Just bringing this discussion over to ning...

What books are you reading right now that don't have a narrative driven by images as well as words?

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Thorne Smith and Norman Matson The Passionate Witch

A straitlaced businessman is seduced by and marries a witch. When he realises what she is he demands a divorce. In revenge she curses him with the ability to hear others' thoughts and burns down his church, but is killed when its stone cross falls on her. The only cure for the curse turns out to be drinking...

The book is playfully amusing up to the point where the witch is killed, although I didn't like a part where the hero becomes adulterous with his former secretary. The humour then becomes farcical and broader, but the better touch of the earlier chapters returns in the last two.

Smith was writing the book when he died, and Matson completed it. The film I Married a Witch was based on it but changed the storyline. In the book the witch is unsympathetic and there's no character corresponding to Cecil Kellaway's.

Eduard Mörike Mozart's Journey from Vienna to Prague trans. Florence Leonard, in The German Classics vol. VIII ed. Kuno Francke

Travelling with his wife to Prague to put on the premiere production of Don Giovanni Mozart has a minor misadventure which leads to them spending a pleasant evening with an aristocratic family.

This is a novella, intended, I suppose, as a recreation of the personality of Mozart and the milieu he composed for.

This post displaced the thread Anything, Everything, or Nothing At All from the homepage.

Sol Saks, the creator of Bewitched, claimed to have been inspired by the film version of  I Married A Witch, as well as Bell, Book and Candle (1958).

Interestingly, the creators of the two earliest "Magical Girl" anime, Mahotsukai Sally and Himitsu No Akkochan, both said that they were inspired by Bewitched. So, Smith and Matson were the "spiritual ancestors" of Sailor Moon!

I remember I Married a Witch as funny and sexy. Veronica Lake is very cute in it. I think it's the only film I've seen starring her.

I wanted to like Bell, Book and Candle, but didn't really, despite the cast. It was based on a play by John Van Druten, and my recollection it has the constrained character of a play. The witches don't do anything very spectacular, the resolution scene is an argument between the romantic leads.

That should be The German Classics vol. VII. The German Classics was a collection of translations of works by a broad selection of German writers published just before WWI. Internet Archive has scans of the volumes.

The marrying-a-witch theme was also used in the movie Night of the Eagle, released as Burn Witch, Burn  in the U.S. It was adapted by Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont from Fritz Leiber's novel Conjure Wife. No funny stuff in this one.

There are two other versions as well, Conjure Woman from 1944 and Witches' Brew from 1980. I've only seen the very end of Night of the Eagle, and bits of Witches' Brew.

Mickey Spillane Vengeance is Mine!

Mike Hammer is rousted awake by the police in a hotel room after a bender. The friend he was on the bender with has been shot dead, with Hammer's gun. The police decide it was suicide, but the DA hates Hammer and de-licenses him. Hammer's investigation leads him to a modelling business and a fashionable Bowery nightclub. Soon the bodies start piling up...

I've long wanted to read this one as I have a book which quotes the opening as an example of effective writing, and it really is. The murder turns out to be connected to a seamy scheme that has compromised some high-placed people. The book ends with a twist final revelation which is implausible but fairly clued.

What sets Hammer apart from other PI heroes is his brutality. But he's brutal and sharp, not brutal and dumb. Velda assists him on the case and they edge towards getting involved, although Hammer also has an affair with one of the models. Pat also has a significant role. 

Hammer also gets help from a PI with staff he knows called Joe Gill. Spillane had written for comics, so I think the name was likely a nod to Joe Gill the writer. Gill wrote part of the daily run of the Mike Hammer newspaper strip when it came along later.

Anthony Berkeley Trial and Error

When Mr Todhunter learns he doesn't have long to live he decides to commit an altruistic murder. He settles on an actress who is wrecking a family. One of the family is arrested for the murder. Todhunter confesses to it to save him, but the police won't believe him and he can't provide evidence, so the suspect is tried and convicted. So to prove the man's innocence Todhunter and his friends arrange for Todhunter to be tried on a privately-brought charge of murder...

This is a slyly comic combination open mystery/courtroom mystery, full of twists and with a twist end. It's very good. Todhunter is assisted in his quest to get convicted by his friend Mr Chitterwick, who is mild-mannered but sharp. He was a recurring Berkeley character.

Mike Grost says antisemitism was a recurring element in Berkeley's work. It crops up here in the author's attitude towards the first person Todhunter contemplates killing.

Ian Fleming Dr. No

Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of the Secret Service's head of station and his assistant.

This is a well-written thriller with a fantastic quality. Much of the film is directly out the novel, including some of the dialogue. In the book less happens before Bond heads for Crab Key, and when Bond is in Dr No's power he condemns him to run an obstacle course designed to exhaust and kill. (Implausibly, Bond is monitored along the way, but no-one watches the concluding challenge.) 

Dr No doesn't have a nuclear reactor, and there's no final explosion. He tells Bond he's been interfering with American missile on behalf of the Russians, but it's not an important part of the plot. He has no hands because the Tong he stole money from caught up with him and cut them off before shooting him and leaving him for dead.

The book's Honey is a delightful character, naïve, but sensible and brave. Strangways and Quarrel had both appeared previously in Live and Let Die.

