Condimental Op, The

Condimental Op, The

Noir, surrealism, comicbook asides and dystopian, hardboiled moments collide with snapshots of contemporary culture in Andrez Bergen's bag of tricks.


CATEGORIZED IN

A collection of noir, surreal stories, comicbook asides, hardboiled moments, fantasy, dystopia, sci-fi, snapshots of Japanese culture, and the existentialism of contemporary experimental electronic music.
This is Bergen's baptismal short story collection, bringing together recent short stories, never-before-seen older material, new comicbook art, and a range of incisive pop-culture articles written about music and Japan from 1999 to 2013.

REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

I'll start out by saying that The Condimental Op, by Andrez Bergen, is simply sprawling in nature. Included within are both fiction and non-fiction; short stories and graphic adaptations, plus alternate and reworked takes on some past fiction. It's got some great art, definitely including the cover. It comes to us courtesy of Andrez's daughter Cocoa, which shows that talent runs in the family. I'll be reviewing this in sections, and concentrating on my favorites, due to the large amount of material contained in this collection. So, on to part one. The first section of the collection mainly contains stand alone short stories. The forewords by Andrez are worth the price of admission alone. That said, I'd recommend reading the stories first, and then coming back to the forewords. That way you get to have a fresh view of the stories. It's up to you, though. 'Sugar and Spice' tells the tale of two teenage delinquents planning a heist... of a comic book store. Needless to say, all does not go as planned. It may just be me, but I find the proceedings darkly humorous. I can't get the thought of the heist from Reservoir Dogs, via the comic shop from The Simpsons out of my head. Ha! I apologize. Very good story. Moving on, 'Victor Victoria' is my favorite from this section. An action-packed tale of aerial combat in WWI, it reminds me of the Biggles series by W.E. Johns. With a certain sly humor throughout, it definitely entertains. Plus, the ending is hilarious. Rounding out my trio of favorite tales, we have 'A Woman of Sense'. A tale of a female mercenary hired by a petty lord to be his bodyguard... at least that's what he says. Things go a bit off track from the jump, and a bit of carnage ensues. Once again, it;s the humor that really wins me over. Apparently Andrez had a bit of trouble getting this published, which really boggles my mind. Very nice. While these are my three favorites, all the stories in this section are worth reading, and highly recommended. The next section contains four stories dealing with the adventures of Roy Scherer and Suzie Miller. Partners in the detective agency of Scherer and Miller, Investigators of the Paranormal and Supermundane, they certainly live up to the agency's title. Through the course of the stories they deal with a zombie (but not really a zombie), a vampire, and a possessed typewriter. The fourth story is a bit longer, and doesn't feature Suzie. It's a prequel, with a much younger and less acerbic Roy, stumbling onto what will be his first case. While a bit hard to pick favorites, if pushed, I'll have to go with 'Lazarus Slept' and 'Revert to Type'. In 'Lazarus' our heroes investigate a possible case of a zombie running amok. Although things aren't quite kosher with the whole zombie identification, Roy's rather blunt approach handles business rather nicely. Things are a bit more complicated with 'Revert to Type'. Called on by a client who claims to have a possessed typewriter, Roy quickly classes the guy as a total nutter. Proved wrong, Roy's usual straight-ahead way of operating blows up in his face. This is really Suzie's moment to shine, and is a total joy. Really great. Half the fun in these tales are watching Roy go about business; the other half is Suzie annoying the hell out of him. Has a whole lot of "laugh out loud" moments throughout the various stories. I'm a big fan of the characters, and hopefully we will see more of them in the future. The third section revisits the dystopian world of Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. Sci-fi filtered through the darkest noir, I'd highly recommend picking it up. The duo of Floyd Maquina and Laurel Canyon are feautured in the first two stories, 'Come Out Swinging' and 'Dread Fellow Churls'. Both stories revolve around a rescue attempt, although the latter is pulled off a bit more smoothly. 'Neck-Tied' features a fellow Seeker (a combination of detective/tracker, Floyd being one as well) in a rather desperate situation. 'In-Dreamed' is a story of Floyd's supposedly dead wife, Veronica; she is apparently alive, after all. The ending is a nice twist. She also features (In my mind, at least. Andrez leaves it up to the reader.) in my favorite of two graphic adaptations included in this section, 'Waiting For Sod All'. As I really enjoyed TSMG, these continuations and off-shoots are greatly appreciated, including the ones not mentioned. All in all, gritty, dark, and shot through with a touch of gallows humor. Really, what's not to like? The final section, fittingly entitled 'Ransacking the Archive', brings together a variety of materiel, most of it non-fiction articles. Starting out with a number of prose selections written in 1989, it moves through critiques of food, film, music, and culture. Setting down an account of the weeks leading up to the birth of his daughter, Cocoa, is the most personal of these entries. This may or may-not be your cup of tea, but I found them fascinating. Very glad they were included, since I believe they give a bit of insight on the events that helped shape the author's works. Plus, I just like reading reviews. Well, there it is. Overall, an excellent collection, which I would highly recommend. Goes without saying that the forewords and acknowledgements are required reading, as well. Here's where you can pick up a copy. If you'd like to know a bit more about the author, pop over to Andrez's blog. ~ Shawn Michael Vogt, Weird and Wonderful Reads

