Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Crystal Skull & Fascists!

So while I geek out for a second over the cover to Indy 4's soundtrack, available now for pre-order on Amazon and set to be released on May 20, I also want to take a chance to recommend the Indiana Jones books by Max McCoy, and also to warn everyone that looking at the tracklist might give away The Entire Movie, as evidenced by this detailed analysis that reveals what must be a crucial plot point: "The exchange rate in Akator is very good." (No spoilers, don't worry.)

Here's some music to read to, if you decide to read what I'll admit is a B's been up since 8am reading about the Reformation and drinking tea and is clearly addlepated-type Post, but regardless- the End Credits from The Last Crusade, here ya go.

John Williams - End Credits (Raiders March)

Found at

Anyway, McCoy's books featured the (a?) Crystal Skull prominently-- and I know there's a word for it (like Rosebud, bete noir or great white whale or something)-- as an artifact that forever eludes Indy's grasp as he traverses the world and fights fascists, dogged by the Curse of the Crystal Skull, which threatens his lady friend (and he can't! have! sex! cos of it!) Indy first encounters it in the first McCoy book, Indiana Jones & the Philosopher's Stone- as in, yeah, the one they sorta-kinda use in the first Harry Potter book. But this one is way cooler. People's skin peels off and stuff, and if that's not enough, the book starts with a fantastic bang- crazy snake, crazy temple, crazy fascist.

There's no rest for our favorite professor, and in Indiana Jones & the Dinosaur Eggs, Indy manages to destroy the whale in the Natural History Museum before he runs off to to Mongolia with a nun and drinks reindeer pee and has to pay bribes to corrupt bureaucrats. He is accompanied by Wu Han, the poor fuck who cashes his check in the first 10 minutes of Temple of Doom after Kate Capshaw sings a Cole Porter song in what must be Chinese.

In Indiana Jones & the Hollow Earth, Indy teams up with some crazy Viking woman and this totally cool kid named Sparks and the most awesome pilot Ever (I'm not joking, he should be made a part of the Rogues), but that's only after punching out a famous bank robber and getting himself stuck in a cave AND fighting racism.

McCoy's run, and the series, ends with Indiana Jones & the Secret of the Sphinx, where Indy totally gets himself stabbed by some crazy Japanese chick while trying to help some lady find her husband. Sallah's in this one, too.

I mean. Really, if you don't think this sounds cool (Nazis! Gangsters! Dirigibles! Thule Society! The Omega Book! Shaitan! Dogs!) you don't like adventure.

It's interesting to see his take on Indy, who becomes more and more cynical as the books progress but is definitely not the cad that he is in the films. McCoy always forms a colorful cast and embeds the stories into the history of the times as well as into the mythology of the series, with a nice emphasis on Indy as a professor, coming to his own in the field. ('His own' being breaking all the rules, it seems.) McCoy also provides an afterword for each book that details the historical setting and facts, and it's here that his writing skills are especially evident. Reading his non-fiction is just as easy and fun as reading the fiction that has come before it, and it's clear that the man has done his research, and all the better for the story and the plot.

McCoy's books have a light-heartedness to them that doesn't undermine the action or the adventure. It's light reading, to be sure, and is crafted as such, but content isn't sacrificed and the pacing is good, the prose precise. As you can tell, I'm infinitely fond of these books and they clock in at about 200 pages, so they're good fast and fun reads, perfect for a few hours reading out in the finally-arrived Spring weather. I also want to recommend Martin Caidin's two books, which are a bit longer and heavier and more dense; his take on Indy emphasizes the academic, and they're also a lot of fun. (Pilots! Dirigibles! Gangsters! Witches! The Civil War! FASCISTS!)

  • Download "All You Fascists" courtesy of Billy Bragg (+Wilco) and Woody Guthrie. Buy Mermaid Ave II here.

Actual, coherent, exclamation mark-free plot summaries of the books can be found here. Check out in interview with Mr McCoy here. Excerpt below.

Let me first say that I am a big fan of your writings and you are my personal favorite Indiana Jones novelist. The thing that I noticed the most about your work was the Crystal Skull motif that played out beautifully through each of your 4 novels. I was wondering if you had originally planned to include the quest for the Crystal Skull in each novel or if you just spontaneously had the idea to expand the Crystal Skull theme and tagged it onto your novels in the form of prologues and epilogues culminating with Indiana Jones and the Secret of the Sphinx, where Indy finds and returns the skull? (Submitted by Greg)

Thanks. I planned the Crystal Skull episodes from the start, because I wanted a continuing story to play from book to book, and I knew Indy would have to return the skull. But I expected it would play a bigger part in the last book… originally, I had written a time-travel sequence for the last book, but only portions of it survived. Nobody was thrilled with it. They kept saying, “but this is science fiction.” And I’d say, yes, what do you think the other stories are? They aren’t just adventure. Remember when Belloq described the Ark as a “radio transmitter for talking to God?” Now, that sent chills down my spine.


Anonymous said...

"So while I geek out for a second..."
Admit it - you're STILL geeking out over Indy 4 (I know I am!). . . I've managed to keep my anticipation on a slow simmer since the movie is still so many weeks away, but your review of McCoy's books blew that plan right out of the water!
I haven't read any of the books as yet (I hadn't even heard of them, actually), but I couldn't resist crazysnaketemplefascistreindeerpee-
drinkingnazisgangstersdirigibles WITH a philosopher's stone AND the Omega Book AND the Thule Society as well as crazy Viking women, crazy knife-wielding Japanese chicks, AND a nun for goodness sakes - so I ordered 'em all (I already have the Caidin books - great stuff!). . .
I'm glad your enjoying the series of book/author posts for the Once Upon a Time Challenge - this event has turned out to be big fun . . .
And just so you know, I LOVE your tea-soaked, addlepated posts, so keep 'em coming . . .

Nazz Nomad said...

Yeah, Indy's ancient, but I still can't wait for it to come out!


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