Monday, March 24, 2014

Kindle Spotlight -- The Time Machine Did It

Today we have the John Swartzwelder comedy The Time Machine Did It. Swartzwelder wrote many of the greatest Simpsons episodes, so when I found out he also wrote a novel, I had to have it. As it turns out, he wrote a bunch of novels, but as far as I can tell, this is the first.

The zany noir story centers around inept detective Frank Burly. He's about as terrible a gumshoe as they come. Hardly anyone ever comes to him for help. This has a lot to do with the fact you have to pass three better detectives' offices on the way to his. Also, his secretary couldn't possibly get any less apathetic. Her frequent tongue lashings don't seem to bother him too much, though. "Normally, I wouldn't let an employee talk to me like that. But she's quit so many times neither one of us remembers whether she's working for me right now or not."

One day, a filthy hobo named Mandible comes to Burly with a case. All the other detectives turned him down, so Burly is his last hope. He wants the sucky detective to retrieve a figurine that has been stolen from him. Burly takes the case, but eventually discovers there's a time machine involved (he doesn't notice at first because he's so stupid). He investigates, making him the target of both a powerful crime family and corrupt cops who all want the time machine for. themselves. He ends up going back to 1941 where he gets stuck for almost a year when the device returns without him. He was clueless in the present, but in the past might be royally screwed.

The Time Machine Did It is an absolutely hilarious novel. Swartzwelder proves he still has the comedic edge even without the visual component to back him up. Watching his protagonist blunder his way across time--wrecking history in the process--and getting the crap beat out of him repeatedly gives the reader many laughs. Swartzwelder is a master of the absurd and that comes across plain as day here, particularly in the last part of the story where Burly makes a complete mess of history (including giving Abraham Lincoln a much worse death at Ford's Theatre) and gets into a fist fight with himself.

In short: If you enjoyed the golden age of the Simpsons, you'll get a real kick out of The Time Machine Did It..

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