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10 thoughts on “The Crime Writer

  1. says:

    Before starting this review, I must confess I have never read anything by Patricia Highsmith Obviously, like all avid readers, she has long been on my radar and I have meant to read her novels, but never got around to them However, I have read other books by Jill Dawson and enjoyed them, so I came to this without any preconceptions about how she portrayed Highsmith If you are a devotee of Patricia Highsmith and possibly later feel that this is not a good portrait of her, I can only say that this has left me eager to read both her books and her biography In that sense, I feel it is a sympathetic portrayal In some ways though, I am glad that I really did not come to this novel with any idea about the real Patricia Highsmith this is, obviously, a fusion of biographical fact and fiction and, as such, is not meant to be necessarily accurate in every aspect of the authors life.This book begins in Sussex, where Patricia Highsmith is living in Bridge Cottage It is 1964 and Beatlemania is the talk of the times, but Pat only wants peace and quiet She was previously living in France, where she received anonymous letters a possible stalker Now, she has her friend Ronnie, who visits and, apart from that, wants only to be left alone That, however, is easier said than done Invading her peace are nosy neighbour, Mrs Ingham and a young journalist Virginia Smythson Balby One of the reasons that Pat longs to be left alone is that she is having an affair with a married woman, called Sam Sam lives in London with her husband, Gerald and has a young daughter Meetings involve furtive calls in phone boxes, cancellations, frustration and jealousy In between, Pat works on her writing not caring for the label, crime writer as she insists she writes suspense novels, goes for trips with Ronnie, watches her beloved snails, muses on her childhood and relationship with her mother and drinks too much I have no wish to spoil this novel by writing too much Patricia Highsmith comes alive in this book for me prickly, private and living a life which sometimes steps into fantasy, she struggles to retain her privacy against events which conspire to drag her, unwillingly, from undercover and into the spotlight This is a clever, well written and well realised novel It is not necessary to have any knowledge about Patricia Highsmith before you read this book but when you finish it, you will undoubtedly want to know .

  2. says:

    I ve been reading books by and about Patricia Highsmith over the past year, so when The Crime Writer crossed my path, I had to give it a try In the book, Jill Dawson uses Patricia Highsmith as the lead character Dawson thoroughly researched Highsmith s life and work, which from what I gather makes for a believable character in the book, although of course we will never know as Highsmith herself was a bit of a recluse by her own choice and a bit of a mystery All this adds to the credibility of Dawson s imagined character of Pat As for the story, it describes Pat withdrawing to the English countryside, trying to work away from the distractions of her fans and her family.During her stay, she seemed to be pursued by a stalker and by a journalist, whose motives are not clear Is she being investigated Is her clandestine relationship with a married woman being put at risk of discovery Are all of these things connected In time, Pat is entangled in a web of intrigue and concealment It s an engaging enough plot, and my only criticisms are these 1 Part of the plot strongly reminded me of Sarah Waters The Paying Guests, which I actually enjoyed but it did take away some of the plot development 2 Although this is a fictional account, some of the plot hinges on actual facts in Highsmith s own life, and as such I could not help but notice a couple of anachronisms The most, to me, irritating of which is in connection with Highsmith s book The Price of Salt later re published as Carol Highsmith published the book under a pseudonym, and it was not widely known according to Andrew Wilson s biography Beautiful Shadow until much later than when The Crime Writer is set Accoding to Wilson s biography, which is largely based on Highsmith s own diaries and records, Highsmith was not aware that anyone other than her immediate family and her publisher knew she had written The Price of Salt until the 70s after a neighbour of her mother s tried to discuss the book with her Officially, Highsmith only acknowledged the book at the time of its re publication in 1990 So, the developments in Dawson s story which involved The Price of Salt threw me a little All in all, however, The Crime Writer was an enjoyable way to re imagine one of the most puzzling and contradictory writers I like to ponder about.

  3. says:

    Patricia Highsmith hated the term crime writer she preferred to speak of her work as suspense novels, animated by the threat of danger Dawson s terrific pastiche is set in the early 1960s, when the nomadic Highsmith was living in a remote cottage in Suffolk, England Beyond the barest biographical facts, though, Dawson has imagined the plot based on Highsmith s own preoccupations fear of a prowler, irksome poison pen letters, imagining what it would be like to commit murder and snails In a combination of third and first person narration, she shows Pat succumbing to alcoholism and paranoia as she carries on affairs with Sam, a married woman, and Ginny, a young journalist who s obsessed with her Along the way there are tantalizing glimpses of her childhood in Forth Worth, Texas, including a mother who occasionally abandoned her and called her crazy, a useless stepfather, abuse and hallucinations.You re never quite sure as you re reading what is actually happening in the world of the novel and what only occurs in Highsmith s imagination, and I m sure that s deliberate on Dawson s part This counts as one of the most gripping, compulsive books I ve encountered this year I d recommend it to fans of The Paying Guests and Eileen, but also connoisseurs of Highsmith s own work you ll spot the parallels Dawson spells out in the acknowledgments if you know her oeuvre well, but the links to The Talented Mr Ripley are especially clear A cracking read.

  4. says:

    Where has this book been It was wonderful Have immediately added Jill Dawson other books to my TBR pile For a suspense, crime reader this has ticked all my boxes.Dawson has painted a wonderfully realistic portrait of suspense writer Patricia Highsmith who has fled to Suffolk to a cottage to write her next novel She is also contending with a strange woman named Ginny who claims to be a journalist turning up at her house, an affair with a married woman that is being hidden from the public and peculiar letters being sent to her from a stranger that are scaring her Is she going mad Is this actually happening What is real and what is false I just ADORED Dawson s writing, it flowed so easily in my head, the story was creepy and there are numerous references to Highsmith s novels woven into the fabric of the story which made it even attractive to me.

