Sunday Book Reviews – July 22, 2018

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Dictators in Cartoons edited by Tony Husband (2015, Arcturus)

Books of political cartoons can generally be grouped.  Most focus exclusively on one political cartoonist, or on the political cartoons of a specific newspaper or magazine.  The rest typically focus on one time period or location and attempt to provide an overview.  This book bypasses those formats and instead addresses a particular topic: tyrants.

The editorial structure is simple, and standard.  It presents a cartoon, and a small explanatory paragraph about the cartoon… often with information about the cartoonist or about details being addressed within the cartoon.  The editor performed an exemplary job, and it is difficult to avoid learning about key moments in history while reading.

Because of the sheer number of political cartoons used against them, the bulk of the book is focused on Mussolini, Stalin and Hitler.  They are by no means the exclusive targets, however.  Francisco Franco and Mao Zedong are given their own eight-page chapters, and cartoons and art imagery are presented of tyrants ranging back from Caligula and Nero all the way through Vladimir Putin & Kim Jong Un.

The book is good for a rueful smile or an invitation to jump down into a researcher’s rabbit hole.  In either case, however, the book is expertly edited and highly recommended.


The Compleat Boucher by Anthony Boucher (1999, NESFA Press)

There are two Americans who shaped the majority of the contemporary genre fiction market, Edgar Allan Poe and Anthony Boucher.  Poe is best known for his short horror fiction, but he also created the mystery story (his C. Auguste Dupin was a direct inspiration for Sherlock Holmes) and furthered American fiction by being the first American book reviewer.  Anthony Boucher, for his part, was the book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early 1940s and actively worked to promote mystery, science fiction, fantasy and horror stories, wishing to elevate their prominence.  He left the Chronicle to found and edit The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Along the way he wrote a half-dozen mystery novels, mystery short stories, science fiction, fantasy and horror.  This collection from NESFA Press reproduces all of Boucher’s short science fiction, fantasy, and horror work.  As such, it contains the humorous “The Compleat Werewolf”, the unnerving “They Bite”, and plenty of stories that fall somewhere between the two.

It contains a previously unpublished story, “Rappaccini’s Other Daughter”, as well as many stories which had not previously been reprinted and had been available only in old magazines.

All of the stories are technically precise, as one would expect from one of the preeminent reviewers of his day.  Boucher, however, went beyond technical precision and into excellence on many occasions.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.