A centipede is planted in Bond's hotel room rather than a spider. This reminded me of one of the murder methods Fu Manchu uses in The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu. I suspect Fu Manchu was Fleming's inspiration: Dr No's secret organisation recalls Fu Manchu's Si-Fan.

Dr No's HQ is the first supervillain lair in the Bond film series. In the book it's something he's spent years creating. He regards himself as safe from the authorities as there are no grounds for a warrant; but it seemed to me he'd murdered too recklessly, and Bond's disappearance would've made them sure something was up, forcing him to abandon the place. 

J.-H. Rosny The Xipéhuz

Men of the Bronze Age wage war against an alien life-form that is reproducing at an increasing rate and threatens to overrun the whole world.

J.-H. Rosny was the pseudonym of two brothers, who later published separately as J.-H. Rosny aîné and J-H. Rosney jeune. The Xipéhuz may have been written solely by Rosny aîné. It's a long story rather than a novel, first published in 1887.

The Xipéhuz are no type of life we know. When they die their bodies petrify, so they may be mineral creatures. They communicate with each other, but not by means of sound. They reminded me of the Tetrahedra from P. Schuyler Miller's "Tetrahedra of Space".

A man named Bakhoûn carefully observes the Xipéhuz to learn what he can, and ultimately leads the war against them. The story is largely written in his voice: he's represented as having left an account engraved on granite tablets.

The alienness of the Xipéhuz makes this story a groundbreaking one for its time. The translation I read is online here.

I like to read quick, pulpy books when I have to take a trip by plane. I've read Kiss Me Deadly and My Gun is Quick, but I haven't read Vengeance is Mine! The early Bond novels are quite pulpy as well. I've read all of them at least three times (because I've read the entire series start to finish three times), and odd ones in addition.

"Strangways and Quarrel had both appeared previously in Live and Let Die."

SPOILER for Dr. No: Quarrel dies in Dr. No, but because the movies were released out of novel order, his part in Live and Let Die was given to his "son," Quarrel, Jr.

Luke Blanchard said:

Dr No doesn't have a nuclear reactor, and there's no final explosion. He tells Bond he's been interfering with American missile on behalf of the Russians, but it's not an important part of the plot.

Pre-Thunderball, the Bond books dealt with the Soviet agency SMERSH, not the stateless organization SPECTRE. When the movies started they were portraying the USSR as less evil, though they had no problem with portraying the communist Chinese as evil in the movie Goldfinger. In the movie version of From Russia with Love, the character of Rosa Klebb is a former agent of SMERSH who has left and joined SPECTRE. The woman sent to seduce Bond is portrayed as patriotic and conflicted, believing that her master Klebb still works for SMERSH.  

I’ve always noted that the choice of Dr No as the first Bond movie before Live and Let Die caused the creation of “Quarrel Jr.” The Felix Leiter character appears in the book Dr No after being crippled in Live and Let Die. In the movies his character, almost always played by a different actor, is finally maimed in the movie titled License to Kill, even including the sick note “he disagreed with something that ate him.”

I enjoyed the continuity of the Bond books, being a continuity nut.

Richard Willis said:

I enjoyed the continuity of the Bond books, being a continuity nut.

Looking at Fleming's continuity it appeared he had taken Bond to the end of the line both mentally and physically by the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. At the end of the next book, You Only Live Twice, it seemed Bond's career as a British secret service agent was over which is why some Bond fans question the authenticity of Man With The Golden Gun. Rumors have it that the book, published after Fleming's passing, was finished by another author based on a partially complete storyline since it so easily brushed away all that had happened in the previous books.

Felix doesn't appear in the book version of the Dr. No. The bar sequence where Bond meets him in the film is based on a part where Bond and Quarrel go to a nightspot Quarrel suggests. The stuff with the girl photographer follows it closely.

Ward Moore Bring the Jubilee

This is a well-known alternative history novel about a world in which the Confederacy won the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War. The Confederacy has become a wealthy and powerful nation. The rump US has been held back by the pathologies of defeat. The first part of the book explores the alternative US through the experiences of the narrator. Half-way through he joins a commune for scholars, and this development leads to a climax involving a time machine.

The book is well-written, and its alternative US is well-imagined. In Moore's alternative world not all the same technological development and social evolution occurred, so the book has a steampunk flavour.

I have the book in the NEL edition, with an introduction by Kingsley Amis. This was one of the books in its SF Master Series. The ISFDB has a list of the books in the series here.

Thomas Morton Speed the Plough

This is a 1798 play, a mix of comedy and melodrama. Sir Abel and Sir Philip have arranged a marriage between Sir Abel's son Robert and Sir Philip's daughter. Sir Abel is an incompetent inventor, Robert always shows everyone the right way to do things, and Sir Philip has a DARK SECRET. Sir Abel has also recently remarried, but regrets it. Robert has been romancing Susan, whose parents, the Ashfields, are farmers. A man named Henry was raised by the Ashfields and lives on their farm. He doesn't know who his parents were and longs to.

There are some good characterisations, lines and bits of business in the play's comedy parts. The melodrama has to do with the identity of Henry's parents and Sir Philip's DARK SECRET, and is overdone. Apparently the play's melodrama aspect was after a play by August Kotzebue.

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