Author Claudio Nizzi has squeezed them all in (or paid tribute to them) under their own names or thinly disguised: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Dick Tracy, Darryl F. Zanuck, Marilyn Monroe, Sunset Boulevard, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Marlene Dietrich, Lana Turner, Johnny Stompanato, Orson Welles, Erich von Stroheim, Peter Lorre, Greta Garbo, the Black Dahlia, Red Harvest (maybe), The Maltese Falcon (explicitly), Little Sister, The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, even, God help me, Joel and Ethan Coen. (The Farewell My Lovely-inspired Velma appears here as Velma Lebowsky.)
Perhaps the only character wholly original to the book is Leo Pulp himself, the tough, long-chinned P.I. who charges twenty-five bucks a day — unless the name is a tribute to Léo Malet, creator of Nestor Burma.
One review compared Leo Pulp illustrator Massimo Bonfatti to the old Mad magazine cartoonist Sergio Aragones, and the parallel is apt. Both artists used every square inch of space, offering a busy feast for the eyes like a cartoon Pieter Breughel. The book is sprinkled with gorgeous panels, lovingly rendered in depth and detail in the style of George McManus as well. This is a book worth looking at as well as reading.
Did I mention that the young pirla was smoking a cigar?
© Peter Rozovsky 2010