February Edition

Patricia Highsmith - Criminal Desire

Left Coast Crime - Lefty Award Nominees

CarolPatricia Highsmith - Criminal Desire

In the movie-centric noir Last Heartthrob, it was easy to come up with a dozen related mystery/suspense movies.

I haven't really shared many tie-ins for the work-in-progress The Catalonian Candidate in Mysterious News yet, because they haven't fit neatly into the mystery and suspense genres.

One of the main characters in Candidate gets his name from Alfred Hitchcock's film version of Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train. Since the central conflict revolves around the desire for power and how desire can rob you of power, it's time to recommend Patricia Highsmith's second novel, The Price of Salt, and the superb film adaptation which took much longer to make it to the screen. It's all about desire and power, too.

The following (lightly edited) quotes from interviews with the Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, and the film's director Todd Haynes shed some light on how Carol relates to Patricia Highsmith's other works.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross (Phyllis Nagy, Todd Haynes)

The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith (Phyllis Nagy)

WTF with Marc Maron (Todd Haynes)

Phyllis Nagy: Carol is not a crime novel, but it does have elements of criminal in it. So it's still a Highsmith novel. There is a gun, there is an air of menace, there is paranoia, all of those things. (FA)

RooneyMaraTodd Haynes: Therese is so enthralled by the depiction and representation of femininity that Carol represents to a degree that she says I, myself, could never achieve. In Carol the character, there's something unhappy, there's something mercurial about this woman. She's sort of disinclined toward happiness or spontaneity. What we have the opportunity to see in a character like Carol is the facade, the alluring surfaces of this woman that immediately draws and attracts Therese, and then the layers begin to fall away, and you start to see a very complicated and conflicted person underneath that. And you see her taking a curious leap, both of them, out of their worlds to the other, almost against all logic. And I think there's something so lovely about that being the way love often begins in the most irrational, inexplicable circumstances, where you put yourself out there and you keep going, What am I doing? Where am I? Why am I here? But you keep going back. (FA)

The moment of attraction that the film manages to capture occurs in the book right here:

"Their eyes met at the same instant moment, Therese glancing up from a box she was opening, and the woman just turning her head so she looked directly at Therese. She was tall and fair, her long figure graceful in the loose fur coat that she held open with a hand on her waist, her eyes were grey, colorless, yet dominant as light or fire, and, caught by them, Therese could not look away. She heard the customer in front of her repeat a question, and Therese stood there, mute. The woman was looking at Therese, too, with a preoccupied expression, as if half her mind were on whatever it was she meant to buy here, and though there were a number of salesgirls between them, Therese felt sure the woman would come to her. Then, Therese saw her walk slowly towards the counter, heard her heart stumble to catch up with the moment it had let pass, and felt her face grow hot as the woman came nearer and nearer."

And here's how the men in Patricia Highsmith's works deal with their desire.

Phyllis Nagy: Ripley is the kind of character, as opposed to the women in The Price of Salt, who would rather have his throat slit in public than admit that he's gay. This is the thing that really fuels everything that he does: a denial of identity. This is more typical of Highsmith's protagonists. Carol is the anomaly. (Q&A)

Todd Haynes: So much of what she is better known for are these male criminal subjects in Ripley, Bruno (in Strangers on a Train) where homoeroticism is the unspoken engine that the criminal act is the manifestation of. And so there's this real questionable, fascinating pathology around homosexuality as the underpinning of criminal activity, and it drives so many of these stories. This is the only book she wrote, The Price of Salt, that's about homosexuality that's not a pathological depiction, and it's between women. (FA)

Todd Haynes: All her other novels are about the criminal mind, and you're locked inside that festering mental state, and this is about the amorous mind, but it's a similarly festering state for both, particularly the one that's in the more powerless position. (WTF)

Todd Haynes: It made me look at how point of view functions so interestingly in love stories where you're on the side of the weaker party. In war it's the object that gets conquered, and in love it's the subject that gets conquered. So we're on the side of the vulnerable in love stories. And that changes in the course of the movie. (WTF)

Here's an excellent New Yorker article. Forbidden Love The passions behind Patricia Highsmith's "The Price of Salt." By Margaret Talbot

Left Coast Crime

LCC2016Left Coast Crime is an annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, for mystery fans. It is held during the first quarter of the calendar year in Western North America, as defined by the Mountain Time Zone and all time zones westward to Hawaii.

This year's Great Cactus Caper takes place in Phoenix, Arizona.

Mysterious News says hi to our friends on the following panels.

Panel Schedule

Lisa Alber 5 Shades of Violence: How much should you have in a mystery?

Cindy Brown Arizona is My Beat: Arizona writers and settings

Cindy's first novel is set in Phoenix and is up for an Agatha Award for best debut novel at Malice Domestic this year.


Stephanie Gayle (moderator) One Night Stand or a Long Affair: Writing series versus standalones


Melissa Lenhardt The Transition From Fan to Published Author

Melissa's debut mystery recently topped Amazon's police procedural charts!


Julie Mulhern (moderator) Romance Under the Gun

Julie recently became a USA Today Bestselling Author for her Country Club Series.


Hi to Mysterious News friend Jeanette Hubbard, too!


Here's a virtual bookshelf of the Lefty nominated books. You can click on preview for any title to start reading!

Lefty Humorous | Historical | Regional | World