Short Takes

Short Takes: Book reviews, in brief

March 2, 2013 

"Revival" by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton.



Tim Seeley and Mike Norton, Image comics, 128 pages

One cold winter day in Wausau, Wis., the dead come back to life. Dana Cypress, a police officer, faces a murder mystery in a town where victims don’t stay dead – and where the dead must be considered suspects. Her father is the police chief. The guy she’s hooking up with is from the FBI. And her ne’er-do-well sister has secrets of her own.

Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s ongoing comics series “Revival” is a chilling “rural noir” – a supernatural saga grounded in the economic and familial realities of small-town life. Norton’s art is wonderfully specific and evocative of the rural Midwest – and often shockingly gruesome. It makes for a vivid, exciting horror/mystery hybrid that has me eager to see what happens next.



The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend

Glenn Frankel, Bloomsbury, 416 pages

A modest hit in 1956, “The Searchers” has become, for many, the greatest Western ever filmed and one of the most influential movies. Yet it’s always been more than just a John Wayne movie about finding a white girl abducted by Comanche Indians. Glenn Frankel’s “The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend” is a must-read for movie fans and anyone interested in myth-making and the American West.

In 1836, Comanche Indians kidnapped 9-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker during a deadly raid on a white settlement in Texas. By the time Texas Rangers and others accidentally “rescued” her in 1860 during an attack on a Comanche camp, Cynthia Ann was a wife and mother. Her forced re-entry into white society – she was treated as if she were a pathetic oddity – was yet another tragic event in her life.

Using previously unpublished accounts and other archival material, Frankel notes that the facts surrounding her experience were twisted and molded to fit each storyteller’s purpose. In Cynthia Ann’s day, she was a heroine to some for surviving her captivity, to others merely a white savage. A century later, she was cast as a proto-feminist, the original tough Texas woman.

“The truth was less triumphalist and more poignant,” Frankel writes. “Cynthia Ann was not the hardy survivor but rather the ultimate victim of the Texan-Comanche wars, abducted and traumatized by both sides.”

“The Searchers” was the ninth of the 14 major films in which John Ford directed John Wayne. Control freak that he was, Ford was surprisingly open to improvising. As Frankel relates, the famous closing shot of “The Searchers” – framed in a ranch house doorway – was just one instance in which Ford went with his gut instead of his script.

Frankel’s excellent research and analysis and his fine writing raise the bar for the “making of” film book. His narrative details the life of a modern legend – in this case, a historical event that sparked a novel that led to a film, each step revealing a different aspect of how we tell our stories and why.

Associated Press

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