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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I've recently read a couple of books by E. Phillips Oppenheim, who was a bestselling British writer from the very late 19th century past WWI, particularly of thrillers. He wrote a lot, over a hundred novels and many short stories.

Some here may have encountered the 1936 Cary Grant film The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss, a.k.a. The Amazing Adventure. This was based on Oppenheim's book The Curious Quest.

I've previously read or listened to three or so of his books. Of these I think An Amiable Charlatan, a series of comic stories rather than a thriller, the one most likely to please modern readers. In it a British man gets involves with the escapes of a memorable American con man through his daughter.

The thrillers I haven't really liked, but I recently read that John Buchan admired his work, so I gave him another go. I felt the same way about The Devil's Paw. Its date is said to be 1920, but I suspect that's first book publication and it appeared in magazines during the war, as it's set during it and the villains are German spies.

The Strange Boarders of Palace Crescent (1934) I liked much more. A young man moves into a boarding house where there's something mysterious going on. One of the boarders is murdered. The story idea is good, the femme fatale odd, and the resolution a bit underpowered. 

I saw the 1938 movie version back in the 1990s. This is called Strange Boarders and stars Tom Walls, who played intelligent bon vivants in comedies and thrillers. It turns the tale into an espionage story, but the novel isn't one at all: it has a crime plot. The heroes in the movie - a top spy (Walls) and his newlywed French wife - aren't based on any of the novel's characters.

I'm now reading Sir Adam Disappeared (1939). Half-way through it's an interesting mystery in the pre-Golden Age style.

GOLDFINGER: Awaiting Cap's discussion. 

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS: Apart from Poe and Doyle and Spillane, I have never read a detective story, and I have never read what I would call a "murder mystery" (unless you count Asimov's The Caves of Steel, which I don't), yet I've managed to make it my whole life (so far) without having Murder on the Orient Express spoiled for me, despite there having been movie versions in 1974 and 2017. I'm not going to spoil it for you if you haven't read it, but it's not a "fair use" mystery, anyway. About halfway in I realized I had had it spoiled for me, in 2017, but I repressed it. It was then I decided to read the book (before the spoiler memory resurfaced); it's just taken me six years to get around to it. Knowing how it ends, I don't think I would ever reread it, but I do plan to watch the movie versions soon. 

The other think I wanted to say about Murder on the Orient Express is that, structurally, it is quite similar to Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." I think (in this case) Christie quite obviously took Poe's formula and expanded upon it. 

I take the point of the "butler did it" joke to be that it was the character you didn't suspect. Christie partly approached her novels as a technician - this is apparent in the case of The A.B.C. Murders, where she evidently dropped Hastings as the narrator as the book needed to be written partly from the POV of one of the characters - and I take the solution of The Murder On the Orient Express (which I know from the 1970s movie) to be a conscious never-done-before "Well what if it was..." twist solution.

Before the 1970s Christie's stories weren't filmed as period stories. I think the 1970s movie was where this element was added to Christie adaptations. The follow-up was Death on the Nile with Peter Ustinov as Poirot, which I think better (and quite striking). According to one of the producers Christie liked Albert Finney's performance as Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express. She didn't live to see Ustinov's.

There really are novels by Anna Katharine Green and Mary Roberts Rinehart where the butler did it. I think the Rinehart one may be a conscious reference to the joke, as it was apparently current by that novel's time: it appears in Eric Ambler's The Mask of Demetrios.

I recently finished So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain. The cover states this was is first crime novel, first published in 1952. Ray Stone was a piano prodigy, who got involved with drugs. He eventually gets hooked on heroin, and after meeting a singer who promises to share her pure heroin with him, he can't resist. When he wakes up the next morning, the girl is dead, and the heroin is nowhere to be found.

He runs out of the hotel room, and calls his father for help. After dealing with his crap for too long, and now involved in a murder. His father calls the police. Narrowly escaping, Ray is now on the run trying to find the real killer of a woman he barely knew. From a night he barely remembers. The police after him, and no one believes him because he is an addict. Now he has to find ways to interview his own list of witnesses/suspects.

