with a gang in Central park for no other reason that he wanted to battle someone. This issue introduces the reoccurring character (this collection is rife introductions) of Gray Adler, possibly the first openly gay character in comics. Part of the tale revolves around the protagonist’s uncomfortability in dealing with a homosexual, whom he otherwise likes.
          In the final tale, we meet yet another reoccurring character Maggie the Cat, international jewel thief and the obligatory Catwoman to Sable’s Batman. They cross paths in Monaco where Sable is hired to protect a purloined Cuban diamond (don’t ask). The story is well paced and interesting, demonstrating Sable’s attempts to thwart multiple theft attempts and ultimately failing – oops gave away the end. Spoilers, I guess.
          This collection is important in the Jon Sable series as it cements the thrust and pacing of the issues to come and also adds a much needed group of interesting secondary characters, which brightens up the protagonist’s gloomy outlook. The action for these adventure thrillers is first rate. What always astounds me is how the author never repeats himself in this series. Not just in plot, but in the combat scenes he never uses the same gimmick or perspective twice.

           For more readings, try my collection of books. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book (Graphic Novel)

By: Harvey Kutrzman (Introduction by Gilbert Shelton, Essay by Denis Kitchen, Art Speigalman's 1986 introduction, and a conversation between Peter Poplaski and R. Crumb)

Published:  Dark Horse Books (December 16, 2014) (originally published by Ballentine Books 1959).

Hardcover 176 pages

          “This will not be a pleasant story or a story for weak stomachs. It will be a story about a lynch-mob. ‘Why then’ you ask, ‘are you telling it’ And we answer- for this reason…the reason so many lynch-mob stories are told and have to be told today. Lynch-mob stories are very entertaining. There’s nothing like a lynch-mob story…”
          Originally published in 1959, the author had soared to great success with the creation of Mad, then plummeted after he left the magazine in a huff. He had demanded 51% controlling interest from Mad, was offered 10%, and he rejected it outright. Had he stayed, he would have been set for life. So now he was drifting, and when Mad reprint books shifted from Ballentine Books to Signet, he approached the company with creating an original work of Mad-like material. Leaping for the big bucks, they agreed and produced this text. It was a commercial failure and, in my ever ever ever so humble opinion, a creative failure as well.
Author Harvey Kurtzman
          There are four stories presented here, all of which feel rushed. He was up against the wall and needed to produce material, so he did. Just not refined material. These all come across as half-digested ideas from his Mad days. They are satirical, but it feels tired and deflated. As if he was trying too hard to recapture the magic. 
          Two of the stories are parodys of TV shows at the time. “Thelonius Violence”, a takeoff on Peter Gunn (which the only memorable part of the show it Mancini’s opening score), where he tackles the TV private eye genre. He comments on its mindless violence, where the participants never seem to actually get hurt, the reliance of the protagonist on sheer luck, and a style over substance approach. The best part of this parody is the use of sound effects, a jazz type riff, to punctuate the action of the script. VA-VOODL-DE BLAH DAAaaaa. What I found the funniest was the use of slang in the script, which formerly hip, is now so dated its makes the story actually funnier.
          The second TV inspired story is also extremely dated. “Compulsion on the Range” is a send up of all those TV westerns which dominated the airwaves (26 of them were being produced over the three networks in 1959). It makes the same points about violence with no consequences as “Theolodius Violence”, and has an appearance as Zorro, demonstrating that the TV western hero is essentially an unmasked Zorro with the same morals. Otherwise it generally falls flat with the same tired jokes made over and over.
Thelonius Violence
          “Decadence Degenerated” is apparently based on Kurtzman’s reflections of Paris, Texas, where he was stationed during his bit in the war. He dubs the town Rottenville and describes a lynch-mob who goes haywire after an attractive girl was murdered. It has a few good moments, but again it has aged badly. An old story, told ad nauseum with a few interesting twists.
          The last story is the most interesting. “The Organizational Man in the Grey Flannel Executive Suite” is derived from the author’s own disappointments and frustrations from dealing with the publishing industry. Its protagonist Goodman Beaver comes in full of dreams and hopes, only to have them squashed under the daily grind and quantity over quality mentality of the bosses, eventually turning him in a cynical wreck of a human being. Goodman Beaver actually had a life after this publication, eventually morphing into the Little Annie Fanny strip which appeared in Playboy magazine. As this is the most personal it has much more depth to the overall story and is an interesting read.

The art is definitely not Kutrzman’s best, ugly grey and poor shading, which may have been to the cheap production values of Ballentine, rather than Kutrzman’s skill at the time. Many of those writing introducing the work, all big art knobs, praise it, but I feel it’s more due to nostalgia than actual appreciation. They all cut their teeth on his work, were inspired by it, and many were first published by Kutrzman, so they praise him. But I feel their admiration of the man overrides their critical analysis. They want it to be good, so they act as if it is.
          While the original was a cheap paperback, badly printed, and stuck together with Elmer’s glue, the Dark Horse edition is a beautifully bound large edition book. Well-crafted and very attractive looking.

