The Jolly Ape goes Monkey over Corpse on Tumblr
Don't you just love it when you find a book and an author that speaks - you. As if they've managed to put your words and mind into a novel yet done it many times more brilliant than your own mind and words. I personally do like that. Jonny Porkpie is my latest favourite and example of it. I had to buy the book when I saw the cover, because of reasons, but I was a little dubious about the content at first. Pulp, even spoof pulp is often full of misogyny and machismo. This is the complete opposite. Sure the protagonist is male, but as far from what you expect of the noír hero as you can get. And while he is male he lives in a world almost exclusively populated and controlled by women. Something that isn't a bad thing, in fact it is portrayed as something very...I want to say good, but that's not right, so perhaps I'll simply say right...yes, it's portrayed as something very right, something natural and obvious.
It's such a joy to read and I'm smiling all the way, because the language is witty in a very simplistic and euphemistic way. Also full of interesting characters that come together in even more interesting ways.
Find a copy of The Corpse Wore Pasties and read it. You won't be sorry. I promise.
PornoKitch Says Corpse is "not unlike the golden era of James Bond"
The Corpse Wore Pasties (2009) is the debut mystery from Jonny Porkpie, New York's self-appointed Mayor of Burlesque. In the great tradition of Kinky Friedman and Gypsy Rose Lee, the detective and protagonist The Corpse Wore Pasties is Mr. Porkpie himself.
In the novel, Jonny Porkpie is producing a friend's burlesque show for an evening. His job should be easy. He's working with professionals, after all, he just need to make sure everything runs smoothly. The evening's show also features some of Jonny's best friends, consummate professionals like Cherries Jubilee and Jillian Knockers, as well as other respected performers like like Angelina Blood. Jonny is unpleasantly surprised, however, by the arrival of Victoria Vice - a known plagiarist and all-around nasty character. The latter would be forgivable, but Victoria's history of stealing other performers' acts makes her persona non grata in the burlesque community. Jonny is shocked when she shows up and is quickly thrown into the role of peacemaker, which mostly entails keeping her away from the others.
Not far enough away, as, in one of the most memorable opening pages in the annals of Hard Case Crime, Victoria dies a very messy death. On-stage, too. How awkward.
This opening scene sets the tone perfectly with its combination of messy murder and ruthless innuendo (not the other way around). The protagonist Porkpie cracks wise, winks at the ladies and delivers a constant stream of engaging, showmanlike patter to the reader. Yet his constant editorialising gives way to a respectful silence when the victim undergoes one of the more horrific deaths in recent mystery fiction, choking to death (descriptively) on rat poison.
Despite the innovative (and enjoyable) setting, The Corpse Wore Pasties is a very traditionally structured mystery. Following Victoria Vice's death, Mr. Porkpie is under suspicion of murder. To clear his own name (and satisfy his curiosity), he's forced into the role of amateur detective. The bulk of the investigation is Mr. Porkpie tracking down and interrogating the book's cast of (suspected) femme fatales. Although these dialogues has a Pasties flair - one takes place with Mr. Porkpie suspended in a dominatrix's dungeon, another with him hiding in a risque zeppelin costume - the core traditions of noir fiction remain intact. Every interview reels in a fresh catch of red herrings and tightens the screws just a tiny bit more. Mr. Porkpie gets in deeper and deeper trouble, eventually winding up in a madcap scenario with both the murderer and the police breathing down his neck.
The dialogues are the heart of The Corpse Wore Pasties - and they're predictably great. Mr. Porkpie (real) has the showman's gift of comic timing, and that translates well to the written page. For both light banter and serious interrogation, he keeps the story moving and fleshes out the book with a cast of very real, very lovely and very dangerous suspects.
However, Mr. Porkpie also writes a great action sequence, especially given that this is his debut. One scene, when Mr. Porkpie (fictional) crawls across a support beam of the Brooklyn Bridge to escape pursuers, is particularly well done, as is the dramatic finale, a tense battle with the murderer. The author's ability to seamlessly flip between the comic and the dramatic is on full display. Jonny Porkpie has the ability to make the audience both gasp and giggle, not unlike the golden era of James Bond.
Don't let the bonkers title and deliberately goofy premise fool you, this is a well-constructed mystery and a sterling debut. The Hard Case Crime series isn't just about resurrecting the best in lost noir, it is also about contributing to the genre. A Corpse Wore Pasties is an excellent example of how the traditions of detection can hold up in any setting - even the most ludicrous. (And that wackiness? Adds a lot of fun.)
Final note on cover art: A corker from Ricky Mujica. David Bryher, one of the fussiest human beings I've ever met, picked up our copy and said, "There is not a single thing on this cover that does not please me." I wholeheartedly agree.
