Cape Fear –
Oddly I first read this novel in like 7th grade and clearly don’t remember much from it. I also watched both movie versions about the same time and so my sense of what happens in the story is as much affected by those as this. This novel is much more straight forward in some ways and weird and digressive in others.
The plot here is that Sam Bowden is a married man with two kids. He’s a successful lawyer, and is a veteran of WWII. We learn that Max Cady, a convicted rapist, is about to be released from a military prison after serving 14 years of a life sentence for the rape of teen girl during the war. Sam was the key witness to the crime and his testimony put Cady away. Cady has been planning his revenge and is happy to begin. Sam sees Cady, who tells him all about his plan, and he soon finds that absent any direct action, there’s not a lot the police can do. In addition, as an upstanding lawyer, Sam believes in due process and the legal system. Eventually Cady’s reign of terror turns violent in some different ways and Sam more and more finds that the ways in which he’s been working within the law are failing to protect his family. So of course, he begins to look for alternatives.
The weirdness of this book, and it’s a short book for the most part, is how much fat has not been trimmed from the story. There’s a lot of character development and digressions that the novel goes into. We get long sections that discuss Sam’s marriage and meeting his wife and how they met, and while these are tied into the plot in some important ways, they soften the thriller element a lot.
In the Suicide Mountains
A strange little novel by the novelist John Gardner, most known for Grendel, in which three characters in a fairy story land meet up in the mountains and then intertangle their lives. They almost intertangled their deaths, as the title suggests, because each was going up there to die by suicide. Our three main characters are a dwarf who is constantly mocked, a beautiful daughter of a blacksmith who is as strong as ten men, and a prince who is very sad. Eventually they become friends and realize that their downsides are complementary, even if they are not what they wanted in life, and create a kind of mutual supportive friendship. It reads a lot like a Italo Calvino novel in many ways, but is interesting and funny.
More Better Deals
Joe R Lansdale is a ridiculously prolific writer primarily known for crime fiction, even though he has also written horror, steam punk, and science fiction. This novel is a crime novel that is modeled (although not a direct adaptation) from The Post Man Always Rings Twice. Our narrator Ed Edwards (one character asks him, geez, is your middle name Edward too?) is a used car salesman. He’s a light-skinned Black man that passes as white whenever he feels he needs to. He’s pretty good at selling cars, and despite the near-criminal nature of the business, he’s happy to do it for now. He’s asked by his boss to go on a repo run for a newish Cadillac that is in arrears. He’s told to go a little strapped, so he takes a blackjack. When he gets there he finds the man in question is not there, apparently he’s a salesman on the road, and he apparently took the car with him. He’s told all this by the very sultry and alluring wife who offers him a drink and a little more. He doesn’t take her up on the offer because his sister is in the car. But he comes back later because he doesn’t really believe that the car is on the road. Well it turns out he’s right, and this time he does take her up on the offer, and things spiral from there. If you’ve read The Post Man Always Rings Twice, you begin to see the connection, but this book is a lot darker and lot more violent. It’s a meaner and nastier book too. It also has a lot more twists and turns going for it as well.