Verdict: Charlie Chan Meets Tom Swifty is an offbeat, funny, mind stimulating and sometimes eye-rolling collection of Tom Swiftys for lovers of word play, English language and literature, detective stories and the honorable Charlie Chan.
The first chapter of this little book opens with Charlie Chan sitting on a bench talking to his friend Tom Swifty, who decides to make a list of the pearls of wisdom inspired by Chan’s life and experience as a famous detective. And so begins a list of Tom Swiftys, which author T.A Corbi quotes Wikipedia defining as: “a phrase in which a quoted sentence is linked by a pun to the manner in which it is attributed.”
Corbi has an extensive list of humorous and off beat introductory chapters that sets the mood for the rest of the “story”. The introductory chapters include: a dedication to various people and groups which provides some trivia about the origin of Charlie Chan and Tom Swiftys; a prologue: disclaimer in which Corbi describes this book as a parody of the Charlie Chan character speaking in the style of a Tom Swifty and states, among other things that “this book is not intended as a racial slur, but rather as “a very best effort at a deliberate and measured assault upon the English language — and consequently, the sensibilities of you, the reader —who will likely suffer certain mental anguish by studying what follows.” Corbi also provides a series of tongue in cheek actions to take in case you are offended by the book, plus a list of warning such as: “Do not give this book to children. Children have an irritating way of memorizing things they read and shouting it back at you at the most inconvenient times;” acknowledgements to the friends that he knows he has none of, in addition to an acknowledgement that all typos are intentional. His final introductory chapter includes a punny “Fourword” entitled “Sorry, No Return Policy,” which Corbi explains a variety of items such as his background (as well as that of Charlie Chan) and defines various parts of speech, including a Tom Swifty.
The book consists of three chapters, and though most of the narrative occurs in the introductory chapters with a little in the main body of the ‘story’; Corbi does cover a lot of ground in his extensive list of 466 sometimes far reaching Tom Swiftys. Though many revolve around the theme of the criminal element, the Tom Swiftys cover a broad range of references to various cultures, countries, literary works and stereotypes of all sorts. Like jokes, the Tom Swiftys will elicit various responses. You will love some while you will groan at others, like the series of Tom Swiftys on serial killers, which include the following:
“”Victims all stabbed with British-made ice pick. Suspect Surrey awl killer,”
pointed out Charlie Chan wholesomely.”
““Victims all strangled with movie film of ‘Running of Bulls in Pamplona’.
Suspect steer reel killer,” choked Charlie Chan ebulliently.”
““Victims all poisoned by food at Japanese teppanyaki-style restaurant.
Suspect seared eel killer,” sizzled Charlie Chan.”
You will recognize some play on words and literary references with ease, ‘“Man who steal refrigerator will spend time in cooler,” dispensed Charlie Chan chillingly,” and ““Hamlet like big German Mastiff. Both great Dane,” hounded Charlie Chan doggedly.” While others may have you looking a little harder for clues: ““This murder more complicated than Henrik Ibsen play,” peered Charlie Chan with a glint in his eye.”
However, like jokes, you might find yourself at your next get together repeating some of these politically incorrect gems: ““Pizza dough maker like nymphomania. Both have many needs,” topped Charlie Chan repeatedly” and ““Lawyer similar to recovering alcoholic. Both must pass bar,” counseled Charlie Chan advisedly”
Charlie Chan Meets Tom Swifty is an offbeat, funny, mind stimulating and sometimes eye-rolling collection of Tom Swiftys for lovers of word play, English language and literature, detective stories and the honorable Charlie Chan.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader.com 2012
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