Caviglia calls Corpse "Funny and over the top...sexy, silly fun"
How did I miss this one? The delightful Caviglia reviews Corpse alongside the G-String Murders.
"A little under seventy years after Gypsy Rose Lee wrote her first book, the second burlesque themed mystery to be penned by an actual burlesque performer was published by Hard Case Crime. The Corpse Wore Pasties, is by Jonny Porkpie, the self-styled Burlesque Mayor of NYC. Again, in the spirit of full disclosure, I became acquainted with Mr. Porkpie under another name, when he was wearing a hat other than Porkpie (that of Tiny Ninja producer). I found his book to be a very enjoyable read, and much like with Miss Lee's offering, its pleasures come more from the world in which it was set than from the mystery aspect. That said, the murder itself is fantastic, as it happens on stage in front of a cheering (and hooting) audience. It's both a burlesque of a death by poisoning and an actual poisoning.
There's a delightful economy in the telling of his murderous tale, which methinks betrays another hat Mr. Porkpie has worn, that of playwright. His exposition is breezy and organic. Most impressively, he uses an interrogation scene in the 9th Precinct (the story is told in first person by a burlesque presenter and performer named "Jonny Porkpie") to explain to both the cops and his readers what burlesque is. No, it's not stripping. Yes, they take off their clothes. But it's art, I tell you, art! He explains it very well, I promise you. And because I'm all about shameless plugs, a certain former burlesque presenter has lots to say on the subject - I mean of course my always dashing inamorato, the man most often known as Trav S.D.. Click on the babes & burlesque tag on his blog, or search up The New Yorker article on the New Burlesque in which he was featured.
The differences between the old burlesque and the new are massive. New burlesque is more of a sexually charged performance art. There's a long sequence where Mr. Porkpie visits his various suspects, burlesque dancers all, at their various day jobs which is quite telling - and very funny. In Miss Lee's book, burlesque was their day job. Porkpie's novel is funny and over the top, as much a burlesque of the mystery genre as it is a tour through the downtown performance world of burlesque. If you take my meaning. I looked at the Amazon reviews before writing this, and there were a few negative ones which I think missed the point of his book entirely, i.e. that it's a comedy, not an actual hard boiled detective novel. It reminded me a little of the very funny Robin Hudson mysteries by Sparkle Hayter (which are really, really worth reading and, I'm horrified to discover, are out of print) in that they riff on the hard boiled while set in a modern (mostly downtown) New York in a very specific milieu (in Hayter's case, cable news) which the writer knows top to bottom. Porkpie's book is sexy, silly fun and it's nice to know that 70 years from now, whatever version of burlesque is making its third or fourth or fifth comeback in the year 2080 will have a delightful mystery novel to show them what it was like back in the (no doubt) misunderstood aughts."
"That's What She Read" compares Porkpie to Indiana Jones
Um, dudes -- did you see the title? a), How could I not pick this up and b), how has no one else heard of this book? It's called The Corpse Wore Pasties.
So, uh, the plot, if you so care: Jonny Porkpie - both the author and the narrator - is a master of ceremonies of burlesque shows in New York City. In fact, he calls himself "The Mayor of Burlesque," and there's a whole thing in the first third of the book where he describes the difference between burlesque and stripping. Burlesque is all about wit and humor, whereas stripping is just taking clothes off to music. Burlesque I can get behind. (That's what she said.)
This book is (probably) like burlesque itself: tawdry, witty, humorous, and manages to show just enough to be titillating but not enough to be considered explicit or
pornog- midwestern philosophy. Jonny is a reliable narrator, and his way of describing people and incidents is refreshing... Whether you'd like to admit it or not, Porkpie does have some similarities to a hero of mine: Indiana Jones. Both are witty, both fight for justice; both have easily recognizable hats.
What ... not really struck me as interesting, but a touch that I loved, was that Jonny Porkpie is married. I have to admit: I don't regularly think of burlesque actresses or strippers, but when I do, I never think that they're married. Well, Jonny is married to a fellow burlesque performer, and if I were to give awards for the best named characters of the year, this would be no contest: Nasty Canasta. I would like to again refer you to the above paragraph where I said that I swear I am not making any of this up.
As for this as a member of the pulp fiction genre: hell yeah. The wit is sparkling, the women are scantily clad, and while there weren't guns or too much violence, it's a gritty world the author describes. This was an excellent romp through the seedy underbelly of the bump and grind world.
