Top critical review
on 18 June 2011
Humor is a strange beast. Whatever the form or the word used to describe it - comedy, parody, satire - individual reactions vary widely. It is safe to say that Simon Dunn knows how to be funny. That others continue hiring him as a sitcom scriptwriter and booking his stand-up act should be evidence of that. "Rotten Apple" has some laughs. Almost immediately, we find a laugh in the first story when Vic Malone (a "hard boiled" detective typical of the noir genre) and his boss Harry have an argument over the "vic," with confusion between the slang for victim and Malone's first name providing the comedic device.
Parody mocks or does a send-up of, in this case, a literary style or genre. Rotten Apple mocks genre conventions by taking them further, a little over-the-top. Sometimes, it seemed to me, too far. One example is referring to "Her Majesty's NYPD Police" with its headquarters on "Sunset Boulevard." The stories all take place in New York City, The Rotten Apple. The "Her Majesty's" part and setting the headquarters in what many readers would assume is Los Angeles, seemed pointless rather than funny.
Other geographical faux pas were of the same type (traveling south from Philadelphia to New Hampshire and then north into New York State in one instance). Had this been a character traveling the wrong direction and not getting there, it would have been funny. Had it been a character confused about what direction they traveled, it might have been funny. But the narrator telling the story wrong just seemed stupid. Possibly this is a send up of some noir genre convention that I'm just not getting.
In the end, I was left wondering. Were the parts I found funny enough to counteract those that fell flat? Is a parody of the noir genre, which is a bit over-the-top to begin with, a flawed concept? Do my sense of humor and Dunn's differ? Most important, which sense of humor is closest to yours? My suspicion is that some people would like "Rotten Apple" much more than I did.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog.**