Friday, April 12, 2013

Five Years of Forgotten Books, Day 12

Charlie Stella's new book, JOHNY PORNO, debuts in 2010. MAFIYA is out now.  (from 2009)
The Ripley series, Patricia Highsmith

Ripley Under Ground ... book two in the series (of 5) was equal to the debut. The dark, somehow sympathetic, sociopathic Tom Ripley is a few years removed from his murder of Dickie Greenleaf and Freddie Miles. He’s married (rich) and although doing well enough for himself, he has a small percentage in the side business of art forgery. When an art aficionado figures out the scam, Tom tries a few different tricks to keep the buyer from blowing the whistle ... and when all else fails, Tom whacks him.

I have become such a fan of Patricia Highsmith’s work, I have gone and ordered books outside the Ripley series. The mark of great writers for me is their ability to sustain a high quality of product. Highsmith achieved that in spades within the series and I can’t help but assume she did so outside the world of Thomas Ripley.

How’s this for a Ripley Under Ground teaser:

A pair of flies, insane as usual, were annoying Tom. He pulled one out of his hair. They were zooming around his night table. Late for flies, and he’d had quite enough of them this summer. The French countryside was famous for its variety of flies, which outnumbered the variety of cheeses, Tom had read somewhere. One fly jumped on the other’s back. In plain view! Quickly Tom struck a match and held it to the bastards. Wings sizzled. Buzz-buzz. Legs stuck in the air and flailed their last. Ah, Liebestod, united even in death!

If it could happen in Pompeii, why not at Belle Ombre, Tom thought.

Ripley’s Game ... here our likeable sociopath takes on the mob (yes, that mob, the one in Italia) ... with mentions of Joe Colombo (Thomas is, after all, Americano) and capos and all forms of organized crime as it attempts to establish itself in Hamburg, Deutschland (yes, Germany) … this was a fun read that was written in a slightly different manner from the other Ripley’s. In this one, Ripley is slighted at a party and feels a need to take a shot back at the guy who did the slighting (usually he just kills them), but before long he goes from screwing with the guy’s head to helping him whack a capo on a train. No spoilers here, except to say Highsmith shocked the shit out of me with this terrific addition to Ripley world. Much of the novel doesn’t include Ripley himself but when he returns, it’s in all his sociopathic splendor and he’s taken arms (and hammers) against the real mafia.

For those of yous who like novels that come in bunches (series), you’re really missing out on some terrific writing and wonderful storytelling. Patricia Highsmith’s work is incredible, pure and simple.

My review of BEYOND THE HILLS is up at Crimespree Magazine. 

1 comment:

David Cranmer said...

I'm reading RIPLEY UNDER WATER and sad to see it come to an end. The entire Ripliad is worth the read.