Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, May 25, 2018

(from the archives) le0pard13 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).

Yvette Banek, THE HENCHMEN OF ZENDA, K J Charles
Les Blatt, FIRE IN THE THATCH, E.C.R. Lorac 
Elgin Bleecker, THE MEN FROM THE BOYS, Ed Lacy 
Brian Busby, MY LADY GREENSLEEVES, Constance Beresford -Howe
Curt Evans, SWING, SWING TOGETHER, Peter Lovesey
Richard Horton,The Chauffeur and the Chaperon, by C. N. and A. M. Williamson 
Nick Jones, Larry Niven's A World Out of Time, Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars, Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, et al.

George Kelley, WAYWARD GIRL/THE WIDOW, Orrie Hitt
Margot Kinberg, A RISING MAN, Abir Mukerjee
Rob Kitchin, THE KEPT WOMAN, Karen Slaughter 
B.V.. Lawson, THIS ROUGH MAGIC, Mary Stewart
Evan Lewis,  BILL CRIDER'S Intro to The Body Looks Familiar / The Late Mrs.Five by Richard Wormser
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, CROOKED MAN, Tony Dunbar 
Todd Mason,  FFM: STREET & SMITH'S DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, September 1946, edited by Daisy Bacon; ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, September 1945, edited by Frederic Dannay; NEW WORLD WRITING 16: Tillie Olsen, Thomas Pynchon, Anne Sexton, Kingsley Amis, et alia...edited by Stewart Richardson and Corlies M. Smith 
Matt Paust, A TRAITOR'S PURSE, Margery Allingham 
James Reasoner, WAYWARD GIRL, Orrie Hitt 
Richard Robinson, WHAT I READ, Part 5 
Gerard Saylor, MONTANA HITCH, Richard Wheeler
Kerrie Smith, THE SANS PAREIL MYSTERY, Karen Charlton 
Kevin Tipple, A LITTLE DARLING, DEAD, Jack S. Scott 
TomCat, THE MISADVENTURES OF ELLERY QUEEN, ed. Josh Pachter and Dale Andrews
Tracy K, Patricia Wentworth


Gerard Saylor said...

I got one. MONTANA HITCH by Richard S. Wheeler.

Thanks again for collecting all the posts for today.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I wonder if he ever got his book signed. Blatty died in January of 2017.

Jerry House said...

The hurrieder I go the behinder I get. Mine will be up this afternoon: TRIGGER LAW by Jackson Cole.

Yvette said...

Mine is up now, Patti. Thanks again for your patience.

Charles Gramlich said...

Seems like they made a movie from that Blatty book. Or maybe I'm remembering it wrong

Mathew Paust said...

Interesting Blatty review. I've not read anything by him, but the movie still gives me nightmares.

Todd Mason said...

Jerry, do you know which "Jackson Cole" wrote TRIGGER LAW?

J F Norris said...

Mine's up now:

Stranger on the Highway by H. R. Hays

Thanks for all you do on these Fridays. Have a pleasant Memorial Day Weekend!

Todd Mason said...

Oscar Schisgall, as it turns out, is the "Jackson Cole" of TRIGGER LAW...

Jerry House said...

Mine is finally up after a long day of doctor appointments. Thanks for your patience, Patti.

Todd, yes, it was Schisgall, who created of The Masked Rider for MASKED RIDER MAGAZINE.

Todd Mason said...

Jerry on discovering Oscar Schisgall was this book's

Todd Mason said...

...this book's "Jackson Cole"...

Jerry House said...

Todd, it looks like I am wrong (and Worldcat is wrong) about Schisgall being the author. See James Reasoner's very lucid comment on my review.

Todd Mason said...

Cool. One reason blogging is useful...relatively quick correction possible.