Joe Curreri The Señor 105 Adventure Book (2013)
Yes I know, I painted the cover for this one so can hardly be described as an impartial reader; if that's a problem, please feel free to take it up with my lawyer. Truthfully though, I've been more worried that this seventh in the series of Señor 105 novellas would turn out to be a turkey written by Joe with a green crayon and tongue just ever so slightly protruding from the corner of his mouth, obliging me to smile the smile that hurts whilst offering diplomatic comments about how it contains plenty of interesting ideas and oh just look at the size of that enthusiasm!
That said, although I'm afraid I don't presently recall Glyph, Joe's previous Señor 105 story in any detail beyond that it did nothing to offend me, it wasn't that I expected The Señor 105 Adventure Book to be bad; but neither did I expect it to be this good. Ciao, Fantastique!, the first of the two stories featured here takes the masked wrestler to Rome in search of a stolen gemstone, aided by Lori - a displaced Mountie - and sort of almost but not quite exactly aided by Fantastique, a master criminal who seems to have a thing for rubber.
Conversely, The Iguana Diaries, the second story is told from the perspective of a submarine foe who tangles with our lad beneath the waves, and then in the Cambodian jungle. The blurb speaks of robot nuns, villainous frogmen, and exotic locations, yet surprisingly these are not the things that stand out, despite the obvious novelty factor. What does stand out is the quality of the writing and the evocation of a mood which is absolutely true to its subject, his era, and the cinematic traditions from which he was sprung. It reads in parts like a spy thriller, with all those foreign places being home more to Martini slurping Bond types than has been usual for this series, and like the best of the genre, there's a strong undercurrent of eroticism. Well, I'm not sure it's even an undercurrent so much as that it's just there, but the most astonishing thing is that Joe Curreri makes it work. I often have a problem with sex - or at least sexuality - in literature, mainly because it's often so bad, imagining itself all simmering and Byronic whilst exuding all the sensuality of a Jasper Carrott novelty record - see also smirking use of word bonking and twee references to manacles in all those Benny novels; yet as with everything else he's done here, Joe Curreri just walks it, striking the absolute right balance - smouldering like Lauren Bacall without even trying to turn it into a selling point.
I now see why he wanted that sort of cover and referred to the Italian Futurist Crali as a starting point, Crali being someone whose paintings we've both admired: The Señor 105 Adventure Book might almost be considered Art Deco fiction - elegant and very sensual. I think this may even be the best Señor 105 novella so far, and I'm very proud to have been involved.