Books by Todd Komarnicki

WAR by Todd Komarnicki
Released: July 1, 2008

"Komarnicki doesn't spell things out, and his novel's ambiguities thus become its greatest strengths."
A nameless soldier traverses the destroyed "unlandscape" of an unidentified war, and the mine-strewn territories of his own memory, in the industrious screenwriter-director's third novel (Famine, 1997, etc.). Read full book review >
FAMINE by Todd Komarnicki
Released: Jan. 20, 1997

A high-toned, high-concept investigation into the death from starvation of a troubled New York arch-romantic. The dead man is Daniel Rowan, whose troubles start early, when he accidentally kills his kid brother as a teenager. Unable to handle his family's inability to deal with him, Daniel sinks into a depression that brings him to River Glen and to the desirable Emma Clough, where he struggles to make out through his and her double haze of prescription drugs. Equally disturbed but considerably more manic—she sets fire to their apartment and introduces herself to Daniel's sister Nina by smashing everything she can reach before she's tossed out—Emma is cursed with her own obsessive love for her daughter Sophie, whom she tirelessly insists, whatever vicissitudes Emma shares with Daniel, is just waiting to be born. So much for the victim and his family, who seem even more marginal than the homeless hero of Komarnicki's first novel, Free (1993). But wait: The police detective on the case—called Detective, to distinguish him from his jaundiced partner Rookie—seems just as weird as the dead man, whose corpse he feels obliged, even before the coroner arrives on the scene, to slit from sternum to navel, glossing this tableau with the delphic comment that he's ``connecting two, at least two murders.'' Murders follow, all right, but in what sense is Daniel's own demented starvation a murder? As Komarnicki zigzags between a modish third-person account of Detective's investigations and Daniel's comparatively sane first-person reminiscences of the adventures that brought him to his resting place in Gramercy Park, the conundrums pile up (what to make of the notes signed ``Emma and Sophie,'' or the mantra ``Daniel knows who did it''?), along with a certain tonic skepticism about how completely they'll ever be solved. Fans of Paul Auster will find this beautifully written, with syncopated prose massaged within an inch of its life. The unwashed may want to tread more carefully. Read full book review >
FREE by Todd Komarnicki
Released: July 6, 1993

A high concept from screenwriter Komarnicki: a homeless man turns detective to solve a series of murders. The execution, though, is middling—and muddled. Komarnicki brings a bit of authenticity to his first novel: He does volunteer work for a homeless shelter in Santa Monica. And so narrator Jefferson Alexander Freeman, a.k.a. ``Free,'' is a half- believable creation, a 30-year-old as lonely as ``a rhinoceros,'' with few memories of the days before he ended up—victim of some buried trauma—in New Orleans 13 years back. (Free's mind has been further confused by a fall through a stained-glass window, embedding glass in his skull, from which it protrudes ``like the rough outline of a horn.'') But Free is a nice homeless man, who won't beg for a living or stare at the strippers peeling in the bar he haunts; who has all his teeth; who doesn't do drugs (he throws away a chanced-upon fortune in heroin); and who cares enough about the murder of his ``buddy'' with the odd tattoo on his shoulder blade, and then that of a stripper-pal with a similar tattoo, to sleuth out the killer—all this as likely as Free's love affair with the equally lonely Chinese-American lady cop assigned to the killings. The tattoo-trail takes the duo to Hong Kong, where they tie killings in to a heroin-smuggling ring muled by America-bound refugees fleeing the imminent Red takeover—and not only does Free help solve the case but he recalls his life-shattering trauma, after which revelation the glass in his skull miraculously dissolves, leaving him a rhino no more: and on Christmas Eve, no less. Some nice insights into the homeless life—but, overall, a smart idea gets beaten senseless by overwriting. Read full book review >