Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hopscotching back to 1975 with Brian Garfield (and why fellow authors must love him)

With a hat tip to Sarah Weinman, I'm reading Hopscotch, which won Brian Garfield the best-novel Edgar Award for 1975.

Like his poker partner and occasional collaborator, Donald Westlake, to whom Hopscotch offers at least one explicit tribute, Garfield is a thoroughgoing professional who, moreover, has thought deeply about the work of his predecessors in crime writing. And he likes to poke gentle fun at the publishing business. (The protagonist of Hopscotch is a former spy who teases the world and his publishers by sending out, piecemeal, chapters of his tell-all political and professional memoir. A sample line: "Don't count on publishers to act logically. I've seen them pay a fortune for a boo and then drop it right down the gratings.")

Other good jokes include this, on the protagonist' disdain for the FBI:
"The Bureau had its talents—like establishing Communist cells so that its agents would have something to report on—but the FBI wasn’t likely to track him down unless he stood in Constitution Avenue waving a Soviet flag."
and this:
"Jaynes had a deep suntan and a huckster’s compulsion to touch anyone to whom he spoke. He was a film producer ..."
My only quibble is with Garfield's use of French words at odd times in the book's Paris section. Characters don't get out of elevators on the third floor, but on the third étage. They drop jetons, rather than tokes, into public phones. Pour the hell quoi, Brian?

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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Blogger adrian mckinty said...


I read this book about in the same week as I read Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch. They make a fun pairing. Shortly after the 2 Hopscotches (according to my reading journal) I read Philip K Dick's Through A Scanner Darkly, which, bizarrely almost reads like a combination of both novels.

August 01, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall investigate Cortazar's "Hopscotch." Thanks.

Speaking of Cortazar, years ago I went to see "Blow Up" in a theater and complained afterward that the section with the Yardbirds was missing. The woman at the box office pointed at a sign taped to the window announcing that this print of the movie was, in fact, missing the Yardbirds segment.

"I'd have had to blow up a photo of the window many times before I could read that," I told her. "That's a pretty small sign."

I don't know if she appreciated my wit, but she refunded my money.

August 01, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...


I remember that scene well, Jimmy Page's big hair and all. In fact that and the short skirts were probably the highlight of the movie. And Herbie Hancock's score...

Quentin Tarantino raves about the genius of the artificial back projection in the remake of Blow Up, Blow Out, but I've never liked dodgy back projection. It ruins Vertigo and it nearly ruins North By Northwest...

August 02, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: I did wind up seeing the "Blowup," with the Yardbirds scene, later.

I was never a big Brian De Palma fan. I didn't much like Nlow Out or, certainly, Dressed to Kill. And, while I have learned to like Vertigo better than I once did, I get a kick out seeing it and "ruins" in the same sentence. Vertigo is far from the best movie ever, some eejit group of film critics desperate not to have to choose Citizen Kane to the contrary.

August 02, 2014  

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