Friday, November 04, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books, November 4, 2016

(from the archives)
R. Narvaez

I Am Thinking of My Darling,
Vincent McHugh
A virus. The City. Civic chaos. Government collapse. The stuff of zombie flicks and terrorist scenarios in 2010. But back in the ’40s, such a plot could still be light-hearted. In Vincent McHugh’s 1943 novel I Am Thinking of My Darling, a virus infects New York City—but it's a happy virus! The infected follow their bliss, feverishly losing their inhibitions (for you Trekkies, think "The Naked Time" episode). The problem is that no one wants to work. Honestly, who would?

Acting planning commissioner Jim Rowan returns home from a trip to DC to find cheerful chaos quickly spreading across town—and his actress wife Niobe missing. She’s infected and on the lam, looking to live out a succession of character roles in a kind of Method fervor. Meanwhile, in an emergency management meeting (consider what that term evokes today), the mayor announces he has the virus—and would rather play with model trains than lead the City. To avoid panic, Rowan is secretly made acting mayor.

The plots riffs genially from there, with Rowan hot on the trail of his slippery wife, cabbing from City Hall to Harlem across a Cityscape in Mardi Gras mode—all the while consulting with civil services to keep things running and with scientists to find a cure. (The fact that the virus apparently originated in the tropics, implying that people there are inhibition-less, may be another artifact of the past.) A polymath (when being a polymath was simpler), Rowan narrates in sensual, informed detail about now-bygone architectural wonders, regional accents, lab science, and jazz music.

This book, with its glad-rag view of a long-lost era, has been a favorite of mine since it was recommended to me decades ago. (I still have my first copy, bought in the now-bygone Tower Books in the Village). McHugh, a poet and a staff writer for The New Yorker in the ’30s, employs a prose style that winks slyly at Chandler and pulp. (Once Rowan is inevitably infected, he’s like Marlowe on E.) Darling also features a nice amount of sexual frankness that may surprise modern readers who forget that people in the ’40s had sex. The novel was made into the very '60s movie What's So Bad About Feeling Good?, but by then the times had already been a-changed enough that the conceit no longer had the right kind of jazz.

Sergio Angelini, ROMANCE, Ed McBain
Joe Barone, ORIGINAL SIN, P.D. James
Les Blatt, KILLER DOLPHIN, Ngaio Marsh
Bill Crider, THE LONG SHIPS, Bengtsson Q. Frans
Martin Edwards, DAWN OF RECKONING, James Hilton
Richard Horton, GUARD YOUR DAUGHTERS, Diana Tutton 
George Kelley, SPACE, TIME AND CRIME, edited by Mirian Allen Deford
Margot Kinberg, TWISTER, Jane Woodham 
Rob Kitchin, THE PICADILLY MURDER, Anthony Berkley 
B.V. Lawson, THE BULRUSH MURDERS, Rebecca Rothenberg
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, BENEFIT PERFORMANCE, Richard Sale 
Todd Mason, BEWARE OF THE CAT, ed. Michel Parry 
J.F. Norris, THE JOSS, Richard Marsh
Matt Paust, SUN MOUNTAIN, Richard Wheeler
James Reasoner, THE PROUD GUN, Gordon D. Shirrefs
Richard Robinson,THE MAN KZIN WARS by Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, Dean Ing.
Gerard Saylor, CONTAINMENT, Vanda Symon 
Kevin Tipple, WARNING SIGNS, Jan Christensen
TracyK, Vertigo: Boileau-Narcejac


Todd Mason said...

I'm up...Michel Parry died not quite old a couple of years ago, and thinking about Helen Hoke last week brought him to mind...

Yvette said...

Apologies, Patti. Nothing from me today. The week just got away from me. Big. Sigh.

J F Norris said...

Mine's up now:

The Joss by Richard Marsh


Jerry House said...

The McHugh book has been on my radar for some time now. Some day...

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Thanks as ever Patti, great to be included.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I picked up a trade paperback copy of the McHugh after a previous review, but of course I haven't read it yet.

Todd Mason said...

FWIW, the cartoonist and illustrator on Jerry House's entry is Steve Stiles, rather than Styles. Very talented graphic storyteller who was the Susan Lucci of the Hugo Award in that category till finally getting his own World Series WorldCon win this year.

Thanks, Patti!

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