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Friday, July 11, 2014

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. Tony Cliff (Writer & Art). First Second (2013)

Tremendously entertaining adventure story. Delilah Dirk is a globetrotting adventurer and Erdemoglu Selim is a lieutenant in the  Turkish Janissary Corps with dreams of a quiet life. When Delilah Dirk rescues Selim form being executed, a situation that Delilah Dirk caused in the first place this wonderfully entertaining, swashbuckling adventure leaps off and continues with tremendous energy to the pitch perfect conclusion. Delilah's plan to rob the Evil Pirate Captain Zakul, for revenge on his attacks on her uncle, goes as well as might be expected and the action is fast and superbly staged. The whole story is delivered with outstanding craft and attention to detail that allows the great cast to be balanced beautifully with the swordplay.
The two lead characters are superbly developed, Selim gets more time and attention as the core of the story is really his development as the adventures push him further and further out of his previous life, Delilah is wonderfully competent, confident and smart. She has less room to grow and change as she knows clearly what she wants and is going about getting it. Selim has hard choices to make and the way he makes them is unfailingly credible and natural.
Tony Cliff has made a number of really smart choices in this story and each of them contribute to the success of the book. The first one is the time and location of the story, it is set in 1807 in the Ottoman Empire, moving across Greece and Turkey. This is just the heartland for adventure, close enough to be identifiable far enough away to be exotic and dangerous. The clash of cultures is  nicely understated, the adventurous Englishwoman, tired of the constraints of her life at home and the Turkish soldier longing for the constrains of his previous life crossing a multi-cultural landscape are never used as signposts for anything.
Tony Cliff has written a story featuring a female and a male lead without the slightest hint of sexual tension between them and this very strongly supports and benefits the story, in particular for Delilah. As a female lead character sexual politics are a minefield and they inevitably change the options for the character and frequently for the worst. By simply ignoring them completely Delilah is allowed to simply be herself, pursuing adventure on her own terms without every being anything other than female.
The astonishing art is a particular benefit here, Delilah is full of energy and movement, her skirt and her hair flow in the action consistently emphasising her femininity without ever being used to slow her down. The astonishing range of facial expressions and eloquent body language for all of the cast is a joy to read. This means that the supporting cast are more than scenery, they create a deep context for the action.
Tony Cliff has put the spark back into adventure, the joy of the unexpected and the pleasures of travelling companions who have chosen the road together. A tremendous pleasure.

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