Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday's Forgotten Books, March 28, 2014

From the archives.

R. Narvaez was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His work has been published in A Thousand Faces, Indian Country Noir, Murdaland, Plots with Guns, Spinetingler, Shotgun Honey. He is President of the MWA-New York chapter.

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, THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN, Gil Brewer
Joe Barone, THINNING THE TURKEY HERD, Robert Campbell
Bill Crider, WRITING FOR SURVIVAL, John D. MacDonald
Martin Edwards, THE WALKING STICK, Winston Graham
Curt Evans, SCARWEATHER, Anthony Rolls
Ray Garraty, SLAYGROUND, Richard Stark
Rich Horton, STONE OF CHASTITY, Margery Sharp
Jerry House, NIGHT OF SHADOWS, Ed Gorman
Randy Johnson, TRAIL OF THE LONG RIDER, Lee Martin
George Kelley, CONAN: THE ROAD OF KINGS by Karl Edward Wagner.(Link to follow)
Margot Kinberg, BLEAK HOUSE, Charles Dickens
B.V. Lawson, MURDER AT THE FOUL LINE, ed. Otto Penzler
Evan Lewis "A Corpse in the Hand" Carroll John Daly
Steve Lewis, MURDER TO GO, Emma Lathen
Neer, UP AT THE VILLA, W. Somerset Maugham
J.F. Norris, DEATH GOES TO A REUNION, Kathleen Moore Knight
James Reasoner, ARCTIC WINGS, L. Ron Hubbard
Gerard Saylor, THE BOMB, Steve Sheinkin
Ron Scheer, THE HANGING TREE, Dorothy Johnson
Kevin Tipple, "Artie and the Long-Legged Woman" from THE ARTIE CRIMES, Jan Christensen


Charles Gramlich said...

Gonna try to check out some of these today.

Anonymous said...

It's funny. The first rave review I read about I AM THINKING OF MY DARLING made me go out and get a copy of the book. Maybe this one will actually get me to read it.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Patti - Nice variety of books here! And thanks as ever for including my post. :-)

Ray Garraty said...

Patti, my review is up:

Todd Mason said...

Even when watching WHAT'S SO BAD ABOUT FEELING GOOD? as a kid in the mid '70s, it felt a bit awkward...but it still did cheer me up a little (there are worse attempts at something similar of that vintage, such as A THOUSAND CLOWNS)...

On another overbusy week, I'm opting for this redux item: LIVING IN FEAR: A HISTORY OF HORROR IN THE MASS MEDIA by Les Daniels (Scribner's, 1975). Thanks.

Kelly Robinson said...

I have a thing for post-apocalyptic books and quite a large collection of them, but I don't know this one. Off to search ...