Roger Ackroyd (Robert Hollister)

Created by Jules Feiffer

“God, do I find that man interesting!”
— Robert/Roger on Oscar

New York cartoonist Jules Feiffer’s first novel, Ackroyd (1977) is a rather strange book, taking the form of the diary of Robert Hollister, a neurotic young man who has decided to become a private eye named ROGER ACKROYD (a tip of the fedora to Agatha Christie’s classic The Murder of Roger Ackroyd) by posting an ad in the Saturday Review. But Robert/Roger becomes obsessed with one of his very first clients, Oscar “Rags” Plante, a newspaper sports columnist/novelist and his wife Annabelle, whose parakeet has gone missing.

The case? Investigate the bad case of writer’s block that Rags claims he’s suffering from..

The book, subtitled “A Mystery of Identity,” covers several years of Robert/Roger’s (and Oscar’s) life, and as their characters slowly merge, we’re treated to a sort of blurry (but often amusing) existential crisis.

Ackroyd drew decidedly mixed praise at the time, as any book that has the word “existential” attached to its description must. Some critics loved it; others absolutely hated it. Personally, I found the humour occasionally uneven, with long, pointless and even just plain dumb stretches. There are some good lines in this one, and the plot is certainly original enough (at times reminiscent of Marc Behn’s The Eye of the Beholder), but the satire served up here doesn’t so much bite as nibble. Funny, but not funny enough.

Still, if you want something peculiar…

Of course, Jules Feiffer is more than just a cartoonist. He’s also the author of numerous novels, children’s books, plays and screenplays, including Carnal Knowledge, Harry, The Rat with Women and Little Murders, and over a long career has nabbed a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, Obie Awards, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Cartoonist Society and the Writers Guild of America.  He’s also the man responsible for Kill My Mother (2014), a noirish graphic novel featuring Neil Hammond, a hard-boiled, hard-drinking 1930s private eye.

UNDER OATH

  • “Sneaky and brilliant.”
    — The San Francisco Examiner
  • “Wildly funny…flawless dialogue”
    — Newsweek
  • “Yes, there are Feifferish nuggets of humor and insight aplenty, but, no, not quite aplenty enough to entertain us away from considerable puzzlement and spells of ennui.”
    — Kirkus
  • “… unremarkable, barely readable”
    — Los Angeles Times (in retrospect, 2010)
  • “… all too reminiscent of Woody Allen’s Sam Spade parody– with the funny lines omitted.”
    — Saturday Review

NOVELS

Report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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