Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Last Match by David Dodge

If there's an award for best use of italics in a thriller, I nominate this book, by the author of Plunder of the Sun and To Catch a Thief. Here's an example:

"M. l'Inspecteur would indeed, unhesitatingly and unequivocally. He would further personally guarantee, on his parole d'honneur, that M. le Marquis would receive not only a fifty percent return on his money but the Legion d'Honneur; not the mere ribbon of a lousy Chevalier, either, but the médaille of a full Officier. Perhaps, even -- through this, regrettably, M. l'Inspecteur could not personally guarantee -- perhaps even the baton of a Maréschal! With a public kiss of gratitude from M. le Président de la République! Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité and cost-plus patriotism, with the elegant chords of La Marseillaise thundering in the background.

"`The boob will be wetting his pants with eagerness before we finish,' Bernard said."

That's rather nice, I think, as is this, from the same narrator/con artist: "I was long gone when the pot aux roses was découvert, as the French newspapers had it."

Sure, italic type is a convention to indicate foreign words, but Dodge makes it a wink from narrator to reader, a reminder of his blithe American con artist's amusement at the scams he pulls among rich and greedy habitués of the French Riviera. (He also makes it as lively a lesson in French as non-French-speaking readers are likely to get from any novel in English.)

And there is subtlety to Dodge's use of the device. He employs it not at all in the narrator/protagonist's opening confrontation with a jealous husband, sparingly in scenes between the narrator and an older, rich woman to whom he is an oddly good-hearted gigolo, and just occasionally when our hero meets up with the novel's femme fatale -- or should that be femme fatale? It is only once the scams are in full swing that the vocabulary becomes peppered with French words and the pages with italic type.

I find myself smiling when I see the italics, because I know something is up.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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4 Comments:

Blogger Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

"I find myself smiling when I see the italics, because I know something is up."

This made me laugh as I do the same thing! You're right, something is always up when italics are being used!

The cover of this book is just great too - so pulpy.

March 15, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

As the narrator/swindler travels to Latin America later in the book, he uses italics for Spanish and Portuguese terms as well, but never with so much gusto as he does with the French ones. Or maybe it's just that the book meanders and flags a bit as it goes on.

Regarding the cover, Hard Case Crime uses its covers as a selling point: http://www.hardcasecrime.com/books_bios.cgi The cover artists even have their own short biographies on the publisher's Web site.

March 15, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter,
Now every thing is ok, on my blog, no more password... I washed all the wrong things... :-)
Evanthia

March 16, 2007  
Blogger Peter said...

Yes, I had just discovered that you dropped the password. I will be happy to visit your clean blog soon! Thanks.

March 16, 2007  

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