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My personal picks of the best comic fiction out now

best comic fiction

By Paul Wilborn

When people ask me how I appear calm and happy amid the craziness of the current world, I tell them I try live deep in my creative life – writing, playing music, running my music venue – and I read good fiction that is laced with humor.

Call it humorous fiction, comedic fiction or comic novels, there are some good ones out there.

Below are a few of my current faves:

Florida Hustle by Paul Wilborn

Since it’s my blog, I figure I can recommend my own book. After all, it earned a coveted “starred review” from Kirkus, and the well-respected review site also named Florida Hustle one of the “100 Best Indie Books” of the year.

Here’s the scoop:

Aspiring filmmaker Michael Donnelly has two obsessions. One is Mario Bava’s Italian horror movies from the ‘60s and the other is Dawn Karston, a teen-age scream-queen, known for dying horribly in a string of cheap slasher flicks.

Michael, who shares a Palm Beach mansion with his defense contractor father, believes Dawn deserves better material and that he is just the man for the job.

But obsession, like filmmaking, is a risky business. To Dawn and her LA manager, Michael’s comic book story boards, rendered in blood-red ink and mailed to the actor’s home address, look more like death threats than movie pitches.

With Dawn’s new project, Swamp Fiend 2, about to shoot in the Florida Everglades – just an hour from Michael’s house – the producers convince Michael’s family that something must be done.

When Michael gets wind of a plan to lock him up at a plush retreat for the rich and deranged he flees to a sketchy motel in West Palm Beach. There, he enlists an aging con man and his fiercely ambitious teenage girlfriend to help him reach the set of Swamp Fiend 2. Michael doesn’t realize his new partners see him as an opportunity to satisfy their own obsessions.

Florida Hustle is set in 1982, when America was led by a celebrity president, when the phenomenal success of Friday the 13th helped spawn a string of slasher-film copycats, and when Florida was morphing from a low-rent vacationland into a mega-state famous for sprawling theme parks, bizarre crimes, and a flourishing B-movie industry.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

This absurdist comedy revolves around John Yossarian and his fellow soldiers during World War II. The movie is interesting, but the book is gold. With its dark humor and extraordinary characters, Catch-22 is a must-read for fans of black comedy.

Catch-22 takes place on an American air base off the coast of Italy during WWII. The novel is a non-linear series of stories and recollections told from the perspective of Yossarian, the captain of a bomber crew. His squadron flies dangerous bombing raids over enemy territory and suffers a high mortality rate. It doesn’t sound funny, but take my word for it.

Mostly Dead Things By Kristen Arnett

What does it take to come back to life? For Jessa-Lynn Morton, the question is not an abstract one. In the wake of her father’s suicide, Jessa has stepped up to manage his failing taxidermy business while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the taxidermy shop to make provocative animal art, while her brother, Milo, withdraws. And Brynn, Milo’s wife―and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with―walks out without a word.

It’s not until the Mortons’ reach a tipping point that a string of unexpected incidents begins to open up surprising possibilities and second chances. But will they be enough to salvage this family, to help them find their way back to one another? Kristen Arnett’s breakout bestseller is a darkly funny family portrait; a peculiar, bighearted look at love and loss and the ways we live through them together.

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

I’m just starting this wonderful, and funny novel by Paul Murray. It’s a family saga, that starts with two best friends trying to make sense of life, family and poetry. Bad things happen to. These characters, often from their own actions, but Murray finds the humor and heart in these situations and characters.

Nothing To See Here – Kevin Wilson

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang, a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with a remarkable ability.

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.

Madison’s twin step-kids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.

Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?


I should say here that these are not books filled with non-stop laughs. They are actual novels, where characters grow and change and some tough things happen. But they are tales told with humor and heart and will touch you and make you laugh, sometimes at the same time.

Don’t stop with my list. Ask your local bookseller, ask your friends or search for phrases like “comic novels,” “funny fiction,” and “comedic fiction,” and get ready to laugh.

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