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  • Nick Cardillo

Today I am thrilled to share that the Kickstarter is live for The Novellas of Solar Pons. Featured in this collection is my story, "The Devil's Book." Released by Belanger Books, this collection of four new novellas is the first to be authorized by the August Derleth Estate. Follow the link below to support the project on Kickstarter today!

"The Devil's Book" finds Solar Pons and his colleague, Dr. Parker, summoned by the wealthy reclusive collector, Claude Dixon. Dixon, who claims to have come into possession pf a centuries-old book that has the power to conjure the Devil himself. When the book is stolen, the detectives' lives are put in danger like never before as they encounter a bloodthirsty killer who will do anything to get the book before Pons and Parker have a chance to retrieve it.

Also included in this brand new collection are stories by Derrick Belanger, David Marcum, and Chris Chan.

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  • Nick Cardillo

Batman stands for vengeance.

Even to those who may not have followed the Caped Crusader’s 80-plus year career know the story. Bruce Wayne, son of billionaires Thomas and Martha Wayne, is witness to his parents’ murder at the hands of an armed street mugger. The young Bruce, fractured by the trauma, reinvents himself as a playboy by day and a masked vigilante by night, instilling fear in the criminal underworld of Gotham City as the Batman. Batman’s is fertile soil richly mined. From the camp classic Adam West television series and subsequent film; to the Gothic nightmares of Tim Burton; to the grounded revisionist take of Christopher Nolan, the superhero created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger has had staying power unmatched by few other fictional characters then or since. The breadth of approaches to the Batman mythos are evidence enough of the many diverse ways the character can be interpreted, but after a while, one is liable to feel there are only so many ways Batman can be portrayed before it becomes a little stale.

The Batman (2022), the latest motion picture take on the character has proved me wrong. Directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson in the title role, this is a Batman film which – though breaking little new ground – still feels distinct in the history of the character’s filmic exploits. Perhaps it is Pattinson’s performance that feels unique - his Bruce Wayne just as shadowy and enigmatic a figure as his Batman; the line differentiating the mask and the man beneath it more blurred than ever before. Perhaps it is the film’s narrative that is singular – this movie pushes the Batman’s detective prowess to the front and, for the first time on screen, we get to see the character properly investigate crimes alongside the Gotham police department; exemplified here by Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon. Or, maybe it’s the film’s tone – poised somewhere between David Fincher’s revolutionary crime thriller Se7en (1995) and the heightened otherworld of the enormously successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Batman strikes an interesting balance.

I cannot begin to say which of these elements resonated with me strongest, for this is a film which feels like it must be judged as a whole and not simply the sum of its parts. Case in point: though the film’s monstrous three-hour runtime can be felt in its deliberate pace and complex conspiracy plotline, I cannot think of one scene that feels extraneous. Reading of the meticulous method by which director Matt Reeves and co-screenwriter Peter Craig crafted their story, I can say that their labors were rewarded in their finished product. And, even if that conspiracy plot does begin to drag somewhere around the film’s second hour, I cannot help but praise the creative team’s effort to deliver something different. Today’s media landscape is so often dominated by cookie-cutter blockbusters that differentiating the exploits of one masked hero from another becomes something of a chore. So, the fact that The Batman eschews much of the traditional comic book tropes in favor of a storyline that deliberately evokes hardboiled noir cinema like Chinatown (1974), should be applauded with the reverence of a standing ovation.

That is not to say that The Batman feels lacking in the action-adventure department. Indeed, some of the film’s very best moments comes when Reeves interrupts the mystery to deliver on the thrilling set-pieces. Days after seeing the film, I’m still thinking about the frenetic car chase and an equally exciting scene which finds the hero forced to leap from the roof of the Gotham police headquarters. These scenes are brilliantly underscored by Michael Giacchino’s propulsive, sweeping orchestral score which serves as a powerful complement to the high-octane action. I had my reservations about this score leading up the film’s release seeing how it seemed to exist in stark contrast to the film’s quiet brooding (chiefly exemplified by the use of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” which bookends the film), but those qualms were shattered hearing it blast through the movie theatre sound system. This is unequivocally the music of Batman.

I see that I have gone on for more than 600 words about The Batman and failed to touch on a number of points including Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman, Paul Dano’s Zodiac Killer-inspired Riddler, or Colin Ferrell’s unrecognizable turn as the Penguin. All are worthy of praise in a film that is deserving of all the critical lauding it has received thus far. The Batman is not perfect, but it is a rich and unique film which proves that new takes exist for this well-loved and time-honored character. Indeed, come the film’s conclusion, I was overjoyed to find that Reeves had derived the nucleus of a new approach to the character: As Batman stands amidst the resultant rubble of the villain's scheme, he recognizes that he must be something more than just fear. As an audience member in 2022 viewing The Batman in the wake of an unprecedented pandemic and with news of our geopolitical world rocked seeping in from all sides, I think we know how easy it is for our fear to be used against us. Whether it is with a simple tweet or the utterance of a single word, those who wish to do us harm can bring us to our knees with the fear of what we know is capable. But, Batman, as a character, works in direct opposition to that maleficence. This is the ultimate message of The Batman. A hero must be more than fear alone.

