"One false step and it's curtains for the floozy!"
He's a P.I. with "a passion for small cigars and Old Grand-Dad, and a weakness for women in trouble", the hot shot op for the Always Reddy Detective Agency located on the second floor of the William Kemmler Building in the business district of Testacy City, a "crime-filled desert city," about a hundred miles north of Vegas, where there are always some strange shenanigans going on, full of mysterious women, gangsters, murder and...um...bowling. He's BENJAMIN DRAKE, and he's the hero of By the Balls (1998), one of the funniest parodies/tributes I've seen in years.
Hell, I'd pretty much decided that before I had even read it, but my faith was not misplaced.
Turns out Ben's your typical chain-smoking, Old Grand Dad-slurping, Wittgenstein-reading, kick-'em-where-it-hurts kinda gumshoe, but where he really shines is when's he's spitting out the tough talk and cracking wise. Turns out Ben -- and everybody else in Testacy City -- graduated with flying colurs from the Chandler School of Wise-Crackery & Colourful Similes.
It's as much a tribute as a send-up to the genre, though: a hard-talking shamus who drinks a little too much, stray cats a little too much and gets beat up a little much. In fact, everything's just a little too much, but never so over the top that you aren't swept away by the story.
It was a joke, but one the reader was in on. Even the book's design played along. By the Balls mimicked all those great old Dell Mapbacks from the forties, right down to the size, the map on the back and those cryptic first pages that detail "The Persons This Mystery Is About..." and "What This Mystery Is About..." It also features illustrations throughout by Paul Pope. It's a blast of fresh air in a genre that's starting to take itself way too seriously. And I guess enough folks found Bo Diddley's warning, that "you can't judge a book by looking at the cover..." to be wrong, to make way for a sequel of sorts, 1999's Five Shots and a Funeral. It's a "collection" of five short story "crime capers," and also comes highly-recommended.
Ben's creators, Jim Pascoe and Tom Fassbender, besides being two of the sharpest-dressed dudes on the planet, and relating the adventures of Ben Drake, are the brains behind Uglytown, a small uppity press well worth checking out. There was even a serialized comic story, "A Punch in the Gut and a Bag Full of Oranges" which was serialized and featured in three subsequent issues of the free Dark Horse newsletter, "Dark Horse Extra." and drawn by Paul Lee.
And fans of the Always Reddy Detective City will be pleased to know that a short story, featuring Ben's fellow op and inter-office rival, Henry Goiler, appeared in the February/March 2001 issue of Blue Murder.
Report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
| Home | Detectives A-L M-Z | Film | Radio | Television | Web Comics | Comics | FAQs |
Remember, your comments, suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.