What do you do when you have a review copy of a book by a new publisher that is billed as the start of a new way of envisioning books and delivering high value to the consumer? You read it, of course. I was not really sure what to expect when I started the first book in Potboiler’s “Get Fisk” series, “Midnight in Juarez,” but I do have to admit that I was intrigued.
Fisk is one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. He has his hands in many ventures across the globe as well as within the U.S. government. With the Mexican drug cartels threatening Fisk’s business interests in Mexico with their ever increasing warfare, Fisk sends Carlos Madrid and Tarita Lee to Mexico to try to locate and stop one of the cartel’s top men. At the same time, Fisk is working with members of the U.S. government to press for the legalization of marijuana on a national level to undercut the Mexican cartel’s hold on the illegal drug trade.
That is kind of a short and simple summary of the story but that is because I would like to focus on a couple different aspects of this book. In short, the story was easy to read, fast paced, and full of action. There is little or no pause in the story to allow for reflection but rather just pushes right on through the story like a Hollywood action movie. That is really what a good thriller is for: pure entertainment. The only thing that put me off a bit about the book is the way in which the dialogue is presented as it is almost outside of the flow of the story with the identifying who was speaking before the dialogue rather than having it as flowing with the story. This does go with the format of the book to some extent, however, so it really was not that big of an issue for me.
What really intrigued me about the book is that Potboiler is billing this book as a new way of visioning a book by making it making it more dynamic and better suited for reading on a smartphone or tablet. With this in mind, I just had to take a look at the book and see if this claim was true. So, is “Midnight in Juarez” something new and original? The answer is yes and no.
How is the book new and different? The novelty is mainly in the formatting. “Midnight in Juarez” features a combination of words and art that almost make it a cross between a novel and a comic book. It uses this combination as well as a varying of black text on a white background to make the text more dynamic for those who are not interested in a traditional book. Even with all of this, the book attempts (and mostly succeeds) to balance this with a substantial story that will appeal to an avid reader even while attracting a less literary audience. The idea behind the new series is to appeal to both avid readers and those who are seeking entertainment rather than reading material. The streamlined text along with visual appeal largely achieves this goal.
What is not new about this book and the series? It took me a little while to put my finger on this but it finally came to me. What Potboiler is essentially trying to do, it seems to me, is to reinvent the pulp story. Half a century ago, the pulps ruled the literary landscape of popular fiction. There were magazines full of pulp stories and many of the best known authors of thrillers, science fiction, and horror wrote pulp stories. These stories were written mainly with the intention of being exciting, easy to read, and not require a lot of time investment. They were entertaining stories written for people on the go and they achieved mass appeal for a long time. “Midnight in Juarez” is essentially the first in a new series of pulp stories. Potboiler’s stated intention is to publish exciting stories that are formatted for electronic devices (for people on the go) and that require only an hour to two hours to read (approximately 25,000 words, or 100 or less traditional pages). So you have adventure stories in a mobile format that can be read quickly. That sounds a lot like a pulp to me.
“Midnight in Juarez,” and the “Get Fisk” series in general, falls a little lower on the literary scale than a thriller novel but that is actually fine by me. I like reading the classics like “Moby Dick” or “Macbeth” but I also like reading thriller novels by Clive Cussler or W.E.B Griffin. I can recognize that they are different in their content but I can also recognize that they are different in their intent as well. Potboiler is looking to provide entertainment that is based, in part, on the written word. In my opinion, this is a good idea and Potboiler has developed a dynamic and interesting format to deliver this in. I read “Midnight in Juarez” and I liked it, pictures and all. I can see how the format may not appeal to some readers but I can also see how it could appeal to some who would not read a traditional novel including younger readers who may not try a traditional novel but may be enticed to at least give this book a try. “Midnight in Juarez” is not great fiction but it is interesting and entertaining as a thriller should be. I am a fan of the old pulp fiction and would love to see it reincarnated in the modern age. Potboiler seems to have the same thought in mind, whether that was the explicit intent or not, and has developed a format that could achieve that. Reading for the masses? What a novel idea.
I would like to thank Potboiler for a review copy of “Get Fisk: Midnight in Juarez.” The book is available now and you can go to www.getfisk.com for more information and select chapters online.