What an oddball and delightful book.
Rick Geary, who is probably best known for his true crime graphic novels, including The Lindbergh Case and Sacco and Vanzetti, delivers a new original graphic novel through the fine folks at NBM Publishing. Louise Books: Detective takes one of the most popular movie stars of the 1920s and early 1930s and chronicles what happens to her life when the fame goes away and the fortune begins to disappear. No, it’s not a banal Bravo reality show or a journey into drug rehab.
Instead, Louise Brooks returns back to the country, to her native Wichita, Kansas, and movies back in with her family to try to have some semblance of a normal life. The beautiful former actress falls back into a quiet normal life (she’s a bookworm with volumes by Kafka, Freud and Whitman on her shelf; she’s a terrible cook), opening a dance school to build on her experience dancing on Broadway and making new friends.
Eventually bookworm Brooks begins to become ambitious to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional writer and discovers that one of her favorite authors, a man with whom she had once traded letters, lives in the area. When she journeys out to the country to meet the man, she stumbles onto a murder and a complicated plot that thoroughly intrigues her.
This book is a weird, unpredictable delight. It’s a shaggy dog story wrapped around a murder wrapped around the story of a Hollywood actress gone home wrapped around an exploration of a Kansas (and an America) that’s long gone. All drawn in Geary’s signature style, full of oddball whimsy and direct specficity, the world that he creates here is full of life and verve. There’s an energy in the linework, with characters who seem to come to life with just a small gesture in the art or with just a small emphasis in the art. Brooks at the heart of the story has a delightful sort of starting over energy to her, all fitful excitement at her new life and pleasure at finding a mystery at which to devote her mind.
Louie Brooks, Detective is a delightful bit of whimsy, a vividly created world in which a master at depicting history in comics creates an alternate history all his own.