WHO WACKED ROGER RABBIT?
by Gary K. Wolf
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In 1988, movie-goers were introduced to Eddie Valiant and Roger Rabbit when the film The Framed Roger Rabbit? was released to theatres. The mix of live action and animation caught the public's attention and many people clamored for a sequel, as yet unmade. What many of those fans didn't know was that the filmed was loosely based on a 1981 novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, written by Gary K. Wolf. Wolf further obliged the fans with a sort-of sequel, Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? in 1991 and now a third Roger Rabbit novel, Who Wacked Roger Rabbit?
The novel opens with Eddie Valiant being hired by a low-budget film maker, Barney Sands, to protect Gary Cooper, who was about to co-star with Roger Rabbit in a film called Hi Toon. Against his better judgment, since the job would involve a lengthy visit to Toontown, but drawn by the large amount of cash Sands is willing to pay, Valiant accepts the job and soon finds himself reunited with Roger as the crew scouts film locations in Toontown and comes face-to-face with Willy Prosciutto, a pig whose below-the-board activities allow him to run Toontown.
For those only familiar Toontown as it was depicted in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Wolf's original is a much different place. Rather than speak, most Toon's use word balloons, as in comic strips, to get their points across (or to obfuscate those same points). Prosciutto's control of Toontown seems to be everywhere, from City Hall to the schools. Fortunately for Valiant, although he hates to enter Toontown unless absolutely necessary, he does have allies, not just Roger and Jessica, but also Ring Wordhollow, Toontown's leading expert on deciphering word balloons and identifying who spoke them.
Wolf has created a plot based on assassination attempts, Prosciutto's corrupt hold on Toontown, and the possible murder of Clabber Clown, a toon who owns Toonie Island Amusement Park on the Toontown shore. Although it is clear that more people are involved in the conspiracy Valiant is examining than he first realizes, the mystery for the reader is how the pieces fit together and how (and why) specific people are involved in the crimes and cover-ups.
Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? is a quick-paced, light-hearted mystery. Some of Wolf's toon-based jokes seem a little obvious, which isn't a bad thing, and others seem to be repeated, from the film if not from the previous novels. While Roger Rabbit seems pretty close to the way he was depicted in the film, Eddie Valiant's character is rougher, less refined than Bob Hoskin's portrayal, and his relationship with Roger and Jessica is much more complex. Wolf created these characters and feels free to play around with them, as noted by the lack of continuity between the three books, but he also knows these characters and everything they do feels natural for them, even taking Roger's toonishness into consideration.
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