This particular book was the Hard Case for December of last year -- it's taken that long for me to convince a local library to lend me their copy of it -- and is just as hard-boiled as all of the rest, though in a slightly more va-va-voom direction than usual. Jonny Porkpie is both the hero and the author of this novel, written as if it were true -- and Porkpie is also the self-proclaimed "Burlesque Mayor of New York." (Because, if you're both willing to take your clothes off in public and brag about it, you can call yourself whatever the hell you want.) So this particular murder mystery takes place within New York's downtown burlesque scene, where, in the very first chapter, serial act-plagiarizer Victoria Vice drinks from a bottle of (supposedly) fake rat poison and dies a very real death.
Somebody Dies has "A Hell of a Lot of Fun" with Corpse
In addition to its author's old-time profession (Porkpie wryly proclaims it "the top entertainment ticket of 1939"), The Corpse Wore Pasties is an old-time mystery, a direct descendant of the Agatha Christie despicable-person-is murdered-and-everyone-is-a-suspect school that produced such classics as Murder on the Orient Express and (my favorite) Evil Under the Sun. Look past all the naked characters and sex puns and the mystery is very traditional in its make-up. Porkpie is the epitome of the amateur investigator thrown into a situation where (like Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr, another Christie descendant) he has to solve the crime to clear his own name.
Porkpie keeps thing interesting because he knows there's only so many times you can mention New York before you need a really tense foot chase across the Brooklyn Bridge. And he peoples his novel with larger than life personalities that make for great reading. The Corpse Wore Pasties is a hell of a lot of fun... Porkpie makes the whole mystery-writing thing look easy, and he somehow manages to come across as an innocent despite the fact that he takes his clothes off for a living.
Adding another layer of reality to the proceedings, Porkpie also produced a couple of burlesque shows (called Lurid Pulp) centered around the book release of The Corpse Wore Pasties. In the show, the "characters" in the novel (or their real-life counterparts) object to his portrayal of them in the book and vow revenge. As the promo postcard stated, "Tempers flare, bodices rip, tassels twirl ... and Porkpie ends up dead." Canasta investigates with help from the audience. I imagine if there were more burlesque book release parties, the publishing industry wouldn't be crying woe all the time.
Members on GoodReads enjoy "Corpse" just fine.
"A humorous and entertaining story... Porkpie may be a crappy detective, but he's a funny narrator. The burlesque performers he deals with are a smart-mouthed handful, especially his own wife who relentlessly mocks him for most of the book. Lighthearted, with just enough wink-and-nudge sex jokes to add some naughty flavor without being too over the top, this was a fast read that was good for some offbeat laughs."
"A fun way to spend a few hours."
"A very fun murder mystery. I'd never heard of the author before, who is also the hero of this story. A humorous look at the raunchier side of NYC without a lot of violence or explicit sex - although lots of the latter are implied & of course someone did get killed. It was hard not to laugh out loud while reading many times."
"This one is quite humorous and an enjoyable and quick read. It does have elements of an old fashioned who-dunnit albeit set in a seedier locale. The writer had to have a great deal of fun writing this one and it makes for an exciting little romp."
"Jonny Porkpie makes an entertaining narrator, though, making the book easy, enjoyable reading."
"I haven't read Gypsy Rose Lee's stripper mystery, so this is clearly the best one I've ever read. Zippy screwball-comedy dialogue, the ins and outs of life in this subculture, plus a decent mystery as well."
"Scruffy and fun whodunnit set in the colorful world of pasties and g-strings."
Reader finds "Corpse" Educational
I love Hard Case Crime. This is a publisher who's committed-heart and soul-to reviving long-lost pulp and crime titles, but at the same time, the brains at Hard Case don't vegetate in the past; many of their titles are new, and this brings me to The Corpse Wore Pasties by Jonny Porkpie. Just in case you don't know, the type of pasties we are talking about are those tiny adhesive nipple patches worn by strippers and burlesque dancers (my favourite pasties are sequins with tassels, but I digress). Now there's a world of difference between strippers and burlesque dancers-just ask the book's author, Jonny Porkpie, "The Burlesque Mayor of New York." Stripping...that's about heavy breathing and dollar bills. Burlesque, well that's a time tested art form.
Porkpie (who takes his last name from the type of hat he wears) must be a very busy man. In his real life (in other words-anything not inside the pages of his first novel), Porkpie also co-produces Pinchbottom Burlesque with his Missus.- Nasty Canasta. I'd hazard a guess that Porkpie is a really interesting character as he unabashedly places himself in his novel with a generous dollop of self-deprecating humour. To take the piss out of oneself takes a strong, confident personality, and Porkpie does just that, and he does it well with The Corpse Wore Pasties-a light-hearted, entertaining, slick, crime-centred romp through the glamorous world of burlesque.
