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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Wendigo Spoor

October 1st, 2019 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

The Rim of the Pit (Fiction, Hake Talbot, 1944) “I came up here to make a dead man change his mind.” Maybe the best opening line in mystery fiction introduces this locked room novel set in the Maine north woods. The solution exhausts and gratifies, but what elevates this superb novel above all but the best of Carr is the same thing that elevates the best of Carr: supernatural atmosphere. Talbot surrounds the crime with a séance, Algernon Blackwood wendigo spoor, and fresh snowfall. Don’t read it during a blizzard. –KH

Recommended

The Headless Lady (Fiction, Clayton Rawson, 1940) When a mysterious woman steals the Headless Lady illusion from the Great Merlini, he tracks her to the circus and discovers murder afoot! Rawson buries the reader in circus details, especially including slang, before adding a couple more plot rings to watch. I am a giant sucker for this whole milieu, but I stand by the Recommendation if only for the sheer brio of Rawson introducing one of his own pseudonyms as a suspect. –KH

No Coffin for the Corpse (Fiction, Clayton Rawson, 1942) The Great Merlini’s Watson, Ross Harte, has fallen in love with the daughter of an angry, and poltergeist-plagued, millionaire. Rawson’s final Merlini novel provides the requisite impossible killings and magical misdirection — plus ghost-breaking! — while pushing the boundaries of the fair-play mystery. Again, even as smitten with digression and showing off as Rawson is, he still revs up the pacing while keeping sure-handed control of his story. –KH

Off the Rails (Film, US, Adam Irving, 2016) Documentary profile of Darius McCollum, who attributes to his Asperger’s his compulsion to impersonate NYC transit employees, taking control of trains and buses, which kept him in prison for half of the last thirty years. Warm and heartbreaking portrait of a man who can’t help but mire himself in a system that can’t even contemplate connecting him to the help he so evidently needs.—RDL

Toni (Film, France, Jean Renoir, 1935) Fickle quarryman’s love for a vintner’s niece turns disastrous after she instead agrees to marry his loutish foreman. Rural melodrama finds Renoir turning his sociological eye to migrant workers in the south of France.—RDL

Good

The Twenty Year Death (Fiction, Ariel S. Winter, 2012) A novelist on a slow but inexorable downward spiral becomes a peripheral figure in murder cases in 1930s France and 1940s L.A. before becoming the alcohol-sodden perpetrator of a killing in the 1950s. Three standalone novels, in the respective styles of George Simenon, Raymond Chandler and Jim Thompson, constitute a prodigious feat of literary mimicry, though the Thompson, the hardest voice to nail, isn’t quite as bang-on a pastiche.—RDL

Okay

Between Two Ferns: the Movie (Film, US, Scott Aukerman, 2019) Reflexively insulting public access talk show host (Zach Galifinakis) goes on the road with his partially loyal crew in search of the celebrity interviews that will earn him a prime time show contract from the cruel, click-seeking Will Ferrell (himself). Expansion of the ongoing Funny or Die spot to feature-length has both the comic highs and dead spots typical of a sketch comedy movie.—RDL

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