Friday, December 25, 2015

A Detectives Beyond Borders best book of 2015, reissue department: Laura

Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940a and '50s, edited by Sarah Weinman for the Library of America, is probably the year's most celebrated set of crime fiction reissues, and for me, Vera Caspary's 1943 novel Laura is the collection's novel worthiest of celebration. Here's what I wrote about the book in a review of the entire collection for the Philadelphia Inquirer:
 "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:

 "`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.' "
And here's Sara Paretsky writing about Laura at the Library of America Web site.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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Blogger Marni said...

Laura is one of my all-time favorites, and I enjoyed reading the Paretsky article, too. Thanks for this~

December 28, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're welcome. The Library of America page devoted to the collection includes one article for each of the eight novels. I think all are by current crime writers.

I had not read Laura before, and it blew me away. I will surely read it again.

December 29, 2015  

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