"A fighter pilot whose 'first bona fide blunder of the war was when I shot a goddess between the eyes'; spinoffs of a novel set in apocalyptic Melbourne; two 'investigators of the paranormal and supermundane' who spend their cases firing more insults than bullets; articles on sumo wrestling, pregnancy, Japanese cinema, electronica; email excerpts and comic strips; Andrez Bergen has experimented with diverse genres and media during his career, and The Condimental Op stirs these together to mix the 'cocktail' its subtitle promises. Fans of Bergen's novels, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, will enjoy this anthology of his shorter and more obscure work, but The Condimental Op is also a good starting point for newcomers. Sample a blend of noir, fantasy, alternate history, dystopia, non-fiction; if one style does not suit your taste, another will. Bergen's stories are like slaps—short, sharp, brutal. Yet they also overflow with pop culture references (his expertise as a movie journalist is clear), irreverent jokes, and endearing characters. A section of 'tobacco-stained offshoots' may run a little long for readers unfamiliar with Bergen's first novel, but the characters are intriguing enough to compensate. His non-fiction is fascinating, particularly to anyone interested in Japan—he has lived there for twelve years, and his insights into the culture combine Australian perspective and local knowledge. Also entertaining is the book's italicised commentary—self-deprecating asides in which Bergen explains context, quotes feedback, and apologises for parts he suspects need further work. His decision to include less-polished pieces—in 'the spirit of history'—is refreshingly honest and adds variety. The Condimental Op's conversational tone and wicked humour make the book fun despite its frequently dark content. Prepare yourself for tipsiness, and take a sip of this surrealist cocktail." ~ Deanne Sheldon-Collins, Aurealis Magazine

If you’ve ever wanted to peek behind the curtain and get a glimpse of an author’s life, 'The Condimental Op' is for you. From the cover (drawn by Bergen’s young daughter Cocoa) to short stories spun from scrapped scenes in 'Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat', 'One Hundred Years of VIcissitude' and 'Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?', and non-fiction articles from his past life as a journalist, Bergen delivers a sort-of DVD Extras/Bonus Content/B-sides collection. And it’s genuine fun. The short stories republished from recent anthologies/e-zines (All Due Respect, Weird Noir, Off the Record 2, Big Pulp, Pulp Ink 2 and more) are great, but Bergen’s commentary on editing (the process as well as cutting scenes and tweaking them for the collection) and his non-fiction articles really stuck out for me. I’m a huge fan of Satoshi Kon (R.I.P.) and it was a pleasant surprise to read a review of his film 'Paprika' – made me grab it off the shelf along with 'Paranoia Agent' to throw in the queue for a watch. And, Bergen got to work with Production I.G. (count me jealous) – recounting his role in assisting the company achieve a natural English translation. Overall, the book was a refreshing treat and a format I’d like to see other authors pursue. 'The Condimental Op' hits the stands on July 26, 2013. ~ CHRIS IRVIN, HOUSE LEAGUE FICTION

