At the beach today, I brought along Harry Whittington’s (as "Whit Harrison") A WOMAN POSSESSED… and it’s another winner. I have yet to read a book of his that wasn’t a home run. It’s a nasty, dark, violent, sexy noir tale as good, or better, than anything being published today. He writes so tight, so lean, and yet so evocatively… I wish I knew how he did it. I keep trying to pay attention to the craft, the mechanics, of Whittington’s writing to see how he pulls it off, but I get too caught up in the characters and plot. He’s simply a genius, if you ask me.
(I’ve only read four Whittington’s, but I strongly recommend the others, too: A MOMENT TO PREY, WEB OF MURDER and BRUTE IN BRASS)
10 thoughts on “A Woman Possessed”
This is one of my favorite Whittington novels. I read it more than twenty years ago and still remember it pretty well. Genius isn’t too strong a word, in my opinion.
Damn, Damn, Damn…..OK Lee, Can I borrow this one or to have to find my own?
I keep trying to pay attention to the craft, the mechanics, of Whittington’s writing to see how he pulls it off, but I get too caught up in the characters and plot.
You know who I think is one of the real unsung geniuses (genii?) of English literature. P G Wodehouse.
I have read and read his books, particularly the Psmith and the Jeeves books, and I still don’t know how he does it. I have even tried to pastiche Wodehouse to try to work out how he does it, and I still can’t. The man was just a phenomenal storyteller.
Wodehouse was a frickin genius, and possibly sold his soul to the devil to become so scarily good. Apparently he’d spend hours, days, on single sentences. I think (can’t remember the source) that he would paste his pages up on the walls and go over and over them until every line was perfect. And it shows:
” Jeeves lugged my purple socks out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of his salad.”
” He looked haggard and careworn, like a Borgia who has suddenly remembered that he has forgotten to shove cyanide in the consomme, and the dinner-gong due any moment.”
Time to order the complete Jeeves and re-read every golden word, I think.
Whittington is terrific–I remember snapping up all of the early Black Lizard reprints, which includes a great mini-essay by Whittington, looking back on his career. I wonder if he’s not remembered as well as he should be because he was so amazingly prolific.
Wodehouse is the funniest writer I’ve ever read.
…one of those weird birds in India who dissolve themselves into thin air and nip through space in a sort of disembodied way and assemble the parts again just where they want them. I’ve got a cousin who’s what they call a Theosophist, and he says he’s often nearly worked the thing himself, but couldn’t quite bring it off, probably owing to having fed in his boyhood on the flesh of animals slain in anger and pie.
Lee, you’ll find a lot on Whittington’s plotting techniques here (I think this might be the Black Lizard essay Duane refers to):
Can you school me on some other of these long-gone greats? Would you recommend Wade Miller?
And are hole-in-the-wall used bookstores the best place to grab these?
Hard Case Crime just republished one of Wade Miller’s books. I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard it’s good.
Paul, I get all my guidance from Bill Crider and Ed Gorman. They haven’t steered me wrong yet.
I find most of my Whittington’s on ebay and at used bookstores and, of course, at the annual Paperback Collectors book show in LA each March/April.
I haven’t read Wade Miller yet, but I have heard great things…and have bought several titles on Bill’s recommendation. There are many other authors I haven’t read, but have been acquiring, based on their raves.
Whittington was a real discovery for me… I started with A MOMENT TO PREY, based on Ed’s rave, and that got me hooked.