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The Good Inn: an Illustrated Screen Story of Historical Fiction

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From legendary Pixies front man, Black Francis, comes a bold and visually arresting illustrated novel about art, conflict, and the origins of a certain type of cinema. In 1907, the French battleship Iéna was destroyed when munitions it was carrying exploded, killing 120 people. A nitrocellulose-based weapon propellant had become unstable with age and self-ignited. In 1908, L From legendary Pixies front man, Black Francis, comes a bold and visually arresting illustrated novel about art, conflict, and the origins of a certain type of cinema. In 1907, the French battleship Iéna was destroyed when munitions it was carrying exploded, killing 120 people. A nitrocellulose-based weapon propellant had become unstable with age and self-ignited. In 1908, La Bonne Auberge became the earliest known pornographic film. It depicted a sexual encounter between a French soldier and an innkeeper’s daughter. Like all films at the time, and for decades afterward, it was made with a highly combustible nitrocellulose-based film stock. Loosely based on these historical events, The Good Inn follows the lone survivor of the Iéna explosion as he makes his way through the French countryside, falls deeply in love with an innkeeper’s daughter, and even more deeply into a strange counter universe. It is a volatile world where war and art exist side by side. It is also the very real story of the people who made the first narrative pornographic film. The novel weaves together real historical facts to recreate this lost piece of history, as seen through the eyes of a shell-shocked soldier who finds himself the subject and star of the world’s first stag film. Through Soldier Boy’s journey we explore the power of memory, the simultaneously destructive and healing power of light, and how the early pioneers of stag films helped shape the film industry for generations to come.


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From legendary Pixies front man, Black Francis, comes a bold and visually arresting illustrated novel about art, conflict, and the origins of a certain type of cinema. In 1907, the French battleship Iéna was destroyed when munitions it was carrying exploded, killing 120 people. A nitrocellulose-based weapon propellant had become unstable with age and self-ignited. In 1908, L From legendary Pixies front man, Black Francis, comes a bold and visually arresting illustrated novel about art, conflict, and the origins of a certain type of cinema. In 1907, the French battleship Iéna was destroyed when munitions it was carrying exploded, killing 120 people. A nitrocellulose-based weapon propellant had become unstable with age and self-ignited. In 1908, La Bonne Auberge became the earliest known pornographic film. It depicted a sexual encounter between a French soldier and an innkeeper’s daughter. Like all films at the time, and for decades afterward, it was made with a highly combustible nitrocellulose-based film stock. Loosely based on these historical events, The Good Inn follows the lone survivor of the Iéna explosion as he makes his way through the French countryside, falls deeply in love with an innkeeper’s daughter, and even more deeply into a strange counter universe. It is a volatile world where war and art exist side by side. It is also the very real story of the people who made the first narrative pornographic film. The novel weaves together real historical facts to recreate this lost piece of history, as seen through the eyes of a shell-shocked soldier who finds himself the subject and star of the world’s first stag film. Through Soldier Boy’s journey we explore the power of memory, the simultaneously destructive and healing power of light, and how the early pioneers of stag films helped shape the film industry for generations to come.

30 review for The Good Inn: an Illustrated Screen Story of Historical Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    karen

