Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Nightmare Alley, new film from strange book

Director Guillermo del Toro’s new film version of “Nightmare Alley” is about to open in theaters. 

The movie stars Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and a lot of other big names. 

Here’s hoping it is as good as director Edmund Goulding’s 1947 version starring Tyrone Power, Coleen Gray, Joan Blondell and Helen Walker. 

And here’s hoping it sticks closer to the unsettling weirdness of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel of the same name, but without going too far off the deep end, as Guillermo del Toro is apt to do. 

A few years ago, I wrote a piece about the novel. You can read it here.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Christmas Party by Rex Stout

Around here, Christmas trees went up and houses got decked out with colored lights before Thanksgiving. It is the holiday season. 

In that spirit, I picked up a copy of Rex Stout’s, Christmas Party, a Nero Wolfe mystery set during the yuletide.

Private detective Nero Wolfe’s right-hand man, Archie Goodwin is attending a Christmas party at the offices of a former client when the host is murdered right in front of a roomful of guests.  

The suspects are many, including disgruntled employees, jealous benefactors, and a mysterious figure in a Santa Claus costume tending bar at the time. 

Since the host seems to have been poisoned from a bottle no one else drank from, Kris Kringle becomes the No. 1 person of interest. But Santa slipped away in the chaos as the others tended to the downed host. 

Archie is embroiled in the mystery as he was romancing a young woman employed at the company. Another young woman employee involves Nero Wolfe in the case. 

Both Archie and Wolfe know things related to the company and its people that they each would like to conceal from the police. The only way to do that is for Nero Wolfe to solve the mystery and reveal the killer before Inspector Cramer of the New York Police Department pounces on the wrong suspect. 

This is the perfect holiday read: not too long, none of the Nero Wolfes are, but this one is a novella; not too graphic, again, none of them are; and, while the brilliant, beer-drinking, flower-loving, gourmand, Nero Wolfe is an overbearing pain in the ass, sharp-witted, street-smart Archie Goodwin is always good company.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) published Christmas Party in 1957.