Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Patricia Highsmith: The Cry of the Owl

Seems to me that people mostly remember Patricia Highsmith from her Tom Ripley books (which are very good, so I'm not complaining) and Strangers on a Train (would they if Hitchcock hadn't made the film?). Her other stand-alones can also be very effective, and The Cry of the Wolf from 1962 is indeed very effective.

The book's a story about a young man who seems to dislike other people and stalks a young woman who's living alone in a house some miles away from the city. The girl does have a boyfriend, but when she spots the young stalker and responses to him kindly, a very strange relationship starts to develop. It seems for quite a while that this is a rare murderless crime novel, but in the end there's one. I won't say anything more. This is a good example of female noir, the subgenre Highsmith shared with the likes of Margaret Millar, Doris Miles Disney, Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, Ursula Curtiss and others. Higsmith might be the cruellest of them all.

I see only just now that there is a rather recent movie based on this. Anyone seen it? Is it any good?

Edit: I was told that Claude Chabrol also made a film out of this, called Le cri du hibou (1987).


Todd Mason said...

You know, well before I was aware of her as a novelist, "The Snail Watcher" (from the sf/fantasy magazine GAMMA, although it wasn't an sf nor fantasy story, but animal-driven suspense or arguably horror) and "The Quest for Blank Claverengi" (borderline between sf and fantasy, and from THE SATURDAY EVENING POST), the snail short stories, were widely anthologized in the kind of books I'd read as a very young litterateur.

That might be more uncommon these days...though, perhaps increasingly, I'd bet, she's, to some audiences, the lesbian autobiographical novelist of THE PRICE OF SALT (I really need to do another draft of my FFB about that and her eventual paramour/partner Marijane "Vin Packer" Meaker's likewise somewhat autobiographical SPRING FIRE...remarkably to me, given their mastery, only Highsmith's second novel after STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and Meaker's first, published the same year and twin monuments in lesbian Bildungsromans).

This is one of the many Highsmiths I still need to read. Wouldn't mind catching either of those films, as well (I'm tempted to add this to Tuesday's Overlooked!).

Juri said...

You can certainly add this to the related links.

I believe the bad woman of THE CRY OF THE OWL is modelled after Marijane Meaker... and what a bitch she is! (The character in the book, that is.)

J F Norris said...

I've seen the Chabrol film and read the book. Though I can't remember which I did first. Gerard Depardieu is the young man in the version I saw. I recall it being fairly faithful to the origianl story and a well done suspense thriller.