Tumor: How a crime fiction cliché gets knocked on the head and doesn't recover
"Even modern-crime writers can't resist a good cosh to the brainpan. Check out George Pelecanos' Nick Stefanos in Down By the River Where the Dead Man Go:The center of Tumor, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Noel Tuazon, is a broken-down Los Angeles private investigator named Frank Armstrong who must solve one last case before the book's titular malady kills him. The client is a gangster and the case is to find his daughter, and if that all sounds conventionally Chandlerian, keep your eye on the tumor.
"`I felt a blunt shock to the back of my head and a short, sharp pain. The floor dropped out from beneath my feet, and I was falling, diving toward a pool of cool black water.'
"The problem, of course, is that such blows to the head are completely ridiculous. It's not easy to bounce back from a severe concussion, And even if you do, it's unlikely that you'll remember the blow in any kind of detail. ... Plus, it's kind of hard to knock someone out with a single blow."
Armstrong blacks out, his sense of time is compressed, stretched, and fragmented in ways that seem far more convincing a rendering of brain injury or disease than one finds in most crime writing. And, through the book's first three chapters, at least, there is no hint of excessive cleverness, no evidence that Fialkov is doing anything so conventional as straining to defy convention. I'm not sure I could say the same for most comics since, say, 1987.
Tumor reminds me in this regard of a comment by Detectives Beyond Borders friend Linda L. Richards when I wrote about her novel Death Was the Other Woman in 2008. The novel's protagonist is a secretary/assistant to a PI, like Effie Perrine in The Maltese Falcon. Here's the the pertinent part of Richards' reply to my review:
"For me, there was never a nudge, nudge, wink, wink. I wasn't trying to be clever or find a new place from where I could spin on an old tale. As I wrote the book, it seemed to me I was merely stating the obvious. The between-the-wars PIs were so damaged. And they were drunks. There was simply no logical way they could be ingesting all that good Prohibition booze in the quantities stated and still be getting through their cases as calmly as it appeared to happen."© Peter Rozovsky 2015