cover image The Ghost Script

The Ghost Script

Jules Feiffer. Liveright, $26.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-63149-313-3

Feiffer concludes the remarkable trilogy that began with Kill My Mother and Cousin Joseph, inspired by the tropes of film noir and the historical reality of anticommunist witch hunts, in this feverish crime story. In 1950s Hollywood, everyone is talking about the legendary “Ghost Script,” a screenplay rumored to be floating around L.A. that supposedly reveals a real-world conspiracy behind the Hollywood blacklist. Some blacklisted screenwriters decide to turn the legend into reality, adding another maddening level to the confusion between truth and fiction that runs through the plot. Soon an expansive cast of characters is chasing the script, eager to either expose the red baiters or cover them up. Poor gumshoe Archie Goldman, nominally the protagonist, gets hired by interested parties on both sides but is barely able to keep up with the twists and turns. Feiffer has been drawing comics since before the era in which the book is set (one character mentions growing up reading The Spirit, which Feiffer worked on in the 1940s) and he shows off his mastery of the form with grace. The plot loops so often that it’s easy to lose threads, but the atmosphere of paranoia, censorship, and enforced patriotism thrums. Unsurprisingly for Feiffer, the strongest sections are the portraits of individual characters, squirming and dancing out their preoccupations. In this capstone to a graceful three-volume performance, Feiffer has an utterly unique take on crime fiction and crime comics, drawing with an energy that practically hurls the characters off the page. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman (July)