Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, February 27, 2015

From the archives
leopard13 is the internet moniker of a father of two, spouse to one, who blogs out of The City of the Angels. He owns a first edition copy of the book below and one day hopes to have the author autograph for him.

The Ninth Configuration, by William Peter Blatty (Harper & Row 1978)

Just say the name, William Peter Blatty. It does have its own sense of meter as it rolls off the tongue, now doesn't it? You'll most likely recognize it, too. Just the same, saying it three times in front of a mirror won’t cause anything bad to happen, either -- contrary to urban legend. If you love books and reading, whether you are a baby boomer or Generation X, Y, or even Z, odds-on you've heard of him. Such is the legacy of authoring a horror novel as famous as 1971's The Exorcist (which would go on to even greater notoriety when it was adapted to the screen in 1973's film of the novel). However, along with the popularity and fame for a book that became an all-encompassing event, it can be too much of good thing. 'Event' novels can take on a life of their own, and they can build to the point that all other work by the same author lies in its shadow. Obscured because they are not anything like that book. Such was the consequence for the next novel by author Blatty that it seemed to fall by the wayside when it was published in 1978. That forgotten, but wonderful, piece of elegant writing was, The Ninth Configuration.
What was released that year actually germinated from a hasty 1966 novel titled, Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane! From his author's note: "Its basic concept was surely the best I have ever created, but what was published was just as surely no more than the notes for a novel -- some sketches, unformed, unfinished, lacking even a plot." Luckily, for those of us who read the re-envisioned work in the late 70's (and those who would go on to discover and appreciate it decades later), it is an overlooked book worth remembering. Ironically, WPB has said more than once he considers it his unofficial sequel to The Exorcist. Although The Ninth Configuration shares a very loose connection (via an unnamed character) from that novel, the genre and plot line couldn't be more divergent. Plus, it works whether or not you've read the legendary blockbuster that preceded it.
The novel's story centers upon a select small group of military men secluded away with what are believed to be inexplicable mental disorders. Or, being highly intelligent men, they could be faking it--which could be the reason nothing has worked and why they continue their stay at a decaying Gothic mansion. Their treatment, and sanity, ultimately hinges upon one Marine Colonel Kane (a psychiatrist who may have his own issues) brought to the sheltered facility to seek the answers in the most unexpected of ways. Blatty crafts the story as a mystery to be solved, planting its seeds in the unusual interactions that take place. The author’s dialogue between the patients and staff are quite purpose-built, madcap, and unexpected. I cannot describe it any better than what a good friend wrote in a review of his, "Because the story is relatively brief, no words are wasted in an attempt to be lyrical or poetic. Yet somehow there are moments of utter poetry in the exchanges between doctor and patients, and in Kane's own introspective reasonings." While the material covered is meaty, it is one of the few novels that made be laugh out loud, and had my eyes welling by the time I finished it.
One could describe WPB as an author who writes eloquent, thought provoking fiction that draws in his readers with clever, humorous dialogue (keep in mind, he also wrote the screenplay for the comedy, A Shot In The Dark). Or put another way, he’s a humorous, clever writer who puts out eloquent novels that catch the readers off guard by being thought provoking. I'd say both are true. He just happened to author a chart topping novel of horror that eclipsed everything before, or since, in his bibliography. However, The Ninth Configuration remains perhaps a more intriguing read, and worth exploration by those who haven't experienced it. As well, for those of us who are film buffs, sprinkled throughout, the author references classic movie moments and dialogue within this novel. A few years after its publication, William Peter Blatty would pen and direct its film adaptation in 1980. Not surprisingly, it has developed a strong cult following, and many believe the story is more immersive on the screen (consider me in both groups). The 1978 novel is a svelte 135-page work, and next year TNC will be re-released by Centipede Press as a new edition. Purportedly, it will combine both novels and will include a long essay by film scholar Mark Kermode in a 292-page hardcover. So on this Friday, The Ninth Configuration is not forgotten (at least, by me anyways).
"Every kind thought is the hope of the world."

Sergio Angelini, THE QUIET AMERICAN, Graham Greene
Joe Barone, ASSASSINS OF ATHENS, Jeffrey Siger
Les Blatt, THE DOORBELL RANG, Nero Wolfe
Brian Busby, BAROMETER RISING, Hugh Maclennan
David Cranmer, THE LIGHTHOUSE, Edgar Allan Poe
Bill Crider, DREAM LOVERS, Dodd Darin
Martin Edward, DEATH BY REQUEST, Romilly and Katherine John
Curt Evans, A LIFE OF CRIME, Sinclair Gluck
Ed Gorman, CROSS COUNTRY, Herbert Kastle
John Hegenberger, THE BRIGHTEST BUCCANEER, Leslie Charteris
Rick Horton, A DIVERSITY OF CREATURES, Rudyard Kipling
Randy Johnson, DEVILS AND DUST, J.D. Rhoades
George Kelley, SOME CAME RUNNING, James Jones
Margot Kinberg, A NICE QUIET HOLIDAY, Aditya Sudarshan
Rob Kitchin, THE YARD, Alex Grecian
B.V. Lawson, WINDY CITY, Hugh Holton
Steve Lewis, THE INTERLOPERS, Donald Hamilton
J.F. Norris, THE FETISH MURDERS, Avon Curry
Richard Robinson, WATSON'S CHOICE, Gladys Mitchell 
Ron Schee, BLUE PETER, Luke Allan 
R.T. CRIPPEN, John Boyne
Kerrie Smith, ANGLE OF INVESTIGATION, Michael Connelly
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, MASTERS OF NOIR, Vol. 2
TracyK, THE CALLING, Inger Ash Wolfe

ALSO MY REVIEW OF BLACK SEA in Crimespree Magazine.


neer said...

Hi Patti

Here's my FFB: Forgotten Mysteries in February


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Surely the sequel to THE EXORCIST was LEGION. At least they share the same police detective.

I know, don't call you Shirley.

Jeff M.

TracyK said...

Thanks for including my post, Patti. There is a great selection of books and authors this week.

Charles Gramlich said...

I read the Exorcist by him, and something else I think. But not this one.

Charles Gramlich said...

oh yeah, legion

Margot Kinberg said...

I do like the variety of posts here, Patti. :-) And thanks for including mine.

RTD said...

Patti, I know that you do not often "host" anything smacking of blatant self-promotional plugs for other blogs, but I am I guess imposing upon your hospitality by offering you (and your many guests) this announcement from Beyond Eastrod (the site that is changing from a so-called "literary" blog to 100% crime-detective-mystery fiction blog):

If you feel that it is appropriate, please give the news the widest possible distribution. Thanks from the deep south where the birds are singing, the daffodils are blooming, the grass is getting green again, and spring is just around the corner.

Richard said...

Back home?