A Detectives Beyond Borders best book of 2015, reissue department: Laura
"And what of Vera Caspary's unclassifiable Laura? The title character of Otto Preminger's 1944 movie version is a gauzy, unattainable mystery woman who drives men to fascination, even obsession. Johnny Mercer's lyrics to the film's much-recorded theme song include lines such as `Laura is the face in the misty light' and `That was Laura, but she's only a dream.' Great stuff, but not much to do with Caspary's novel.
"Her Laura Hunt, unlike Gene Tierney, who played her in the movie, is not especially beautiful. Rather, she is a successful advertising copywriter to whom three men — a detective, an essayist and newspaper columnist, and Laura's unworthy fiance — are attracted without her having to do much about it. Far from a temptress or a scheming femme fatale, she's a kind of maypole around whom the men dance, and she behaves, all told, with remarkable self-possession.
"Each of the three men (the fiance in the form of a police report), and Laura herself, gets a turn as narrator, the fiance the least reliable, the columnist the funniest:And here's Sara Paretsky writing about Laura at the Library of America Web site.
"`I have never stooped to the narration of a mystery story. At the risk of seeming somewhat less than modest, I shall quote from my own works. The sentence, so often reprinted, that opens my essay 'Of Sound and Fury' is reprinted here:
"'When, during the 1936 campaign, I learned that the President was a devotee of mystery stories, I voted a straight Republican ticket.' "
© Peter Rozovsky 2015