(Long entry, but there’s a giveaway at the end!)
In 2004, I was working on a hurricane clean up crew in south Florida. One night, after my shift, I caught a television program unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was hip, dark, smart, funny, complex, fascinating. It was about a teenager in California whose life had fallen apart between one year and the next: her boyfriend stopped speaking to her, her best friend was murdered, her father, the small-town sheriff, blamed the best friend’s father for the murder and subsequently lost his job, her mother left them, her friends all stopped speaking to her because of the bungled murder investigation, and to top off a fabulous year, she was drugged and raped at a party. This all happens in the pilot. But did she crawl into a hole? No. She got tough. She got even.
Because of my work, I was unable to watch the show as it aired, but when the DVD of the first season came out, I caught up. The show blew my mind. They’d created a fan for life. Veronica Mars is Heathers meets Chinatown. It’s dark, it’s twisted, it’s funny, it’s brilliant. The characters are amazing, the plots well crafted. When the killer is revealed (at the end of season one) Sailor Boy had to pause the DVD because of my gasping and exclamations of disbelief. It’s the only television show I’ve ever seen that could supplant Buffy the Vampire Slayer as my favorite.
It’s the television show that made me love mysteries.
Tonight is the last episode of Veronica Mars. It had a three-season run. the second season was pretty good (though it couldn’t supplant season one), and the third season is having difficulty finding its footing with the triple bugbears of “main characters move to college,” “change in season-long mystery format,” and move to fledgling network the CW. I’m looking forward to the cliffhanger two-hour season (now series) finale tonight, but though I mourn the show’s passing, I don’t know how it could ever again become the show that so entranced me during the first season. For me, the show is about how Veronica soldiered on after her world fell apart and made everything right. I applaud Rob Thomas for not dragging out the mysteries past the end of the first season (cough cough, X-Files, cough cough) but at the same time, it made VM a better candidate for a 26 episode miniseries than an ongoing show.
That being said, I love this show, and in honor of the finale, today, I’m giving away two copies of NEPTUNE NOIR, Unauthorized Investigations Into Veronica Mars, which is the latest title in the Benbella Books’ Smart Pop line.* Neptune Noir is edited by none of than Rob Thomas, the creator of Veronica Mars, and he opens each critical essay with editorial notes that help give inside information into what the writers and producers were thinking (or not) when they included that element. I was so excited when I got a chance to review an advanced copy.
I LOVED THIS BOOK.
It’s an absolute must read for fans of Veronica Mars, but more than that, it’s a must-read for fans of storytelling. Contributors include novelists like Evelyn Vaughan and Lani Diane Rich, literary and film critics like Pulitzer Prize finalist Joyce Millman and Heather Havrilesky, psychologist Misty Hook, professors Amanda Ann Klein and Lynne Edwards, and Television Without Pity recapper John Ramos. The tone ranges from tongue in cheek rankings of VM’s noir factor to camp factor (Rich’s essay) to an in-depth analysis of the show’s take on class and race relations (Edwards’s), but each is insightful, mind-expanding and delicious. I devoured them all, as a fan of the show and also as a professional storyteller.
My favorites were Geoff Klock’s breakdown of story structure in the season one finale (I disagree with him on one of the acts, but still a fascinating read, especially if you’re a structure geek like me), Evelyn Vaughn on the power of narrative, and Joyce Millman on Veronica’s amazing and complex relationship with her father (which, IMO, kicks the Gilmore Girls’ asses when it comes to portraying the parent/child bond, and it isn’t event eh main focus of the show!) and how this relationship affects her romantic interests. I don’t know what Keith Mars would think about his similarities to Logan. (Cute picture, huh? Ah, LoVe.)
Inside the pages of Neptune Noir, you’ll find:
* Inside info into the casting choices
* The truth about the “plans” for Logan’s character
* A celebration of everything that so scandalously fabulous about the Casablancases.
* Buffy vs. Veronica
* Is Veronica the voice of a generation? How about of a time in American history?
* Why does Veronica appeal to conservatives?
* The role of the father — ALL the fathers.
And much much more. It’s the book equivalent of a dinner party with fellow fans and storytellers. I had so much fun reading it, and now I’m really pumped for the finale. The book will be released on May 28th, but you can win a copy here, today, by telling me in the comments section what your favorite episode of Veronica Mars was.
Farewell, Veronica, Keith, Logan, Wallace, Dick, Mac, Deputy Leo, Weevil (where have you been?), and all our dear departeds: Lamb, Cassidy, Aaron, Kendall, Abel Koontz, and of course, my favorite, Lilly.
I’ll remember you when.
PS: You don’t need exact episode titles. It’s enough to say: “the one where blankety blank happened.” You know what? Even favorite scenes will do.
UPDATE: Please see Wednesday’s post for winners.
* Full disclosure: I am currently under contract with BenBella books to write an essay f or an upcoming anthology.