    so frank black wrote a book... not that one, you nerd! this one who proved that once you go frank black, you do indeed go back. to black francis. okay, enough hilarity. this book is something else. this is an illustrated book - not a graphic novel - based on a proposed soundtrack score for an as-yet-unwritten feature film about the very first narrative porn film in history, the good inn, of which only a few film frames survive. why does the film no longer exist? read the introduction. or better yet so frank black wrote a book... not that one, you nerd! this one who proved that once you go frank black, you do indeed go back. to black francis. okay, enough hilarity. this book is something else. this is an illustrated book - not a graphic novel - based on a proposed soundtrack score for an as-yet-unwritten feature film about the very first narrative porn film in history, the good inn, of which only a few film frames survive. why does the film no longer exist? read the introduction. or better yet, read the book. because that's what it's about, silly. it is co-written by the man who wrote Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies. is it weird to hang out socially with a guy who wrote a book about you?? do you feel compelled to write a book about him just to even things out? no one knows. it is illustrated by a cartoonist who did the art for Trompe le Monde and here is what some of the illustrations look like: and the book features recognizable historical figures like jacques tati and luis buñuel along with fictionalized amalgams of several different less-famous historical folk who combine to form the actors and other contributors to the good inn. with all the illustrations and the focus on the early days of cinema, it's kind of a more grown up version of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, more grown-up because boobies: and carnage: but it's also an explosive rollicking adventure alongside a more surreal metaphysical thread and a love story and maybe someone's head will explode and dalí will yell at a cock and then - many explosions. it's a fun read and a beautiful book-as-object, and if you are the kind of person who watches porn for the story, this is your chance to see how it all began! nameless people intercoursing without context?? boring. soldier goes to an inn and meets the innkeeper's daughter and then they begin intercoursing?? yeah, that's more like it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    Any book co-authored by a rock star immediately becomes suspect as the reader is inclined to believe their book got published over all others because they’re already famous with a built-in audience, and, after reading The Good Inn, I do wonder if it wasn’t co-written by Charles Thompson aka Black Francis, the frontman of The Pixies, whether this would’ve seen publication or not. The Good Inn is a mish-mash of things - from the blurb copy: "A book based on a soundtrack score that has not yet been Any book co-authored by a rock star immediately becomes suspect as the reader is inclined to believe their book got published over all others because they’re already famous with a built-in audience, and, after reading The Good Inn, I do wonder if it wasn’t co-written by Charles Thompson aka Black Francis, the frontman of The Pixies, whether this would’ve seen publication or not. The Good Inn is a mish-mash of things - from the blurb copy: "A book based on a soundtrack score that has not yet been composed for a feature film that does not yet exist." You can already tell it’s going to be a bit messy, can’t you? In fact, the impression that the blurb gives is a good summary of the book itself – it’s all over the place but it’s ambitious and creative. Publisher SelfMadeHero departs from their usual comics output to give us The Good Inn which is an illustrated partial screenplay/novel. Based loosely on real events and people, the book is centred around the first narrative porn film in history, La Bonne Auberge (The Good Inn), of which only a few frames still exist today. Our protagonist is Soldier Boy, a young man in turn-of-the-century France whose meandering journey begins when his battleship, the Iena, explodes in 1907. From there he eventually arrives at the inn where he will star in The Good Inn as the soldier in the scene with the innkeeper’s daughter. The rest of the book is hard to describe. In his introduction, the co-author, Josh Frank, mentions David Lynch and Terry Gilliam as the dream directors for this story which gives you an idea of the kind of book it becomes: heavily surreal. Doppelgangers appear, characters slip in and out of parallel dimensions, the fourth wall is broken, dream sequences become reality and vice versa, the story literally becomes a play at one point before reverting back to the alternating screenplay/novel format, time skips ahead; yet for all that, this isn’t a hard book to read and it’s actually quite accessible. However it is a hard-to-follow story, not least because it’s unclear just what the story, or the point of it, is. Certain metaphors make sense like the highly combustible nitrocellulose-based film stock that The Good Inn was filmed on, literally exploding as if the content itself was too steamy for film, and the connections between this film stock being used to film sex and later being used for munitions – the juxtaposition between two sides of human nature, the loving and the violent - is a clever one. But Thompson/Frank’s ideas about the background to the first “narrative” porno are quite limited. After Soldier Boy and the innkeeper’s daughter shoot their scene for the film, neither author seems to know what to do next and so anything goes. Ironically, for a book focusing on introducing narrative, it possesses very little of its own. Which begs the question, why did they feel that porn required a narrative? Does anyone sit down to a porno when they want to watch a good story or do they choose something from Scorsese or his equivalents back in the early 20th century? It’s likely that narrative was striven for to legitimise porn in an attempt to make it acceptable as art, a futile move in the early 20th century, but a brave one to remove the mystique that surrounded sex and advance society’s conservative views. Surprisingly for a book where sex plays a large role, The Good Inn is anything but seedy or even remotely arousing. Thompson/Frank’s few descriptions of sex are matter of fact (Frank’s writing is frank?), while Steven Appleby’s artwork feels like Quentin Blake’s, that is to say quite innocent and gives it the appearance of a children’s book. I do wonder if the authors’ choice of setting part of the story in France was to give Appleby the chance to draw Eiffel Towers – Appleby was the artist on The Pixies’ record, Trompe le Monde, which featured the song Alec Eiffel. Thompson is an accomplished songwriter and The Pixies are one of the most influential rock bands in history for a reason, but his surreal lyrics don’t have the same impact without the music. As if to compensate, the form switches wildly from prose to screenplay to poetry/lyrics completely randomly and for no artistic reason that’s clear, except that it matches the zigzagging story, which is to say that it’s being weird for the sake of it. The story doesn’t really have a meaning and neither do the narrative choices. On the one hand The Good Inn is a well-presented and highly creative book which sets itself apart from other books with its anarchic imagination; but by that same measure it fails, as the lack of any memorable story, strong narrative voice, direction or plot, character development or characterisation of any kind, or sense of coherence completely disconnects the reader from the text and they are very aware they are reading a knowingly “artistic” book. The Good Inn attempts to tell the story behind the world’s first narrative porno but preoccupies itself with flashy literary tricks, deploying multiple literary forms, and indulging in non-stop surrealism, in the process forgetting to tell any kind of story long before the end. It’s all style over substance and pretty slapdash style at that. What works for The Pixies on a record doesn’t work in the literary form and rather than captivate, The Good Inn is a dull and unmemorable book that makes you wonder exactly what the creators were aiming for.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    So, Black Francis, the Pixies frontman, gets together with a guy who wrote an oral history of the Pixies, and invited artist Stephen Appleby in, to make a novel about the making of the first narrative pornographic film. Interested? If I told you the telling was almost a graphic novel, with many interesting illustrations, sometimes orating itself as a screenplay, and the story is in part based on historical facts about the making of such film, would that help get you interested? I have to say for So, Black Francis, the Pixies frontman, gets together with a guy who wrote an oral history of the Pixies, and invited artist Stephen Appleby in, to make a novel about the making of the first narrative pornographic film. Interested? If I told you the telling was almost a graphic novel, with many interesting illustrations, sometimes orating itself as a screenplay, and the story is in part based on historical facts about the making of such film, would that help get you interested? I have to say for all the ambition and complications, this story feels remarkably flat and almost dull. It mostly feels narrated rather than happening, like the authors thought it was this totally interesting story but didn't exactly know how to make it come alive. The film itself, the idea for it seems interesting, but almost everything about it seems strangely dull. The feel of the book is "experimental," and maybe I could be persuaded it is more interesting than I found it in my first reading, but I have my doubts. The reason I picked up this book is NOT because I am an admirer of Black Francis or the Pixies--I (61 years old!) know nothing about their work; I picked it up because it was housed in the graphic novels section of my library and the cover art is great and the artistic production of the book with all the art in it is beautiful and interesting. In fact, the art is the best and most compelling thing about this book. But not quite enough to make the story sing for me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    André