When you read The Condimental Op by Andrez Bergen, have a Google tab open nearby. Over the course of the anthology, you’ll undoubtedly want to look a few things up. This is not to imply that the book is somehow vague or hard to understand, or that you’ll need to research a lot of obscure references in order to follow along. There ARE a lot of references in this book—famous film scenes he makes reference to, book characters he says inspired him, music he discusses, and an eclectic array of other things—but many of them are familiar, and the ones that aren’t, he explains adeptly. However, he explains these references SO well—whether it’s the oeuvre of Akira Kurosawa, his in-depth look at the history of electronic music, or the numerous literary allusions to hardboiled noir—that the titles you aren’t familiar with, you’ll be eager to check out for yourself. Including Bergen’s own other books, which he discusses freely throughout. Bergen is an author, journalist, and DJ, born in Australia and currently living in Tokyo, Japan. The Condimental Op is a collection of short pieces, spanning his rather fascinating career. Most of it is short fiction, in a variety of genres. There are also a few articles, reviews, and other journalistic pieces, as well as a couple of short comics, and even a brief section of poetry. Each piece is preceded by Bergen’s commentary on it, providing a bit of history and background. These insights into the author’s work are often nearly as interesting as the work itself. Though some of them may have been better placed after the stories they describe, rather than before, as once or twice, the thoughts and anecdotes on the stories he’s describing give away the ending of the story itself. Some of the pieces are better than others—a fact which Mr. Bergen freely admits. There are pieces that were rejected from publication elsewhere, as well as stories he just wasn’t satisfied with, or couldn’t quite make work. These stories are flawed, but still entertaining. Others are mildly interesting, but ultimately forgettable. Most of them are good, though, and generally a lot of fun. The best section is his series of stories about a pair of characters named Roy and Suzie: a bickering, odd couple detective duo that investigates supernatural phenomena. Their antics are hilarious, as they argue about trivialities while various monsters try to kill them. It would be nice to see a full novel about Roy and Suzie, or at least an anthology of their own. Roy and Suzie’s antics are followed by another interesting section, a series of scenes and short stories set in the world of Bergen’s first novel: a dystopian sci-fi noir thriller called Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. The section is mostly hardboiled noir vignettes, featuring a series of tough characters in a series of intense situations. If you haven’t read the book (which I haven’t), this section may take some time to get into. Who these characters are and what kind of world they’re living in isn’t very clear at first. But, as you read more (of both the stories and the commentary), it becomes easier to follow, until finally, by the end of the section, you’ll want to read the novel. That’s a theme that’s prevalent throughout the anthology. Bergen makes frequent references to his other novels, from Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat to his surreal, slipstream fantasy, One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, to his upcoming superhero novel, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? When he jumps headlong into discussing the content of one of his novels, it can be difficult to keep up if you haven’t read it. But, as the book goes on, the confusion gradually dissipates. He talks about the plots of his books, introduces us to the characters, and even includes a couple of teasers. By the end, you’ll know each one intimately. It almost makes you wonder if it’s a clever marketing ploy on Bergen’s part. Using this book to get the reader hooked and wanting to read the rest of his books as well. If this is the case, then the ploy totally works. Before I’d even finished reading The Condimental Op, I’d downloaded Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and volunteered to read and review Capes of Heropa. Marketing ploy or not, I’m eager to experience more of Bergen’s work. Or maybe the whole “marketing ploy” thing is just me being cynical. It’s more likely that he keeps referencing his novels, because they’re such an important part of his life—the benchmarks by which he measures many of the other, concurrent events going on in his life. Like anything else in the anthology, he talks about his novels, because he’s passionate about them. Bergen certainly wears his passions on his sleeve. He loves noir and hardboiled detective stories, specifically the works of Raymond Chandler. And, he not only knows the genre well enough to make references, he’s also talented at writing in it, delivering a number of compelling stories in the noir style. In addition to noir, he also gives us a basic tour of DJs and music, comics and superhero lore, Japanese films and culture, and a smattering of B-movie science fiction. And, he manages to get us excited about each topic. The Condimental Op affords us an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of Andrez Bergen. And, what a fascinating and diverse world that is. ~ STEVEN W. ALLOWAY, THE FANBOY SCOOP

