Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gripping Story Opening -- Inkling Explorations for June

Heidi Peterson has a monthly link-up on her writing blog, Sharing the Journey, and last month I answered it on my Soliloquy blog because I was so busy with the Little Women read-along over here and didn't have post space.  This month is focusing on books, so I'm posting over here, though if there's another time when I answer about movies, I would probably do that on the Soliloquy instead just because that blog has more about movies.

So anyway, this month's focus is on "A Gripping Story Opening in Literature."  I've decided to share the opening from Vera Caspary's Laura:


The city that Sunday morning was quiet.  Those millions of New Yorkers who, by need or preference, remain in town over a summer week-end had been crushed spiritless by humidity.  Over the island hung a fog that smelled and felt like water in which too many soda-water glasses have been washed.  Sitting at my desk, pen in hand, I treasured the sense that, among those millions, only I, Waldo Lydecker, was up and doing.  The day just past, devoted to shock and misery, had stripped me of sorrow.  Now I had gathered strength for the writing of Laura's epitaph.  My grief at her sudden and violent death found consolation in the thought that my friend, had she lived to a ripe old age, would have passed into oblivion, whereas the violence of her passing and the genius of her admirer gave her a fair chance at immortality. 
My doorbell rang.  Its electric vibrations had barely ceased when Roberto, my Filipino manservant, came to tell me that Mr. McPherson had asked to see me. 
"Mark McPherson!" I exclaimed, and then, assuming the air of one who might meet Mussolini without trepidation, I bade Roberto to ask Mr. McPherson to wait.  Mahomet had not rushed out to meet the mountain.  

It poses so many questions, doesn't it?  Who on earth is this snooty-sounding Waldo Lydecker, who clearly is almost as infatuated with words as with himself?  Who is Mark McPherson?  And who, above all, is this murdered woman, Laura?


If you've seen the movie, you know the answers.  And, if you've seen the movie, but not read the book, you're probably going, "Whoa, whoa, wait -- Waldo Lydecker narrates the book?!  Is this genius or madness?"  At least, that was my response the first time I read it ;-)  And actually, IIRC, Mark McPherson narrates part of it too, though I must admit it's been more than 6 years since I read this.

I KNOW Heidi said this wasn't supposed to be about movies this month, however!  The 1944 movie version is so perfectly cast I must include a couple pictures from it.  (Heidi, please don't whack me with a broom or anything.)

Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker

Gene Tierney as Laura and Vincent Price as Shelby, in a flashback

Dana Andrews as Mark McPherson

24 comments:

  1. Okay, I've never seen this movie or read the book, but I first learned of it last week and have been seriously contemplating reading/watching it. So...it's kinda crazy that you just posted on it. :) So...should I read the book first, or watch the movie first?

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    1. Oooooooooooooh. I would watch the movie first, honestly, because then when you read the book, you're just chortling over all the deliciousness. BUT that's how I came to them -- movie first, then book -- so I may be biased. Actually, I AM biased because I prefer watching a movie first. Then the book is like an extended edition of the story, lol.

      The movie is probably easier to get ahold of. And it's my favorite Dana Andrews movie. I vote movie first.

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    2. Okay then! I was actually leaning towards the movie first, as I often do when it comes to classic movies. With modern adaptations I usually like reading the book first, but for some odd reason that doesn't apply for classic films. :)

      I'm off to put the movie on hold at my library! :)

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    3. I hope you like it! I can't imagine you wouldn't :-)

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  2. Now I want to read the book! Goodness, Waldo sounds as insufferably egotistical as always, doesn't he? I'm sure I'd enjoy reading this, so if my library has it, I'll add it to my tbr list.

    By the way, I love that gif. :)

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    1. OH my goodness, yes. Waldo is hilarious as a narrator. Insufferable, but hilarious. Read it! Since you like/love the movie, you will dig it.

      And that gif... I would be ashamed to admit how many minutes yesterday and today I wasted just watching that gif. Doesn't Dana have beautiful eyes? And eyelashes. And that mouth, with the insouciant little cigarette dangling there... not to mention his perfect nose... I'll stop now.

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    2. I just checked, and Laura is available at my library right now. I'll be going over there this afternoon to snap it up. I might pick up the DVD too (my copy is packed up right now) and watch it tomorrow to get the full Laura experience. :)

      Ohhhh, yes. It's an addicting gif.

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    3. Eva, that's great that your library has it! It's a pretty snappy read, so you can probably finish it in a day.

      The gif should probably come with a warning label. "Warning: This will steal your time."

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  3. *Reaches for broom closet.... Grips handle..... Thinks twice.... No, replaces broom* ;)

    This is promptly going on my find-out-more/TBR list. I hadn't heard of it -- book or film -- but Eowyn's read up on all the Dana Andrews movies, so I'm sure she has. :) But the excerpt itself!! Wow. It was almost reminding me of the flavor of a Fitzgerald (only slightly more sunny) and then that "Mussolini/Mahomet" ending paragraph could be straight out of a Wodehouse. You have me hooked!

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    1. Whew! Heidi put the broom back! :-D

      This movie is amazing. Dark, cuz it's film noir, but not so creepy and icky like most film noir. The book is funnier, but the movie has a lot of acidic wit in it too. Also, Dana Andrews in a fedora.

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  4. Oh, forgot to mention that all the film pics are hugely intriguing and that flashback screen cap is incredible! :)

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    1. Otto Preminger is one of my favorite directors, and he had a way with unique camera angles and beautiful staging that sometimes takes my breath away. Gene Tierney is luminescent as the murdered Laura (lots and lots of flashbacks).

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  5. I loved the movie Laura (and I REALLY need to see it again!!) and I'm so interested now that I find there's a book! And that it's narrated by HIM. haha
    Does the book use any language, namely misusing God's name? If not I really want to read it sometime! :)

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    1. Natalie, I haven't read this for probably 10 years, so I don't remember what kind of language is in it. HOWEVER! Reading the opener for this kind of sucked me in, and I'm on chapter 4 now, heh heh. So I'll be reviewing it sooner or later here, and I'll be sure to discuss the language and other content.

      Also, Eva's getting it from the library, and she has a bit more free time than I do , so she might review it first on her blog.

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    2. Natalie, just wanted to let you know that I'm a couple chapters farther now, and yes, there's been an obscenity and one instance of taking the Lord's name in vain.

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    3. Hamlette,
      Thank you so much for telling me! I'll still keep a lookout for both your and Eva's reviews! :) Even if I don't read the book it'll be fun to read your thoughts on it. Thanks!!

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  6. Mmmmm . . . that IS rather gripping. Am I to assume that Walter is--ahem--the Bad Guy?
    And Hamlette answers, "You sad girl, how on earth can you ask me such a question?" Okay, okay, okay. Just curious. :)

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    1. I refuse to tell anyone anything at all about the plot of this book and movie! It is too delicious for any spoilage to be allowed.

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    2. Hahahaha--that's what I thought you'd say. But it never hurts to ask, right? ;)

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    3. Just watch the movie, Jessica! Find out for yourself who the bad guy is, who, it turns out, the bad guy isn't.

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  7. What a fun link-up! Haven't read or seen this before, but I might have to now.

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    1. Just finished re-reading the book last night, so my full review will be coming soon! It's a really unusual mystery, and the movie is scrumptious. Um, if you find murder mysteries scrumptious.

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  8. Oh, that does sound gripping! I think I have this book on my TBR on Goodreads. Sounds a bit like Rebecca or The Great Gatsby...

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    1. Thanks, Jillian! This is definitely much more Rebecca than Gatsby.

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