"A funny and subversive caper novel that speaks the language of days gone by."
"Mordant, dark, and quirky…In The Blow-off Knipfel takes hilarious aim at the ravenging New York media and what he portrays as the desperately thin veneer of reason and public order."
"The curmudgeonly narrator of Knipfel's pulpy horror-comedy would hate knowing he's such amusing company. …Knipfel balances the ugly, the frightening, and the unseemly to give readers a morbidly playful story with a surprising amount of heart."
"Recommended for those readers with the darkest sense of humor and a high tolerance for carnie slang."
"The Blow-Off” is a gritty, satirical thriller that wonderfully echoes H.L. Mencken’s views on the American public…It is also a biting commentary on today’s media and viral news…Laugh-out-loud funny, and there’s something charming about Hank and his efforts to save the city. But readers looking for heartwarming resolution will be disappointed. Knipfel would sooner let New York burn."
"The Blow-Off is an engrossing, hilarious novel that also has bite and wonderfully-paced dialogue. Through Hank, Knipfel…makes insightful and humorous observations on a number of annoyances threatening to make the world a beastlier place."
-Dallas Morning News
The Blow Off
Simon and Schuster, 2011
"Jim Knipgel’s writing ages like fine wine. That is, into fine vinegar. His phenomenal memoir Slackjaw, about losing his sight to retinitis pigmentosa, was refreshingly free of self-pity, and
he never lets anyone else off the hook, either. His new novel, The Blow-off, about
a misanthropic crime reporter at a Brooklyn paper who accidentally sets off a wave of mass hysteria with an article about a local monster, is a weary, hilariously sardonic shake of the head at the media and the public's willingness, even outright desire, to get riled up over nothing in particular. There may or may not be a monster at the end of this book, but Knipfel's writing has quite a bite.
After a local drunk claims he was assaulted by a hairy, smelly apelike creature near Brooklyn’s notorious and toxic Gowanus Canal, all of New York is swept up in an absolutely insane and stupid wave of mass hysteria. Only a cranky cynic who writes the weekly crime blotter for a local pennysaver and his almost-midget friend, who runs a cheap carny sideshow, can potentially calm everyone the fuck down.
When I finished writing The Buzzing, I had dreams of turning it into an ongoing pulp series like Fu Manchu or Don Pendleton’s The Executioner, focused on the endless and unlikely misadventures of hapless newspaperman Roscoe Baragon. I was so sure it was a guaranteed winner of an idea I went ahead and sketched out the next six titles. Then I bounced the plan off my editor who responded quite simply, “ummm, no.”
Moving on to another publisher shortly thereafter I still had all these story ideas sitting around, so began adapting them to other characters. I even tried to drop Roscoe into other books, usually just as a cameo, or a vague reference, partly as a nod to those readers who liked The Buzzing, but mostly as a way to keep him around and alive and entertain myself.
The Blow-Off, I’ll be honest, is pretty much a straight sequel to The Buzzing, a version of the same story but flipped completely on its head. Here though, in the Baragon role we have a guy who looks and talks a lot like him, but has a different name. See, part of the problem is copyright. That old publisher still had rights to The Buzzing, and so I was no longer allowed to write straight Baragon books, but I could do this. And Rocky here, the almost-midget carny, was to become a regular recurring character too, but alas.
This was another one where the title caused all kinds of trouble. Originally it was to be called Are We Not Men?, a reference to the original Island of Lost Souls. But so often what is clearly the perfect title for a given book also turns out to be the perfect title for other people’s work as well. So then there was that Devo album. Worse, there were also about a dozen books out there already with the same title, so screw that. For a second I wanted to go all classy and lift something from Shakespeare with All the Devils are Here, but wouldn’t you know it? Then I wanted to use Lick the Blood from the Gutter, which would also have been appropriate, but my editor at the time, a splendid woman really and one of my best editors, nixed it with the argument the book might be mistaken for one of those dumb teen vampire numbers. Given how well those things sold I didn’t see why this was necessarily such a bad idea, but there you go.
In the end we went with an old carny term, and one I thought was equally fitting as well, but it turns out one no one can ever remember, given it sounds too much like Blow-Out, Blow Up, and any number of other slick, stylish thrillers. Oh, well. Makes sense to me, anyway.
The soundtrack for this one was Max Steiner’s amazing full score for the original King Kong.