  5. says:

    I was intrigued by the premise of this novel making crime writer, Patricia Highsmith the main character in a crime novel and using real biographical details along with aspects of her various novels to investigate the writing and reading of such novels Jill Dawson bases the events in the novel on the period in 1964 when Highsmith had isolated herself in a cottage in Suffolk while trying to finish a couple of books.There was a lot that I enjoyed in the novel but my problem with it was that it fell between too many stools not very satisfying purely as a crime novel and, while fascinating about Highsmith s dysfunctional childhood, failed lesbian relationships and generally anti social persona, it left me wanting to read a proper biography and some Highsmith novels I haven t read before, especially her lesbian novel The Price of Salt having very much enjoyed film of the book Carol.The most weird and fascinating thing about Highsmith was her collecting and breeding snails which she frequently carried around with her in her handbag.

  6. says:

    She left the city for an escape but the drama and mystery followed her I wasnt connected with the characters The plot and climax were slow going and i wanted drama and action and crime.

  7. says:

    My review from USA Today All great writers biographies are less interesting than their work, but Patricia Highsmith gave hers a run for its money Born in Texas to a mother who told her daughter with a laugh that she d drunk turpentine to try to induce a miscarriage, the author of The Talented Mr Ripley had two ambitions growing up to move to Europe and to write a book She achieved them both with panache In The Crime Writer, Highsmith, who was gay her groundbreaking novel The Price of Salt, about two female lovers, was the basis for the 2015 film Carol is hiding out in a tiny English village, occasionally seeing her mistress One of their clandestine meetings ends in a brutal crime Highsmith trapped in a Highsmith novel, in other words a good conceit Dawson s book feels airless in places, but it s also sharp and absorbing, with brilliant imaginative flights and a fine sensitivity to its subject s thorny, wounded, uncanny mind.

  8. says:

    Exquisitely written with an ending that gropes in the dark for believability Wondering also about the choice of first person I ve never pictured Highsmith as the type to dwell on her childhood, however lousy it might have been I did think her acid observations were spot on and enjoyed it when action forced Dawson to put distance between reader and character I d venture Pat would have preferred it that way As far bodice ripping tales of murder centered around a shared, secret love for The Price of Salt go though, it s a win.

  9. says:

    Jill Dawson, an award winning British novelist and poet has turned her attention with a scholarly expertise on the life of celebrated American author Patricia Highsmith 1921 1995 The Crime Writer A Novel introduces a deeply intense, complex fictional account of Highsmith while renting a cottage in the Suffolk English countryside The novel portrays Highsmith, writing in seclusion Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction 1966 also drinking heavily with a highly disturbing and distorted thought process Highsmith was having an affair with Samantha Gosforth, her husband Gerald was a wealthy volatile English businessman who was guilty on occasion of domestic violence, which was witnessed by their young daughter Minty Highsmith simmered with an internal rage against Gerald, and it brought back her own depressing childhood memories at the hand of her neglectful mother, who abandoned Highsmith frequently in the care of her maternal grandmother, in Ft Worth, Texas Sam would voice her concern over Minty, and later use motherhood as an excuse as the reason why she couldn t spend time with Highsmith This deepened Highsmith s despair, and her intake of scotch and whiskey in her morning coffee as she chain smoked Gauloises.Many celebrity authors relished their fame and fortune, Highsmith was not such a person Terribly resentful of her nosy elderly neighbor, and the young perky journalist Virginia Symthson Balby Ginny that had impressive knowledge of all Highsmith s public appearances and literary works, knew her every move to the point of being a stalker, also was commissioned to write an article about Highsmith Ginny praised The Price of Salt 1952 and compared favorably it to the lesbian cult classic The Well of Loneliness 1928 Unfazed, Highsmith observed of her writing on her then novel Violence is not an act, it s a feeling Some people give into it, others never feel it Murders committed are sordid, spontaneous and ugly coming from places of intense hatred and anger Not a cold blooded calculation, an ultimate anti social act When Gerald turns up intoxicated at Highsmith s home in the wee morning hours, he is convinced he will find Sam there with another man As Sam soothes his fears, Highsmith has no qualms of concealing her extreme hatred of him The storyline explodes with a frightening act and takes a sinister turn, as Dawson probed and explored Highsmith s past and how it related to this unpredictable storyline of madness and mental decline It helps to be familiar with Highsmith s life and works to fully appreciate this engrossing dark novel 3 GOOD With thanks to the Seattle Public Library.

  10. says:

    In 1964, the author Patricia Highsmith was living in the Suffolk countryside and writing Jill Dawson has taken this as her starting point to concoct a crime novel which is entirely reminiscent of Highsmith s own stories It s a clever literary device and it s well executed You don t need to be familiar with Highsmith s writing to enjoy this, but you will enjoy it far if you are.Patricia Highsmith is probably best known for the stories that became films The Talented Mr Ripley, Ripley s Game, Carol and also for writing the screenplay of Hitchcock s Strangers on a Train Her characters are unsettling good people disappoint, everyone has a streak of evil I was familiar with her writing but I knew little about her as an individual for example, she had an obsession with snails It s fascinating to read the author s acknowledgments at the end about the different strands of Highsmith s life and writing that inspired this novel.The plot of The Crime Writer somewhat ironical given that Highsmith hated to be described in that way , concerns her relationship with two women There is Sam, her elegant and unhappily married lover, and there is Ginny, a pushy yet evasive young journalist who comes to interview her When a murder is committed, it will impact on all of their lives.I really liked the writing in this book and I thought that the plot was very clever, but it also felt very disjointed The crime felt almost secondary and I wanted it to have focus Ultimately I just found this a little dragged out and lacking momentum.