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Hitchcock-Strangers-on-a-Train

The almost incredible

I am very fond of coincidences in plots and situations that are almost but not quite incredible, as in the audacious plan set forth in the first chapter of Strangers on a Train by one man who has known the other passenger only a couple of hours; the chance selection of Tom Ripley, potential murderer, by the father of a young man, as an agent to bring that young man home from Europe; the unlikely and unpromising meeting of Robert and Jennie in The Cry of the Owl, when Robert appears to be a prowler and Jennie ignores this fact and is drawn to him.

(Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction – Patricia Highsmith)

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Walt Disney and Wernher von Braun

Wernher and Walt

Anybody interested in the history of space exploration will be familiar with the name of Wernher Von Braun and with the main points of his biography. They will know that Von Braun was a German aristocrat, SS officer, and scientist, who led the Nazi’s rocket development programme.

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Charles Baudelaire

Portraits in words

A couple of novels I read recently got me thinking about character descriptions. From my own reading, admittedly a small sample size, I have the impression that fiction writers are making their character descriptions much more frugal than used to be the case. Read More

Lost movies

In his history of France in the 1930s, The Hollow Years, Eugen Weber mentions, almost in passing, ‘Of two thousand French films shot between 1930 and 1950 only a quarter survive, and most of those that we still view are more or less glum.’ Read More

Paris bookshop

Beginning a fiction series: form and structure

The novella has never been a hugely popular form. It’s often seen as a kind of in-between fiction, neither long enough to allow for satisfying character development and plotting, not brief enough to provide the concentrated impact of the best short stories. But it’s a form that I’ve always enjoyed and at its best it can combine something of the complexity of the novel with the economy of the short story. Read More