The Living and the Dead, Book Review

Want to know where Hitchcock got his idea for VERTIGO? It turns out a tiny French crime novel called THE LIVING AND THE DEAD by Boilea-Narcejac inspired the film. I picked this one up from a random French bookstore in Boston not knowing that it was the inspiration for Hitchcock’s strange film about double or triple identities. If you don’t know the story, it’s about a detective that is hired to follow a  rich businessman’s wife Madeleine. She commits suicide to his dismay. He disappears while the cops investigate only to discover a woman that resembles Madeleine. But isn’t she dead? Is the detective crazy?

The book is well written and has good pacing. Its main problem is that it takes too long to develop the idea of double identity. Madeleine is followed because her husband thinks she is possessed or something is wrong with her. Then, she commits suicide. It isn’t until she reappears as a different woman that we understand what is occurring- someone is lying. Either the detective is crazy or Madeleine is still alive.

It is fitting that I should read a novel like this while visiting LA, land of masks and actors. I have often felt in large cities that we never truly see the faces of others on the streets. It is only in intimate spaces that people reveal who they are. That is why I like intimate interactions versus those with large groups of people. For example, I was sitting at a Starbucks reviewing my manuscript for TREE WARS and an older gentleman was sitting next to me. Let’s call him A. A had all the signs of being homeless- a scruffy, dirty blonde beard and torn clothing. Enter another sun-burnt man, much younger, B. B greets A as if they were longtime friends and says, “Namaste.” It turns out they are a part of a cult. They spend their time talking about Satan and Chakras and beer… Like I said, double and triple identities- the story of our lives.



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