    Throughout, I really enjoyed Appleby's illustrations (one of the main reasons for buying thus book). The prose/poems/lyrics a bit less so, particularly from about halfway through the book. The eclectic mix of lyrics, normal prose, screenplay-like directions and dialogues made the book pretty hard to follow at times, not least because you're trying to navigate reality/fiction/film/fantasy of the main character's experiences. So - a bit of a mixed bag. I really liked the setting and the idea of ha Throughout, I really enjoyed Appleby's illustrations (one of the main reasons for buying thus book). The prose/poems/lyrics a bit less so, particularly from about halfway through the book. The eclectic mix of lyrics, normal prose, screenplay-like directions and dialogues made the book pretty hard to follow at times, not least because you're trying to navigate reality/fiction/film/fantasy of the main character's experiences. So - a bit of a mixed bag. I really liked the setting and the idea of having a fictional documentary screenplay about the first Blue Movie ever made... But the execution left me a bit wanting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Perry

    Fascinating premise, amazing illustrations, creative execution. However, I wish the plot had given me something... more. I love books that push the boundary of what books can do, and I think this book does that. I just wished for something more from the actual plot of the story.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mel Newman

    Although I found the writing to be clunky and awkward and rather dry at parts, I enjoyed the mental imagery it gave me. Certainly not what I expected...glad I read it, as it was much different from what I usually read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gaela Gardner

    They should make the movie. The Book was really hard for me to grasp. The film should be done by David Lynch or the Cohen brothers or all three. I found it to be in a similar vein to Donnie Darko.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Aaron White