Batman stands for hope.

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  • Nick Cardillo

For those of you who have been following my output on social media recently, you will know that I am currently at work on my first detective novel. There have been many aborted attempts made in years past, but 2022 is the year that I have set myself the goal of writing – and more importantly finishing – a full-length detective novel in the region of 60,000-80,000 words.

In writing this story, I have taken a number of cues from my favorite Golden Age Mystery writers, though – as I wrote back in December – I have taken most of my inspiration from Dame Agatha Christie. Her pared-down prose and the care and subtlety with which she planted important information in the text have been guiding lights during both the planning and writing stages. One central clue is, I think, pure Christie and inspired by one of my favorite moments from one of her finest books. (No, I cannot say which one; that would spoil everything!) However, as I continue to forge a path through the tangled skein of hidden motivations, uncertain timelines and plenty of red herrings, I am finding myself inspired by another favorite mystery writer from the Golden Age: Ngaio Marsh.

I am sure there is legion of Golden Age Mystery readers who have probably clicked away from this article now that I have even invoked Marsh’s name. Marsh does not have the greatest reputation in the classic mystery community, though I am beginning to find that there are just as many defenders of hers out there as there are critics. Marsh’s books are often accused of lacking energy; her narrative momentum curiously screeching to a halt after the central murder of the novel has occurred. What then follows are repetitive rounds of interviews between her detective character, Inspector Alleyn of Scotland Yard, and the suspects. This stretch of story is often (un)affectionately referred to as Dragging the Marsh. Therefore, as I continue to write, I remind myself not to let those suspect interviews go on too long and I am always looking for ways to make sure the middle section of the book does not drag.

I can imagine what you’re thinking: how can I call Marsh a favorite? Despite my recognition and acknowledgement of the common criticisms leveled at her, I do consider myself a fan of Dame Ngaio Marsh. She has certainly earned her place in the pantheon of Crime Queens alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham (plus or minus a few more names). Marsh’s literary output was a strong one: her first novel, A Man Lay Dead, was published in 1934 and she would add new exploits to the prestigious career of gentleman sleuth Roderick Alleyn into the early 1980s. I have written on this blog before of my fondness for her final novel, Light Thickens (published in 1982), which may not hold up as a cleverly-plotted mystery, but is a fascinating look at theatrical life in the midst of a turbulent production. Marsh was known to have called the theatre her first love and was intimately involved with the arts throughout her life. The books set in theatrical and artistic circles remain some of Marsh's finest. The amateur theatrical society at the center of her book Overture to Death (1939) is rendered with such care, such accuracy, and more than a helping of biting wit that it remains an incredibly real and laugh-out-loud portrayal to this day.

Therein lies Marsh’s strengths as a mystery writer. Her characters and settings are wonderfully realized, often described from Marsh's first-hand knowledge of her subjects. As such, Marsh is poised at a interesting spot on the mystery writer continuum: one can draw a direct line from Dorothy L. Sayers and early Agatha Christie through Marsh to the psychologically rich detective stories of P.D. James and a new generation of writers of mysteries' Silver Age. I have a little theory that I am developing about the most famous Golden Age writers and how you can easily divide them into two camps: mystery writers and writers of mystery. The former are those creators who prioritize the puzzle plot above all else; neatly hoodwinking the reader with an artfully-concealed culprit but at the expense of solid characters or sense of place. The latter are more interested in telling stories populated by genuine human beings whose world is disrupted by a murder. The guilty party may be easier to identify during stories like these, but in service of the capital-S Story, such an ending was inevitable. Marsh may not dazzle modern readers like Christie, Carr, or Queen could, but her skill as a writer is arguably strongest of them all.

I cannot claim to be an expert on Marsh, but as I have learned to appreciate more of the writers from the Golden Age, she has emerged as one of my favorites and as I forge ahead with my own writing, I will strive to make my characters feel as real as Marsh's. To further honor Dame Ngaio Marsh, I am sitting down to read one of her novels for February and I urge you to join me. Consider this my informal challenge to you all – the Ngaio Marsh Challenge. Read or re-read a Marsh novel, post your review and judge it on its own merits without comparisons to the works of Marsh's illustrious contemporaries. Though you may not love her books, I think many of you will, nevertheless, be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

There’s No One like Ngaio.

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