Born in 1917, Millard Kaufman plunged into World War II on Guadalcanal as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, then made D-Day landings on Guam and Okinawa. He co-created the beloved Mr. Magoo and was twice nominated for screenwriting Oscars—in 1954 for Take the High Ground! and in 1956 for the legendary Bad Day at Black Rock. His first novel, Bowl of Cherries, was published by McSweeney’s in 2007.
Jack Hopkins, an ill-fated real-estate agent with an unhappy past, doesn’t like what he does for a living. Luckily, though, he has two new job offers: Darlene Hunt wants to pay him ten million dollars to kill her husband, and her husband wants to hire him to kill Darlene Hunt. Before he can figure out who to work for, though, or how a private island off the coast of Mexico fits into it all, the dead bodies have already started piling up. The second novel from Millard Kaufman—nonagenarian author, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, and World War II Marine—Misadventure is a serpentine murder mystery set against a backdrop of LA real-estate schemes, ruby-wearing femmes fatale, and more love triangles than any one man should attempt to get into. Written with a style and flair that’s reminiscent of Chinatown by way of the Coen Brothers, it’s an unforgettable addition to the genre—a noir par excellence, with wit to match.
"[Misadventure] is a terrific California hard-boiled tale.… Savvy readers will recognize and relish the Double Indemnity-like terrain of Kaufman's tale.… Misadventure, which brims over with black humor and terse dialogue, gives new meaning to the Bette Davis line, 'Old age ain't for sissies.' Kaufman, who as a Marine fought at Guadalcanal and then later tackled novel writing in his twilight years, was no sissy."—Maureen Corrigan, NPR
"Misadventure contains all the quick-fire, lingo-saturated dialogue of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross with the twisting plot arcs of a Coen Brothers noir. Millard Kaufman, one of the creators of the Mr. Magoo cartoon character, weaves a story full of distinctive oddities, mystery worthy of Hitchcock, humor, and overdrawn characters (in the best way possible).… The book is humorously sprawling, always reaching for unexpected extremes. The beauty is in the peculiar details. This is not boilerplate pulp. There are few writers who could so seamlessly weave pulp mystery and the genre conventions with such huge laughs and distinctive details."—Dustin Luke Nelson, Bookslut
"Moving from palatial Malibu to sleazy inner-city Los Angeles and beyond, Kaufman, best known as the cocreator of Mr. Magoo, shows a penchant for surprising twists. The book’s outrageous situations and fast-talking dialogue keep the intrigue running high. Kaufman died last year at the age of 92, and Misadventure, following the 2007 Bowl of Cherries, is his second and final novel. Full of solid prose and comically twisted moments, it makes us wish he’d penned a few more."—Josh Frank, TimeOut New York
"From page one, Misadventure sparkles with the late writer’s wit and wisdom. His prose is precise, efficient, and often surprising.... A rollicking comic-noir page-turner that is equal parts Elmore Leonard and Dashiell Hammett, with bits of Glengarry Glen Ross and Lolita thrown in for good measure."—Kevin Hobson, The Rumpus
Rights: McSweeney’s, Hardcover World
BOWL OF CHERRIES (2007)
Bowl of Cherries rivals the liveliest comic epics for giddy wordplay and gleeful invention. Kicked out of Yale at the age of fourteen, Judd Breslau falls in with Phillips Chatterton, a bathrobe-wearing Egyptologist working out of a dilapidated home laboratory. Entranced by Chatterton's daughter, Valerie, Breslau abandons his studies and decides to move in with the eccentric scientist and assist with research. But the work is not what Judd had thought and, mesmerized by Valerie, Breslau follows her to a number of strange locales—a secret attic in her father's home, a Colorado equestrian ranch, and a porn studio beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Judd ultimately makes his way to the forlorn Iraqi province of Assama, ending up in a jail cell from which he narrates the novel, awaiting his execution while war rages on around him.Kaufman's debut is a book of astounding breadth and sharp consequences, containing all the joy, madness, terror, and doubt of adolescence and everything after.
"Kaufman's screwball sensibility, relish for language, gleeful vulgarism and deep sympathy for his characters make this novel an unprecedented joyride. Whether it's due to his being alive for 90 years or not, Kaufman's book is shot through with worldly wit and a keen sense of the humor in human foibles."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[Kaufman] is a wildly imaginative and funny writer…an ageless author who is ripe for a new audience.”—Los Angeles Times
“Equal parts Catcher in the Rye and Die Hard.”—The New Yorker
“A smart, zany comedy . . . That weird incongruity between highbrow/lowbrow humor is only part of what makes Bowl of Cherries so irresistible. Kaufman's comic imagination, his ability to mix things scatological and historical, political and philosophical, reminds one of those young'uns Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. The ridiculous slapstick in Assama is straight from Woody Allen's Don't Drink the Water, and a cameo appearance by a goofy President Bush will take you back to Dr. Strangelove. But Kaufman seems to have more heart than those '60s satirists; his precocious young hero pulls on our sympathies even as he trudges on through absurdity.” —Ron Charles, Washington Post
“A freewheeling comedy that careens from a Colorado horse ranch to an Iraqi prison to a porn studio underneath the Brooklyn Bridge . . . Bowl of Cherries is the work of a writer unshackled, finally able to use vocabulary and structure verboten in Hollywood.”—Rolling Stone
“When you read Bowl of Cherries, you will know that this writer is a reader . . . the modus operandi of this book is to find a way to laugh at anything . . . I haven’t had this kind of fun in a long time.”—Michael Silverblatt
Rights: McSweeney’s, Hardcover World Rights; Grove, Paperback World