Welcome to the first posting of The Pulp Braggart, my replacement site for the currently defunct Fractious Fantasy… which I sometimes felt restricted the areas in which I could roam. By looking, instead, at pulp I can rove through fantasy as well as science fiction, detective fiction, action, adventure, and so on. In fact my first posting here was going to be a reevaluation of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, published in 1993 by American writer/filmmaker Sherman Alexie through Atlantic Monthly Press, compared and contrasted with the original TV show (1949 to 1957) starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. What better way, I felt, to prove my pulp chops? This was before a book titled The Condimental Op fell my way. Yes, that is a deliberate play on words, if you know your Samuel Dashiell Hammett. Hammett’s hardboiled detective The Continental Op made his debut in an October 1923 issue of the pulp bible Black Mask magazine. 90 years later Australian writer-based-in-Japan Andrez Bergen has the cheek to reference and tinker with Hammett’s iconic title. Does he get away with it? In spades – one of the reasons Bergen effectively pushed former Texas Ranger Reid and his native American sidekick off the dinner table of this page. But don’t worry, they’ll return in a future posting; I’m already humming “March of the Swiss Soldiers”, the finale of Gioachino Rossini‘s William Tell Overture. Instead, here I’m going to serve up a dish best served any which way you prefer, since it so effectively appeases all tastes: Bergen’s aforementioned The Condimental Op, a new book that will be out in July 2013, through British-based publishers Perfect Edge Books. It’s an anthology in the loosest definition, since the 300+ pages here explore diverse forms of media including the written short story (the bulk of the book), along with comic book art, high-brow visuals, comedy, articles (about Japan, music, earthquakes and film), and a glance at Bergen’s ulterior career subtitling Japanese anime. In the bio notes at the back of the book I note that he’s worked with Mamoru Oshii – the director of The Pulp Braggart favorite Ghost in the Shell. Genre-wise, this is a broad-minded pulp aficionado’s dream. It roves through quirky crime fiction (the opening story “Sugar & Spice”), Biggles-style boys’ own fantasy, with tongue-definitely in-cheek (“Victor Victoria”) and seriously sad, moving sci-fi dystopia (“In-Dreamed”). I very much enjoyed the cheeky spotlight on Akira Kurosawa‘s favorite actor Toshiro Mifune (Yojimbo) and the hilarious spotlights on Japanese cultural icons. Mostly, however, I was struck by Bergen’s voice. While this does come across in the stories and the articles, it’s most prevalent in his frank, honest, funny interludes between the entries. Here Bergen has done something quite unique in that he’s stitched everything together with a running commentary that places everything in context – very much like the DVD extras commentary people like to watch. No surprise that the man is a journalist, since it’s a fitting analysis and makes The Condimental Op a surprisingly flowing package of different jewels. The anthology is now available for pre-order through Amazon. By the way, Bergen confesses that some of this material relates to Bergen’s previous novels (Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and One Hundred Years of Vicissitude). I’ve read neither and this was in no way an issue to hurdle. However, the anthology did inspire me to unfurl my napkin and go dine on both those books. The Condimental Op also struck me as a fitting way in which to launch The Pulp Braggart, since it covers such a wide range of styles, much in the way I would also like to do here. ~ László Löwenstein, THE PULP BRAGGART

"Andrew Bergen is a talented, talented man. 'The Condimental Op' is a little bit superb. You know how collections can feel compressed? Not this - the perfect read for a sunny weekend. I mean, what a way to kick off a short: "Rankine lifted his head off the floor and peered at his gut, at the blood pumping out of the big hole in his shirtfront, running down the sides and creating a huge puddle on the carpet. “Crap,” he muttered." ~ JONNY GIBBINGS, author MALICE IN BLUNDERLAND

"Andrez Bergen's writing is bursting with madcap energy. His protagonists are wry wisecrackers, his plots are zany and his stories proceed at warp speed to Planet Pulp, where the noir is served on the rocks with a dash of wildly inventive fun. Pour yourself a measure of The Condimental Op and find out for yourself." ~ GUY SALVIDGE, author YELLOWCAKE SPRINGS

'The Condimental Op' (a riff on 'The Continental Op' by Dashiell Hammett) is a collection of short stories, comics, art, and articles, and serves as a kind of DVD Bonus Features for his work, especially 'Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat', with cover art by his 6 year old daughter Cocoa. I love this sort of thing. I’m mad for Special Features. Want proof? I bought the blu-ray of 'Prometheus', a film I hated, just because it had a great collection of special features and I wanted to see if they redeemed the film in any way (they didn’t). My favourite short story here is 'Victor Victoria', a Biggles-ish type romp. Great stuff. Followed closely by 'Revert to Type', which features Andrez’s "Investigators of the Paranormal and Supermundane", Roy & Suzie (who also show up in a couple of other stories). It also includes some pieces on living in Japan, and if you’re interested in Andrez’s career as a musician (as Little Nobody), you’ll be happy that he writes about the music industry as well. Overall, 'The Condimental Op' is not as essential as his novels 'Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat' and 'One Hundred Years of Vicissitude' but they do make a great package together, much like a DVD boxed set, and help round out the Andrez Bergen experience. ~ NERD CULTURE PODCAST

"Fans of Bergen's novels Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat and One Hundred Years of Vicissitude will enjoy this anthology of his shorter and more obscure work, but The Condimental Op is also a good starting point for newcomers. Sample a blend of noir, fantasy, alternate history, dystopia, non-fiction; if one style does not suit your taste — another will." ~ , Aurealis Magazine

