Book Bag: ‘Broken Lines’ by Tom Pappalardo; “Conversation About America’ by Thomas I. White

  • “Broken Lines,” by Tom Pappalardo File Photo

For The Recorder
Wednesday, January 31, 2018


By Tom Pappalardo


Valley cartoonist, graphic designer and guitarist Tom Pappalardo has recently turned his creative energies to writing — his 2017 book “One More Cup of Coffee” is a snarky, part-diary/part-review of local coffee shops in which he recorded some great bits of overheard conversation from other customers.

In “Broken Lines,” Pappalardo offers what he calls an “illustrated novel,” a rambling, shaggy-dog tale involving cowboys, a spaceman, vampires, pyromaniac firemen and a road trip with bad coffee.

It’s a story shot full with Pappalardo’s black and white illustrations, odd graphics and some droll footnotes, such as one about how to avoid being targeted by police radar guns (“sing a A# as loud as you can”).

The narrative begins in an all-night diner, where Maggie, a tired waitress, serves a cowboy and a man in a spacesuit who are bickering through their meal. She urges them to calm down; a little later, they give her a ride home to her trailer park when her car won’t start.

Then some demons show up at Maggie’s trailer, dressed like firemen. “Firefighters put out fires and save people,” they tell her. “We’re firemen. We’re here to burn and kill.” Amid the destruction, the cowboy and spaceman rescue Maggie, and the three take off in the cowboy’s van, along with a silent vampire.

The story defies easy categorization. It’s part a takeoff of horror movie characters — the vampire has given up drinking blood and isn’t sure what to take in its place — and part spoof of the American road trip, as the adventurers must deal with all manner of bland landscapes and generic highway food like coffee and doughnuts.

Pappalardo even works himself into the story at one point, imagining he meets his characters in a mall food court, where he attempts to explain to them what he’s doing, only to feel the effort is falling flat.

“‘It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,’ I sigh to myself. I slouch in the spine-destroying metal chair and wait for this painful chapter of my life to end.”

Where is this story going? As publisher notes put it, “Vigilantes, bureaucracy, and pure evil conspire against our heroes, pursuing them … through a mall parking lot, and all the way down to the bottom of a bottomless pit in the lower intestines of Hell. Will Maggie find her way back home again? Does she even want to?”

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