    Black Francis and Josh Frank (The Franks) have put together a pretty book. Much is owed to Steven Appleby’s surrealistic artwork, which is a wonderful, colorful mess (imagine those Maxine calendars infused with something like Ralph Steadman). The artwork does a lot of the heavy lifting. I haven’t counted the word-to-picture ratio, but, to me, it seemed as if the prose was seriously lacking, which is a shame. There was so much to this story, so many places it could have gone, that its execution l Black Francis and Josh Frank (The Franks) have put together a pretty book. Much is owed to Steven Appleby’s surrealistic artwork, which is a wonderful, colorful mess (imagine those Maxine calendars infused with something like Ralph Steadman). The artwork does a lot of the heavy lifting. I haven’t counted the word-to-picture ratio, but, to me, it seemed as if the prose was seriously lacking, which is a shame. There was so much to this story, so many places it could have gone, that its execution left a lot to be desired. Maybe it simply tackled too much: the duality of human nature, the fluidity of relative time, the film industry’s seedy underbelly, etc. Unlike some of the other reviews, I didn’t have an issue with the lack of structure in this book. I like the experimental construction of The Good Inn. To its credit, I think the book reads quite quickly, then slowly, and then quickly again, proving that time is indeed relative. It’s at a disadvantage, however, because it doesn’t seem to explore any of these themes in a circumspect kind of way, almost as if it leaves TOO much to the reader’s interpretation.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brian Ferguson

    Part graphic novel, part film script The Good Inn is about as bizarre an historical narrative as one could find. The plot is spatially discontinuous, vertiginous and kinda fun. It is ostensibly the story of the first pornographic film. The plot follows the simple plot in a very surreal manner and the factual back ground setting and goings-on in parallel. One effect I derived that maybe the innovations of the period setting are not as relegated to obsolescence as they might seem. The very early f Part graphic novel, part film script The Good Inn is about as bizarre an historical narrative as one could find. The plot is spatially discontinuous, vertiginous and kinda fun. It is ostensibly the story of the first pornographic film. The plot follows the simple plot in a very surreal manner and the factual back ground setting and goings-on in parallel. One effect I derived that maybe the innovations of the period setting are not as relegated to obsolescence as they might seem. The very early film era was also the onset of all the contradictions found throughout the twentieth century and culminating in the hyper-reality and synaesthesia of the 21st. Many of the artists of the time in various medias, especially Surrealists and Dadaists anticipated this. Much of this history was destroyed because of poor understanding and many achievements were and are still filtered out, including the role of salacious entertainment. This would be one film I'd definitely want to check out if it ever gets made.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Russell Taylor

    I'll admit that my familiarity with the Pixies and Black Francis' music is shallow at best, so I can't speak to this as a work reflective of any lyrical tendencies. In fact, my attempts to put the words of the occasional songs the characters break into with any sort of tune usually resulted in them being awkwardly coerced to fit nursery rhymes. Nonetheless, this is an interesting work, taking on shades of Stoppard and Gilliam in following Solider Boy as he traverses newly-minted fiction, lost fi I'll admit that my familiarity with the Pixies and Black Francis' music is shallow at best, so I can't speak to this as a work reflective of any lyrical tendencies. In fact, my attempts to put the words of the occasional songs the characters break into with any sort of tune usually resulted in them being awkwardly coerced to fit nursery rhymes. Nonetheless, this is an interesting work, taking on shades of Stoppard and Gilliam in following Solider Boy as he traverses newly-minted fiction, lost fiction, speculative reality, and known reality. Confusing at times to be sure, and some of it required a couple passes to suss out what was happening; even then, I'm sure it would make more sense on screen, or at least be forced into some sort of visual sense on its way there. The art has a casual and expressive line to it, and in places can be absorbing as one tries to map the text to the image.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joey Alison Sayers

    Reading this book was like reading someone's dream. And like hearing someone recount their dream, it felt at times like it could only make sense to the dreamer. But some of its dreamlike qualities, namely its surreality and disjointedness, contributed to its meager charm. Overall, the plot failed to hook me, but the unique mix of screenplay, song, and beautifully strange illustrations kept me tethered just enough to read the whole thing. I picked this up solely because it was co-written by Black Reading this book was like reading someone's dream. And like hearing someone recount their dream, it felt at times like it could only make sense to the dreamer. But some of its dreamlike qualities, namely its surreality and disjointedness, contributed to its meager charm. Overall, the plot failed to hook me, but the unique mix of screenplay, song, and beautifully strange illustrations kept me tethered just enough to read the whole thing. I picked this up solely because it was co-written by Black Francis, and I wanted to love it as much as I love his music. I hope he explores the novel genre more, because I feel like the potential for greatness is there, waiting to be uncovered.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Blake

