He'll make you love him even if it kills you.
Patricia Highsmith's reputation demands that you read any book of hers you find, so when we ran across This Sweet Sickness we knew it would be good. Originally published in 1960 with this paperback coming from British publisher Great Pan in 1963, she tells the story of another troubled man à la her famous Tom Ripley novels. Here we have David Kelsey, in love with a woman who, inconveniently, is married. No problem, though, because obstacles mean nothing. He's determined to win his prospective love's affections, ignoring the fact that she's both unavailable and uninterested.
The book is told from the perspective of this dangerously deluded man, and his mental dissonance, deftly written by Highsmith, is cringe inducing. In Kelsey's head, everything is proof his love is returned. When the woman he desires is kind, it encourages him. When she's resistant, he assumes she isn't acting of her own accord, but instead is being pressured by her husband. There's nothing she can do—literally nothing—to dissuade Kelsey from the idea that his love for a woman obligates her to love him back. It all leads pretty much where you expect—to conflict, terror, death, and the high, lonely ledge of insanity.
It's fascinating to us that the U.S. born Highsmith was unappreciated in her own country, despite her breakthrough at age twenty-nine with Strangers on a Train. Well, considering she spent her life writing novels while residing mainly in France and Switzerland, we doubt she suffered much from the neglect. She's well remembered now, and deservedly so. This Sweet Sickness is an interesting and relevant book, and we highly recommend it.
Always beware of charming strangers.
Above, an Italian poster for René Clement's classic drama Delitto in pieno sole, which was originally made in France as Plein Soleil and is known is English as Purple Noon. The movie, you may already know, is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel and tells the sinister story of the psychopath Tom Ripley. The poster art is by Averardo Ciriello, a prolific illustrator of not only movie promos, but also paperback covers and comic books. Click his keywords below to see more, and you can see another brilliant poster for Plein Soleil here.
He looks nice but he's murder on his friends.
What's plein to see here is that the promo poster for the acclaimed French crime thriller Plein soleil is top quality. It was painted by Jean Mascii, who was born in Italy, but worked in France and became one of that country's most prolific and collected poster artists. We'll get back to him later. The movie is excellent. It's based on author Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley and features her homicidal hustler character Tom Ripley, star of five novels, and one of literature's greatest psychopaths. Should you be inclined to give Plein soleil a screening you won't be disappointed. It premiered in France today in 1960.
Caught between the dark and a hard place.
This 1949 Pocket Books paperback of In a Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes is a rarity. The novel is abundantly available today, but the first edition paperback you see above is hard to find. The story was made into a 1950 movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, but the final product bears little resemblance to the novel. Actually, the movie is a lesson in how source material can be completely cannibalized yet still made into a superior product. In a Lonely Place the movie, after all, is considered one of the best of the mid-century noirs. We said the same about it last year. But unlike the film, Hughes' novel leaves no doubt that main character Dixon Steele is a murderer. In fact, it's the central plot device—he kills a wealthy man and assumes his identity. The novel is said to be an inspiration for Patricia Highsmith's famed murderous grifter Tom Ripley. The nice art on In a Lonely Place was painted by Frank McCarthy, a prolific illustrator of paperbacks and magazine covers who toward the end of his career moved into fine art with frontier and western themes. We haven't featured him before but he'll doubtless pop up again.
But baby, sweetie, please, all the other guys are going.
“But I’ll be back early, I promise.”
“I’ll only have a few drinks.”
“You mean like last time? Forget it.”
“You and I will do something fun tomorrow night.”
“I’ll wash the dishes.”
“You’re going to wash the dishes anyway, buster.”
Above is one of our favorite Robert McGinnis covers, produced for Vin Packer’s The Damnation of Adam Blessing, a book that has nothing to do with marital negotiations, but rather is the story of a charming psychopath similar to Patricia Highsmith’s famed Tom Ripley. Packer was one of several pen names used by prolific American author Marijane Meaker, and interestingly, she and Highsmith had a romantic relationship for two years in the late 1950s. Using the Packer identity Meaker wrote twenty novels, with this one appearing in 1961.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1940—Trotsky Iced in Mexico
In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe
(not an ice pick) by Soviet agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky dies the next day.
1968—Prague Spring Ends
200,000 Warsaw Pact troops backed by 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring political liberalization movement.
1986—Sherrill Goes Postal
In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States postal employee Patrick Sherrill shoots and kills fourteen of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
1953—Mohammed Mossadegh Overthrown in Iran
At the instigation of the CIA, Prime Minster of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh is overthrown and the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is installed as leader of the country.
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
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