If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

August Interviews

8/5 Lucy Burdette, The Key Lime Crime

8/12 Maggie Toussaint, All Done With It

8/19 Julie Mulhern, Killer Queen

8/26 Debra Goldstein, Three Treats Too Many


August Guest Bloggers


8/8 Leslie Wheeler

8/15 Jean Rabe


August Interviews

8/22 Kait Carson

8/29 WWK Authors--What We're Reading Now













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Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!


Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!


Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.


KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.


Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."


Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.


Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


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Monday, March 9, 2015

Reassessing Patricia Highsmith


Patricia Highsmith was the writer of powerful, compressed narratives of psychological complexity and transgressive violence. Her short fiction and novels are gems of tight, spare narrative that carries an outsized emotional impact. Her reputation was often injured because she wrote almost exclusively crime fiction of one kind or another.

When a biographer of Patricia Highsmith interviewed Norman Mailer about Highsmith, Mailer said, “Remind me? Who was Highsmith? A high-class detective novelist?” Well, not really. She rarely created detectives and when she did, they were failures at solving crimes. All of Highsmith’s authorial sympathies were with the performers of the criminal acts. In Highsmith’s works, the suspense is usually whether or not the protagonist will be able to get away with one or more violent acts.
Highsmith wrote 22 novels, a number of which have been made into successful movies. Her protagonists were usually outsiders—neurotic or even psychotic—and they usually carried out criminal acts, for which most often they were never caught or punished. She records extraordinary characters acting out bizarre fantasies and strange intimacies in precise, flat, simple prose.

There is little resolution in a Highsmith novel. Her characters succeed or fail in their (mostly criminal) endeavors, but they almost never work anything through or develop. Her books and stories are usually explorations of morbid psychology. Her psychological thrillers, however, are often loaded with satire and black humor. Many European critics see her as an “existential” writer.

Disturbing violence was one of her trademarks. Murderous impulses lurking behind facades of normal lives was another element of the Highsmith brand of chilling psychological suspense novels. A third element was always her emotionally and morally ambiguous young men of uncertain sexuality who served as her protagonists. Told in stark language, her startling and ironic books have long been admired for their daring themes and uncompromising vision.

Filmmakers were always drawn to her work, and a number of successful movies have been made from her books, beginning with Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, made from the novel of the same title. The Talented Mr. Ripley was made into three different movies, and Ripley novels, Ripley’s Game and Ripley Underground, were also filmed.

In later years, her misanthropic and misogynistic tendencies, not to mention her racism and
anti-Semitism, became more and more prominent and pronounced. This and her choice to live abroad helped to keep her reputation in the United States lower than it should have been. Highsmith had spent a great deal of time at the writer’s colony, Yaddo, during her early career, and though she became an expatriate in Europe for the last half of her life, she left her $3 million estate to Yaddo when she died.

Highsmith books that I particularly recommend are Strangers on a Train, The Blunderers, The Talented Mr.. Ripley, This Sweet Sickness, Edith's Diary, The Boy Who Followed Ripley, The Snail-Watcher and Other Stories, Little Tales of Misogyny, The Animal Lover's Book of Beastly Murder, and Nothing That Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories. That last book was published posthumously. Highsmith also wrote an excellent book on writing, Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. I think you'll find that Highsmith stands the test of time as a writer, if not a person.

6 comments:

Kait said...

Thank you for introducing me to a new writer. Although I am familiar with the movies, I had not thought to pick up any of the books. it is always fascinating to read a book from the perspective of the villain, for want of a better word. And to read books where, just as in real life, justice doesn't always triumph.

Shari Randall said...

I couldn't help wondering what Norman Mailer would have thought of Highsmith's work if it had been written by Patrick rather than Patricia.
Thank you for mentioning her short stories, Linda. I did not know she wrote them and I'm going to give them a look. When I read The Talented Mr. Ripley - so dark -I remember thinking how talented Highsmith was to make such a fascinating, amoral character.

Warren Bull said...

Shari,

Norman Mailer despised Gore Vidal and many others. I think anyone who get good press reviews earned his ire. Patricia Highsmith, like other authors goes in and out of style from time to time. I think she is a highly skilled writer.

KM Rockwood said...

Thanks for reminding me of a writer who I need to re-read. I haven't thought about her work in a while, although I do think she influenced what I write.

Margaret Yorke was another author whose superb psychological suspense is a pleasure to read, although most of her characters have an outward appearance of being normal people.

Kara Cerise said...

This is so interesting, Linda. I recently bought Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction and hope to read it soon.

I didn't know that she bequeathed her entire estate to Yaddo.

Gloria Alden said...

Interesting, Linda. I'm sure I probably heard of her before, but I don't remember. When I have time, I'll have to read something by her.