"Simply sprawling in nature — overall, an excellent collection, which I would highly recommend." ~ , Weird and Wonderful Reads

"I'm captivated by these stories." ~ NICOLAS GOMES, Artist

"Genuine fun and a refreshing treat." ~ HOUSE LEAGUE FICTION

"The Condimental Op affords us an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of Andrez Bergen. And, what a fascinating and diverse world that is." ~ FANBOY COMICS

"The artwork/storytelling is fab! Especially the noir bits... its a cracker. I also have say I love the cover art—coming from a seven-year-old, this is lovely work and your daughter could definitely score a future in Illustration if she keeps at it." ~ DHARSHANA RATNAYAKE, artist

"it looks really cool and certainly right up my alley." ~ LOUIE JOYCE, artist

"An anthology in the loosest definition, genre-wise, this is a broad-minded pulp aficionado’s dream. It roves through quirky crime fiction, Biggles-style boys’ own fantasy (with tongue definitely in-cheek) and seriously sad, moving sci-fi dystopia. Mostly, however, I was struck by Bergen’s voice. While this does come across in the stories and the articles, it’s most prevalent in his frank, honest, funny interludes between the entries. No surprise that the man is a journalist, since it’s a fitting analysis and makes The Condimental Op a surprisingly flowing package of different jewels." ~ THE PULP BRAGGART

"Andrew Bergen is a talented, talented man. 'The Condimental Op' is a little bit superb. You know how collections can feel compressed? Not this - the perfect read for a sunny weekend. I mean, what a way to kick off a short: "Rankine lifted his head off the floor and peered at his gut, at the blood pumping out of the big hole in his shirtfront, running down the sides and creating a huge puddle on the carpet. “Crap,” he muttered." ~ JONNY GIBBINGS, author MALICE IN BLUNDERLAND

In a modern age of conspiracies and corporate agglomerates, I think Raymond Chandler would be pleased as to where [Andrez] Bergen has taken his legacy… ~ ZOUCH MAGAZINE

Andrez Bergen put science fiction, noir, Australia and Japan into a literary hadron collider and 'Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat' came out. ~ THE THOUSANDS MAGAZINE

A fantastic addition to the fiction genre, like nothing I have ever read before. ~ NERDY BOOK REVIEWS

One of the most creative and engaging books I’ve ever read. Period. My mind is completely blown. ~ REVIEWS BY ELIZABETH A. WHITE

An incredible novel, completely unexpected and with such a wonderfully rich and unique style that is simply mesmerizing, unmissable. ~ SF BOOK REVIEWS

Dreamlike and bewitchingly evocative. ~ THE FLAWED MIND

Unique and memorable — indescribable, exhilarating. ~ FORCES OF GEEK

A postmodern dexterity of Cirque du Soleil proportions. ~ FARRAGO MAGAZINE

A witty voyage of ideas, history, pop culture, style, characters and scenes that are unforgettable. ~ RAYMOND EMBRACK (AUTHOR)

A strange mixture of science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. ~ A FANTASTICAL LIBRARIAN

Bergen relishes wacky tangents and dives head-first into philosophical dialogues that prove to be some of the most satisfying parts of his books. ~ DEATH BY KILLING

Engrossing and visual... with gorgeous, subtle moments. ~ LIP MAGAZINE

Jumps from the brush and drags you to uncharted lands. It has been a while since I had this childlike joy at turning the page. ~ JOSH STALLINGS (AUTHOR)

Terrific stuff, truly unique. ~ HEATH LOWRANCE (AUTHOR)

A cracking great story. ~ BRITISH FANTASY SOCIETY

Terrific! ~ BARE*BONES

What a delightful and unusual read. ~ PULP INK

Wonderful... This is what good literary fiction reads like. ~ ALWAYSUNMENDED

Turns its nose up at pretentious literature. ~ INSOMNIA PRESS MAGAZINE

Exquisite... incredibly touching and devastating in its beauty. ~ MCDROLL (AUTHOR/REVIEWER)

"Andrez Bergen's writing is bursting with madcap energy. His protagonists are wry wisecrackers, his plots are zany and his stories proceed at warp speed to Planet Pulp, where the noir is served on the rocks with a dash of wildly inventive fun. Pour yourself a measure of The Condimental Op and find out for yourself." ~ GUY SALVIDGE, author YELLOWCAKE SPRINGS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrez Bergen
Andrez Bergen Melbourne-born Andrez Bergen is an expatriate Australian author, journalist, DJ, photographer and musician, based in Tokyo, Japan, over the ...
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