978-0-312-42133-5 / 9780312421335

Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies: A Novel





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About the book:

In Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies, Al Bready ghostwrites a popular comic strip and struggles to get along with his boss and mentor, Walter Geebus. Set in 1930s New York, the novel is populated with characters who seem to have stepped straight out of a Damon Runyon story. While Mysterious Jones roams the city in a black mask, Marty Planet runs the Mafia, and an ambitious young cartoonist's assistant named Frank Sweeney rots in jail for lacing his boss's coffee with arsenic. He was trying to poison his way to a promotion, but it didn't work. Al Bready caught him, and although Walter Geebus survived the arsenic poisoning, he was never the same. This novel charts Geebus's decline and Bready's efforts to come to terms with the loss of the comic strip he clung to throughout his difficult childhood. Bready is a man of many routines who generally keeps to himself. He ghostwrites five or six comic strips and pumps out a pulp novel every month, but when he tries to write something personal, he feels stymied. He knows the story begins, "Derby's in a rowboat, it's night," but he can't fill in the rest. Bready yearns for the days of his youth, when reading the funnies aloud to his kid sister made everything seem all right. His story is not terribly moving, but it is quite funny, and he makes good company for a few hundred pages. This novel is a nostalgic, witty look back at the glory days of comic strips. --Jill Marquis

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