The novel opens in an East Village bar with a Dreamland burlesque show, and Porkpie is the host for the evening's performances, replacing Dreamland's regular producer and host, LuLu LaRue. This should be an easy gig for Porkpie, but things begin to go wrong when Victoria Vice unexpectedly appears to join the line-up of performers. Victoria is the "rare performer that absolutely nobody liked," not only is she a first-rate bitch, but she's a "thief" and a "plagiarist." And in burlesque, this is "the worst kind of thief you can be." Many other burlesque performers have suffered from Victoria's "creative larceny;" she's notorious for visiting shows and ripping off acts. So when Victoria appears to join the evening's line up, the atomsphere in the ad-hoc chaotic, changing room shifts to rage. And before the evening is over, someone ends up dead.
Although there are no lack of suspects, Porkpie manages to top the list, and after a brush with the cops, he decides that as number 1 suspect, he'd better try solving the crime himself. Against the sage advice of his ever-patient wife, Nasty Canasta, Porkpie plunges into the investigation in true noir style. Soon Porkpie is questioning burlesque characters such as: Brioche a Tete, Cherries Jubilee, Eva Desire, Angelina Blood, and Jillian Knockers. Can it be any wonder that he finds himself "running at top speed across the Brooklyn Bridge, half-naked, in the middle of the night, pursued by all five members of a heavy metal band."?
I have a weakness for Hard Case titles that blend crime with a large dose of humour (Somebody Owes Me Money, Fifty-to-One), so for my twisted tastes, The Corpse Wore Pasties was a delightful, funny read. I began the book knowing next to nothing about burlesque, and I learned a few things about the biz-including the meaning of the term "sexual misdirection." This diverting pulp novel, with its lurid elements added to just a hint of camp, is a great deal of tongue-in-cheek fun (my favourite part is when Porkpie is questioned by the cops). I looked forward to this title for months, and it was exactly what I hoped it would be-an entertaining, behind-the-scenes look at the world of burlesque.
I sincerely hope that this won't be a one-shot wonder, and that Porkpie has more novels up his sleeves or perhaps even in his Super Jonny Porkpie outfit....
According to one reader, "Corpse" is "The official Go-To book for underwear metaphors!"
Not your grandpappy's crime novel, though you can bet he wishes he had something so titillating and funny to hide in the basement. Written by the self-appointed "Burlesque Mayor of New York City," Porkpie comes off so appealing and hilarious that the reader wants to quit their day job and start a career as one of his steamer trunk members. (I assume he has a steamer trunk instead of a cabinet...) Full of colorful and naughty characters, many so good that they have to be true. The official Go-To book for underwear metaphors! This is crime for the Rockabilly Geekcore set, for anyone with tats, piercings, comic books and an Apple computer. For anyone that ever put on a trenchcoat and had to decide between Marlowe and Gibson when it comes time to accessorize. Highly Recommended! 5/5
Library Journal on "Corpse"
Porkpie (not his real name?) is by trade an emcee/comic for neo-burlesque shows in NYC, a job where you immediately either stink or swim. Fortunately, the rapport required on stage transfers effortlessly to the page in this debut mystery. At the start our hero, also named Jonny, is seen onstage by an audience guilelessly administering real poison, in a bottle labeled "Poison," to one of the burlesque artistes who straight away flops over onto her pasties. It seems the victim was hated by the other performers on the bill, so Jonny has his work cut out proving his innocence and finding the real murderer while at the same time eluding the cops. Along the way he's subjected to rigorous slapstick workouts in a dominatrix's salon and finds himself, half-naked, dangling from the Brooklyn Bridge. Still he manages to hang onto his trademark porkpie hat--and dignity. Verdict Don't give up your night job, Jonny; it's too good of a backdrop for the sequels that will surely come to nestle comfortably between Gypsy Rose Lee's classic 1941 The G-string Murders and Kinky Friedman's mysteries.--Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO
Booklist Reviews "Corpse"
Author Porkpie, the self-proclaimed "Burlesque Mayor of New York City," makes himself the star of this winsome first novel. Porkpie is NYPD's prime suspect in the murder of Victoria Vice, a burlesque dancer known for "plagiarizing" other dancers' acts. Jonny assumes that one of the other dancers on the program is the murderer, and he decides he must uncover the truth to avoid 25 years in prison. In the course of his investigation, he is chased, half-naked, across the Brooklyn Bridge by a heavy-metal band and finds
himself hanging from chains, completely naked, in the dungeon of a dominatrix. He also offers knowing insights into the craft of burlesque, for example, to properly apply pasties, heat the adhesive--it makes them stick better. Porkpie's style is diligently tongue in cheek, and it works. Fans of hard-boiled crime will enjoy this romp, and in an increasingly coarse popular culture, the inside look at burlesque seems, well, almost wholesome.