Thursday, July 19, 2012
THE RUBY FILES, published by Airship27 Productions
Man, they weren't kidding!
Created by writers Bobby Nash and Sean Taylor, The Ruby Files, starring Rick Ruby, Private Eye, adheres and pays tribute to guys like Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, Peter Gunn, and Richard Diamond. But they've set Ruby apart from the others by giving him more of a wicked sense of humor (which is something I find makes a character that much more real), easing back on the cynicism, making him a little more nasty when it comes to the rough stuff, and making him a shade more fallible: he doesn't always think before he acts, and he sometimes makes the wrong decision. I like that about him. Oh, and unusual for a series set in the 1930s, Rick is romantically involved with Evelyn Johnson, a black nightclub singer. Four novellas by four different writers comprise this excellent volume, and I'll give you a brief summary on each of them.
The most hard-boiled of the lot is Andrew Salmon's excellent tale, Wounds, the first story. It's the perfect introduction to Rick Ruby and his film noir world. Here he investigates the murder of a cop, who may or may not be dirty. Then there's a connection between the distraught father of the murdered policeman and Rick's own father, who died in WWI, on Christmas Eve, 1917. Besides working hard and endangering his life to solve this cop's death and bring the murderer(s) down, Rick has to deal with a very emotional father, as well as his own emotions. This adds weight and a backstory to Ruby and sets us up for the rest of the stories.
One of the more intricately-plotted of the four stories is The Case of the Wayward Brother, by co-creator Bobby Nash. Ruby is hired by a gorgeous gal, Marilyn Carlyle to help find her wayward brother, Jonathan. Jonny boy is somewhat of a gambling addict, and is in hock to some very nasty wise guys for some big dough. Well, things don't turn out to be so easy for Rick, and the tale soon heats up when the search for the missing brother turns ugly. And just when you think you know where this is going -- bang! The twists and turns hit you like a shot out of a dark alley. You never see 'em coming.
Tulsa Blackie's Last Dive, by William Patrick Maynard, I found to be a somewhat more light-hearted, and still dark and deadly tale. It's a change of pace, too, as Ruby is off to Hollywood to investigate the death of B-movie cowboy superstar, Tulsa Blackie. The fun is in the well thought-out plot, snappy dialogue, and the look at and references to 1930s Hollywood. The pacing, the action and the characterizations are spot on. A special treat are some subtle, well-planted "Easter eggs." Maynard adds to the fun by taking the hard-boiled New Yorker out of his natural habitat and letting him run wild.
The fourth and final tale is the dark Die Gifttige Lilie, by co-creator Sean Taylor. When a German national, Gerta Stein, a very unusual femme fatale, hires Ruby to help her Uncle Oscar. See, he's a German scientist hoping to escape the Nazis traveling with him and defect to pre-WWII United States. Gerta fears that the Nazis have gotten wind of her Uncle's wish to become a citizen, and she believes they may kill him, or beat and force him to return to Germany. Ah, but things are not quite what they seem, and they soon turn into a deadly game full of surprises and plot twists you won't see coming.
This is a great addition to Airship27's growing brand of "new pulp fiction for a new generation." What I like about this one is that we really get to know Rick Ruby and see his arc over the course of these great stories. Check it out!