    Great cover, good illustrations, plot with loads of potential, but just plain bad writing! The characters were wooden and the dialogue was stilted. For a book/screenplay/album about the beginning of the porn industry it lacked the passion of a glory hole, as I imagine did the film that inspired the story. Its saving grace was that the awkward rhythm was consistent with the unsteady dreamscape structure of the plot. I think I understand the choices made to keep it uneasy, but it was ultimately un Great cover, good illustrations, plot with loads of potential, but just plain bad writing! The characters were wooden and the dialogue was stilted. For a book/screenplay/album about the beginning of the porn industry it lacked the passion of a glory hole, as I imagine did the film that inspired the story. Its saving grace was that the awkward rhythm was consistent with the unsteady dreamscape structure of the plot. I think I understand the choices made to keep it uneasy, but it was ultimately unlikeable as well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Fred

    The premise of constructing a history of the first "blue movie" and its relation to a maritime disaster involving the same unstable chemicals used in early film is interesting, but the execution is a meager attempt at experimental film-making, with no film to show for it. I get the feeling if it were to be translated to film, it might contain some arresting imagery (ala the Bros. Quay), but little else in way of characters or story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kassidy

    I received this book free through Goodreads Giveaways (The ARC) This book was very interesting and quirky. I liked the writing style and the drawings, I'm not sure if the official copy will be in color, but it doesn't matter anyway, the book was still good overall. I really enjoyed the read, it didn't blow my mind completely but I did have a fun time reading it. It was very interesting and I suggest that you read it too :)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mapleliz

    The book is hard to follow at points, but I believe that is the point. I am a bit biased towards this, as a fan of the Pixies, but regardless I appreciate Black Francis's first attempt at a full-length novel. The concept itself is fascinating: a blend of the real, the imaginative, boat explosions, pornography, a reconstructed multi-verse theory, and Paris in the early 20th century. Would recommend to anyone looking for a surreal read, but WARNING: THIS BOOK IS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    If you are a fan of the Pixies and Black Francis, then this part-screenplay, part graphic novel, part history book, and part fiction may be up your alley. Although, I was intrigued by the concept, I found that it was a jumble of each and yet, not complete. It is a fast read, and I really wanted to enjoy it. Many other gave it rave reviews, but it was just okay in my eyes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Henderson

    I was excited to recieve this book as a Goodreads first reads. This book was an incredible look at the history of cinema. The book was sometimes hard to follow and this book requires your full attention in order to grasp what is going on. Overall this book was really interesting and unlike anything that I have ever read before.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This could have been wonderful, but I was disappointed. It's the story, sort of, of the making of the first porno movies, which were made in Paris in the first decade of the 20th century. The telling is unfortunately overly stylized, surrealistic, when the story itself (of cultural mores, film history, burgeoning technology) is easily fascinating enough to have been told straight.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Better than I could have expected, a very fun and surreal adventure through the looking glass with Michel Gondry providing the visuals. whimsical and only slightly bawdy illustrations carry it along and keep it brisk

  20. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Confusing and dismal...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    I loved the illustrations but I don't see how this would translate into a viable movie. I'm disappointed.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Not quite a screenplay, not quite a graphic novel, not quite historical fiction, this weird little mashup tries to be all things to all people and falls short.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    No. Just no.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    If this were a movie, I'd totally watch it. Evidently reading screenplays (or pseudo-screenplays?) is not for me. Quit on page 59.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Miranda

    Graphic novel, screen play...just pick one and go with it. Not both.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah

    Shares some ideas with Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. I think the whole thing would work better on film than in book form.

  27. 5 out of 5

    El

    Two words: Black. Francis.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark Taylor

    Experimental fiction is often tedious and annoying, The Good Inn isn't. I found the unusual approach to story very effective and a lot if fun.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Johanna Ziegler

    The concept is really fascinating, the execution doesn't quite reach its potential though. I love the illustrations.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pepi

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