                    For more readings, try my collection of books. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Complete Jon Sable Freelance Volume 3 (Graphic Novel) (Action)

By: Mike Grell 

Publisher: IDW Publishing (November 22, 2005)

Softcover  176 pages

          Collecting issues 12 – 16 of Mike Grell’s independent series from the 1980s. Originally published by First Comics, Jon Sable is a freelance operative with a tortured past. A Vietnam Vet and former Olympic athlete, he was in Munich during the 1973 Olympic massacre. He met his wife, a former gymnast, and went to live in what was then called Rhodesia in Africa. They had two children and lived happily, until the family, except Jon was murdered in standard hero vigilante style, leaving him a bitter mercenary shell.
Author and artist Mike Grell
          The character was inspired by all of the great private eye and spy brooders of the past, Spillane’s Mike Hammer, James Bond, and so on. Sable differs from these characters in his personal struggle against depression and emptiness, filling the void with constant action only to have it reclaim him. He is a mercenary, but does not have a mercenary nature. He can’t help caring, which often leads him into disaster. Despite some of the farfetched scenarios presented, Jon Sable himself feels very real.
 Grell’s artwork and the use of shade and color often underline his hero’s inner sadness to brilliant effect. He expertly moves between scenes, panels flying up before us, knowing when to talk and when to show. He is a true master of the craft.
          This volume contains the acclaimed MIA two part story where Sable and some former comrades head back to Vietnam to attempt to discern the fate of a downed airman from the war. There he tackles old demons as well as live communist NVA threat. Then he flies over the Berlin Wall to smuggle out a Russian ballerina and reunite her with her husband who had defected earlier. In the third story, Sable joins an illegal archeological expedition to Nicaragua (also in the hands of Communists) to discover a lost temple, which the leader believes to be the lost tomb of Jesus Christs. As they battle communists, the expedition makes an interesting discovery. Last, we see the return of Maggie the Cat, a notorious jewel thief. Catwoman to Sable’s Batman. He joins her to recover a chemical formula stolen by a dishonest college professor and his students. 

           For more readings, try my collection of books. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Memoirs of Vidocq: Master of Crime (Autobiography) (True Crime)

By: Francois Eugene Vidocq

Publisher: Nabat Books; Nabat ed. edition (May 1st, 2003) (originally published 1871)

Softcover 382 pages

          “It is rarely that a convict escapes from prison with the intention of reforming; most often he proposes to gain the capital to practice the fatal skill which he has been able to acquire in the convict prisons, which, as are most of the prisons, are schools where they are perfected in the art of appropriating someone else’s goods. Nearly all the great robbers have become experts only after a more or less long sojourn in the galleys.”

Portrait of Francois Eugene Vidocq 
          An abridged version of the original written in French in 1832, it is actually the first of four novels by the author. The others being Thieves: A Physiology of their Customs and Habits; The True Mysteries of Paris; and The Rural Bandits of the North.

1946 film based off the Memoirs
          Seemingly forgotten, the name of Vidocq carried great weight in post-revolutionary France and England. In a sense, he was the original police detective and inspired the entire genre of fiction. Hugo, who was aquainted with them man, took him as inspiration for both Jan Valjean and Inspector Javert in Les Misérables, the first character being on Vidocq the criminal, and the later when he switched teams. Balzac’s Valtean is openly based on the man, as is Gaboriau’s Lecoq. Charles Dickens consulted with him when writing Great Expectations. Edgar Allen Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle were both influenced by the memoirs when creating their famous detectives and the man is mentioned by name in Moby Dick.
         Several films have been based off of his memoirs. The first was in 1939 a French production simply called Vidocq, which I cannot find a copy of. Then in 1946 A Scandal in Paris, starring George Sanders, was made. It took some wild liberties with the text, but is still a passable film from the time. Vidocq in 2001, starring Gérard Depardieu, is loosely based on several of cases the author describes in his memoirs. In addition there was a short lived French TV Series from 1967 based around the character, it lasted only 13 episodes. And a further  French TV movie called Vidocq was made in 2010.
          Some notable real life lawmen took inspiration and copied techniques described by Vidocq in the Memoirs. Both Allan Pinkerton, founder of the famous (or infamous, depending on your political bent) Pinkerton Detective Agency, and J. Edgar Hoover of FBI fame, praised the work and read it religiously.
2001 film based off of the Memoirs
          He refers to himself as the Master of Crime, I assume due to his ability to root out criminals, as his career as a felon seems to mostly consist of womanizing, petty thievery, drunken brawls, desertion of duty, and escapes from prison- rather than big scores. And while he did break out of a number of prisons, he kept getting caught.
          The book doesn’t get interesting until halfway through when he begins his vocation as a professional snitch (or police spy, as he calls it). Already familiar with French criminal underworld and its argot, he launched into his he job with a hungry appetite. Soon he became too well known to operate effectively, so he began to master the art of disguise and affecting different accents. This lead him to eventually be inducted into the police as an inspector and then be given his own semi-autonomous squad. There he help to pioneer or champion various techniques to cut down on counterfeiting (a large problem at the time), crime scene investigations, and rudimentary ballistic testing.
          His success brought on many enemies both inside the police and out. Jealousy of his achievements caused many on his side of the fence to view him as a threat. At least according to him. In his writing he doesn’t fail at every opportunity to demonstrate or comment on his own brilliance and acumen. So I have no doubt that this arrogance helped to garner him a vast number of professional detractors.
From The Vidocq Society
          Several critics have attacked them, claiming that they were “spurious”, or at least exaggerated, that he had them ghost written, and so on. But I have to point out here that most of the cases he discusses as a police detective were well known at the time and the facts could easily be checked up on, even if now they have wallowed into obscurity. And in a sense the accuracy of the memoirs is unimportant. Like those who argue about the historical existence of King Arthur, the stories themselves have shaped our culture much more than any truth could have. Look at the list above again and see what it inspired, then think on how much else was inspired by those works and you will see, exaggerated or not, the Memoirs of Vidocq are extremely culturally valuable.

           For more readings, try my collection of books.