I have been active with Alucard Press on the con circuit for a few years now and one of the greatest things about it is the talented people we have met along the way. One such person is John Dover, the writer of the noir comic book series Johnny Scotch. I reviewed the comic about a year or so ago on this very site and I have been singing its praises ever since. John Dover recently sent me a pre-release copy of his new novella Danger in Bass Clef featuring the Johnny Scotch character and I was eager to take a look at it. I am such a fan of the comic that I was curious to see how my favorite booze soaked jazz playing righter of wrongs would fare in a prose format.
John Dover writes noir so beautifully that it almost makes my eyes hurt to read it, his voice flows and you can smell the spilled scotch as well as the blood of the thugs he teaches manners too. You can hear the jazz playing softly in the background throughout the narrative and it all plays out like an old black and white noir film in your head. This isn’t some modern hybrid of horror/noir sci fi/noir or some such, this is the real deal, old school hard boiled stuff and I can honestly say I would put John’s work up next to all the classic authors of the genre.
Danger in Bass Clef finds our hero Johnny Scotch tangled up with a dame whom naturally spells trouble for him. They have a brief encounter and go their separate ways but she soon reenters his life needing help. He rises to the occasion and the action pretty much never stops from that point. The plot line may sound a little cliché but John Dover, like the talented musician that he is (John is actually a professional jazz musician when not writing. He is annoyingly multi talented) takes an old classic and riffs on it with variations making it his own. Fans of noir, I whole heartedly encourage you to give this book a try, I am a fan of the genre and a notoriously picky bastard and I don’t think there is anyone writing in the genre today who tells a better story.
That being said, I do have one quibble with the book.
One of the reasons that the Johnny Scotch comic worked so well for me is the magical alchemy between John Dover’s words and the artwork by Dan Schaefer. Dan Schaefer did do the cover for Danger In Bass Clef and it is brilliant. My own personal opinions are that a few interior illustrations would have elevated this book to near perfection. Just something to consider for future books guys…
I predict that this book will one day be considered a noir classic and I am giving it Four Bananas. I am going to reread Johnny Scotch: Danger In Bass Clef while I sip some scotch and highlight all of the sentences that are so good that I wish I had written them.