I thought this was really good, and it kept me guessing for a while. It does make me wonder if this was the first of the sub-genre of a guy waking up with a dead woman in bed next to him, and he barely remember the night before. Its a story I've seen plenty of times by now. Even being used for at least one episode of Law & Order that I can remember.

In Mickey Spillane's Vengeance is Mine Mike Hammer wakens to find himself in a hotel room with the dead body of a war buddy, and the police rousting him. But that's only part of the way there.

There was already a lot of hardboiled private eye fiction in the 1930s and 1940s. The creator of the genre is said to have Carroll John Daly in the 1920s. Hammer was modelled after Daly's Race Williams. Brett Halliday's Mike Shayne was the hero of a B-movie series. Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective had his own, risque, magazine. Even Hammer debuted earlier than one might guess, in 1947.

Frank Miller's "The Hard Goodbye" (the title later given to the first Sin City serial) begins with tough guy Marv waking up next to dead hooker Goldie. 

Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) said:

I recently finished So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain. The cover states this was is first crime novel, first published in 1952. Ray Stone was a piano prodigy, who got involved with drugs. He eventually gets hooked on heroin, and after meeting a singer who promises to share her pure heroin with him, he can't resist. When he wakes up the next morning, the girl is dead, and the heroin is nowhere to be found.

He runs out of the hotel room, and calls his father for help. After dealing with his crap for too long, and now involved in a murder. His father calls the police. Narrowly escaping, Ray is now on the run trying to find the real killer of a woman he barely knew. From a night he barely remembers. The police after him, and no one believes him because he is an addict. Now he has to find ways to interview his own list of witnesses/suspects.

I thought this was really good, and it kept me guessing for a while. It does make me wonder if this was the first of the sub-genre of a guy waking up with a dead woman in bed next to him, and he barely remember the night before. Its a story I've seen plenty of times by now. Even being used for at least one episode of Law & Order that I can remember.

I read that one myself several months ago and enjoyed it as well.

In a similar vein, McBain (under his other name, Evan Hunter) once wrote a novel, Buddwing (1964), about a guy who wakes up on a bench in Central Park with no memory of who he is and no piece of information other than a telephone number on a scrap of paper, and spends the day trying to figure it all out. James Garner starred in a movie adaptation, Mister Buddwing in 1966. By many accounts, McBain was very proud of the book, but Garner trashed the movie

I read Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven, an SF classic I'd overlooked.  The first half is extraordinary, if (inevitably) a bit dated; the second half I found merely good.

DEATH ON THE NILE: I finished reading Death on the Nile today after having read Murder on the Orient Express earlier this week. MotOE, I thought, was an extension of Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," and Death on the Nile is an extension of MotOE. They two Christies are so similar I wouldn't recommend reading them back-to-back as I have done; in fact, one could probably skip MotOE altogether. I think I would have liked it much more when I was, say, 13. DotN is a much more polished version of the same story (or same type of story). I can see now, after having watched the movie Clue for the first time a week or so ago, that it was definitely written with Agatha Christie in mind.

I had a copy of DotN once before, a Scholastic Book Club paperback I got in junior high school. There was a movie version in 1978, but I never got around to reading the book or seeing the movie. Another Scholastic paperback I got around the same time was the novelization of The Black Hole. I never got around to reading that book or seeing the movie, either. Then, as now, I'm leery of a purported science fiction movie made by Walt Disney. Now that I've read the book (at last), I'll watch the movie tomorrow. 

"THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE": After reading Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile last week, I decided to go back to the beginning (of the genre) today. If the Hulk was my "first favorite" comic book character, then Edgar Allan Poe was certainly my first favorite author. I was drawn in by the horror, but also read the (early) science fiction and detectives stories as well. I still reread Poe from time-to-time (most recently in conjunction with AHOY! Comics' Poe series), although I must admit some of them have stuck with me more than others. His style can be nigh impenetrable to someone in junior high, but "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is fairly straightforward once he gets to the narrative itself (about two and a half pages in). The story is exactly as I remembered it (full of writer's fiat, actually). But Doyle picked up from Poe and Christie from Doyle, and a genre was born. 

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