Monday, February 05, 2007

Mario And Mark and Harold And Junius

199 Mario And Mark and Harold And Junius

Will someone please buy those two hacking coughers at that table over there a bottle of Robitussin? They’re spreading germs throughout the library. And you don’t want to catch what they have.

The two are Mark and Junius. And they say they’re writers. More like data entry clerks, though.

Mark has “finished” two books based on Mario Puzo’s characters in “The Godfather.” Junius has finished two books based on large fragments left behind when Harold Robbins died.

Four books by dead guys. “The Godfather’s Revenge,” “The Return of the Godfather,” “Blood Royal” and “The Betrayers.”

Neither Puzo nor Robbins were what you’d call masters of great literature. But they were good and original storytellers. The posthumous books are kind of okay. But they’re kind of like 12th Avenue streetwalkers: not bad from a distance, but when you drive up close, you find out they’re guys.

No one can blame the Puzo or Robbins estates or the publishers for wanting to make a buck by trading on reputations. But be forewarned: the Puzo stuff works off plots and themes that never would have happened if Puzo were still alive and writing. And the Robbins stuff? A totally idiotic pair of stories.

(In “Royal,” a Princess-Di-like character plots to shoot a Prince-Charles-like character at a costume party. In “Revenge,” Michael Corleone has murdered his brother Fredo and is haunted by his ghost.)

There’s no telling where either of the real authors would have taken this material, if anywhere. But there’s no suspense in neo-Puzo and the sex in neo-Robbins is buried.

Robbins wrote a formula. Some people say he told the story over and over again, changing only the names of the characters and their occupations. Maybe so, but it was a good story. “Royal” ain’t.

But we live in an age of replicas and re-issues.

John D’Angelico and James D’Aquisto, two of the greatest guitarmakers of the 20th century live on. The instruments with their names on them look and even feel like the originals. But the music that comes out of them, even in the hands of master players, just doesn’t sound the same.

When you buy one of these, you know you’re getting a replica or re-issue and you know what to expect, and you’re right. When you buy any of these four books, better have a safety net under the reading hammock.

The Mini Cooper automobile is a re-issue, and so is the “new” Volkswagen “Beetle.” But you know that, going in. And you know what to expect.

You also know that your Time-Life collection of “1,000 Great Malt Shop Hits from the ‘50s” is going to have digital audio glare instead of the wonderful analogue scratchiness and lack of frequency response of the original 45s.

The far-east-made Swingline stapler you bought from Staples the other day is going to work. But it won’t have the heft and durability of the one made in Long Island City that lasted 40 years before it finally jammed to the point where you couldn’t fix it.

Olivetti still makes typewriters – sort of. Anyway, they look like typewriters and they type.

So, go polish your Beetle, then turn on the iPod with the Malt Shop Favs on it, settle into your Castro Convertible Easy Chair and read these phony novels at your peril.

Oh, and some Robitussin for those guys, please.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

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