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They Read That Post And Rush To The Nearest Bookstore To Buy The Book

The Midnight Examiner by William Kotzwinkle. 1989. French title: Midnight Examiner.

A long rectangular plaque on my desk bore my name, HOWARD HALLIDAY, lest I forget it amidst the many identities I assumed from week to week; since, as an economy measure, we never purchased outside material from anyone, our small staff had to write everything, and we all had many names, sometimes we even had the same names, but lately we’d tried to coordinate. I’d assigned each of us one letter of the alphabet from which to choose our noms de plume, and so far this month I’d been Howard Haggerd Halberd Hammertoe Harm Habana Hades Halston Handy Harley Hamon Heman Hence Hardman Hardon.

KotzwinklePlease Ladies and gentlemen, meet with Howard, our narrator. He’s the chief editor of Macho Man, Bottoms and Knockers. He works for the trashy Chameleon Publications which has a classy portfolio of papers and magazines also named The Midnight Examiner, Ladies Own Monthly, Young Nurses Romance, My Confession, Brides Tell All, Beauty Secrets, Prophecy, Real Detective and Teen Idol. As you can see, they cover the whole spectrum of gutter press from crime to teen angst through romance and beauty tricks.

Their publisher, Nathan Feingold loves to play with his blowgun so much that nobody dares to enter his office until sure that the coast is clear. After all, he shoots poisonous darts. Fernando, the art director paints bikinis on pictures before publication, to differentiate Bottoms and Knockers from the competition: no way they’re selling nude bodies. Hip O’Hopp is the editor of The Midnight Examiner and showers his colleagues with improbable writing requests such as “Can you do a story for me about a woman who gives birth to puppies?” The other editors there are Hattie Flyer, in charge of romance orientated titles and Amber Adams, specialised in beauty topics, Celia Lyndhurst the writer of detective stories. The team wouldn’t be full without Siggy Blomberg, the publicist; he sells advertising space in the papers and always ends up with dubious ads about expending your breasts or other magical creams and utensils. And let’s not talk about the lengths he has to go to collect the payment of the ads from shady companies. They’re a crazy bunch breathing trash articles all the time and it shows in Kotwinkle’s style as they spout crazy headlines at Mach speed like Our Sister Has Two Heads But We Love Her.

That’s for the crazy environment. At the beginning of the book, they hire a new editor, Mr Crumpaker who will be in charge of Nathan’s new project, a religious paper named Prophecy. The job interview is absolutely hilarious. Things move to full speed when Mitzi Mouse, one of Chameleon Publications’ models, shoots at a guy from the mafia, Tony Baloney. She has now the bad guys after her and the whole team with stick together and help her.

It’s a fast pace road trip in a New York cab and a track race against the bad guys. And I will say no more.

The Midnight Examiner doesn’t have a strong plot but what a fun read! It’s a light read as I love them: well-written, full of quirky characters and a page turner. Chameleon Publications is quite a circus and a lot of the fun comes from the description of the daily job of these “journalists”. Howard has a crazy sense of humour and I’ll let you discover by yourselves what kind of unbelievable weapons they picked to fight against gangsters. I was about to tag it in the Literary UFO category when I realised how apt it is for the author of…E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Rush to the nearest bookstore, buy it and have fun.

PS: In French, a headline is a manchette.

  1. July 17, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Oh, my goodness! Is this as much fun as it sounds?

    • July 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      For me it was.

      • July 18, 2014 at 12:00 am

        Thanks. Going to watch for this one. It sounds too hilarious to pass up.

        • July 18, 2014 at 12:01 am

          You’re in for a ride.

  2. July 18, 2014 at 6:28 am

    As in Jean-Patrick Manchette?

    I already bought this one after seeing how you rated it on Goodreads, but if I hadn’t, I’d be hitting speed dial for The Macho Man, Bottoms, and Knockers alone.

    • July 18, 2014 at 7:02 am

      Yes like JP Manchette but this novel doesn’t sound like a Manchette. If I have to compare it to something, I’d say more Somebody Owes Me Money.
      When I was reading I kept thinking how much fun you’d have with Chameleon Publications.

      • July 19, 2014 at 3:47 am

        I meant this:
        PS: In French, a headline is a manchette.

        This novel will have to wait as my pre-ordered Manchette arrived this week.

        • July 20, 2014 at 8:02 pm

          I know. I had to make the connection because it’s crime fiction but I wouldn’t want you to expect a Manchette-like book here.

  3. July 18, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    This does sound like a lot of fun. I am fine with books with thin plots as long as characters, writing style, theme, etc. are strong.

    I love the blowgun in the office concept!

    • July 18, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      Exactly my opinion Brian. As long as it’s well-written, I don’t mind that it only aims at entertainment. And we need that kind of books.

      You can’t even imagine what he’s doing with his blowgun.

  4. July 18, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    No rushing to the bookstore for me (I don’t buy books), but I will definitely check it out from the library.

    • July 18, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      I hope they have it, then.

      • July 19, 2014 at 2:29 am

        They do. The library I belong to is part of the prospector alliance of libraries from Colorado and Wyoming. As long as it is an American book, I can usually find it. French books are harder to find, of course.

        • July 20, 2014 at 8:03 pm

          That’s great.
          For French books, perhaps you could find a French kindle buddy to lend you French e-books. I’d be happy to do it but I only read English books on my kindle.

          • Jackie Brown
            July 21, 2014 at 1:07 am

            Thanks, but I can usually find French language bestselling authors: Modiano, Nothomb, Daeninckx… Some universities are part of the alliance, and when they have a French department, they usually order new releases pretty quickly. Of course, I cannot have ALL the “rentrée littéraire” books, but I can find some of them. And it is quite easy for classics too.

  5. July 19, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Sounds like a lot of crazy fun. But I won’t rush to any book shop to get it as I just discovered, thanks to your review that I have a collection of his short stories (Jewel of the Moon).
    With a name like “Kotzwinkel” you can only write crazy stuff.

    • July 20, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      C’est complètement déjanté.

      Are these crime fiction stories?

      I’ve checked Kotz-winkel in a German dictionnary, I see your point about his name.

      • July 20, 2014 at 8:10 pm

        Barfcorner, right? Hehe. Although he’s written winkle and not winkel but still.
        No, it doesn’t look like crime but I’m not sure.

        • July 20, 2014 at 8:16 pm

          Yes, that’s what I saw.
          I’m curious about that collection of short stories. He seems to have been an eclectic writer. There are several other titles in Rivages Noir, which is a good sign as they pick good books and don’t publish rotten translations.

  6. July 29, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Somebody Owes Me Money is a hell of a comparison. This does sound fun, I’m glad I kept the link to your review. I’ll check it out for when I need a refreshing read.

    • July 30, 2014 at 7:03 am

      I think you’d like it, Max and yes, it’s a good read when you need something entertaining but not too challenging.

  1. October 14, 2014 at 6:00 pm

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