How to Curl Up With a Good Suspense Book: Alfred Hitchcock

Immediately below, you will find two of The Sophisticated Reader’s recent vintage book finds, written by one of our favorite vintage Film Directors/Writers/Publishers/Long-Running TV-Hosts. The multi-hyphenated-literary-luminary who best fits that description (out-sized as it is and he was) would be Alfred Hitchcock.

Here are two of his books – both compilations of Suspense Stories, and both containing the same seemingly favorite Daphne du Maurier’s best-seller, The Birds, as well as numerous other scary mystery stories that “Hitch” so loved.

"Good Even-ing..."

“Good Even-ing…”

Hitchcock was nothing but prolific, and also controversial – perhaps both reasons readers are still fascinated with his noir movies and his personality (witness the two 2012 movie deconstructions of his personal life and of his alleged directing style).

I see that vintage Hitchcock anthologies are now selling nicely on the book market. But what intrigued me more than the stories these books was Hitchcock’s preface in the second book, above, where he defines a suspense story.  “It is not simply a Who-done-it,” he writes. “It might be better called a When’s he-gonna-do-it. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I tell you that in most of these stories, somebody does do it. So don’t say you haven’t been warned….”

The Master of Suspense

The Master of Suspense

Aside from Hitchcock’s views that suspense/mystery stories are “therapeutic”, because they help relieve “every possible suppressed desire” to commit a crime or enact revenge, Hitchcock also suggests too much preface  can ruin the anticipation a reader experiences when diving into an unknown book – especially a mystery book.

If the pages are ragged, we know who done it

If the pages are ragged, we know who done it

But, my favorite paragraph in this preface is where he suggests “If you are anxious to curl up with a good book, perhaps we should be getting on….“, further advising, “when you begin reading, may I suggest you choose a time when you are alone in the house. If there are people there, get rid of them. The book is full of suggestions of how this can be accomplished…

Finally, here’s the Hitchcock admission about curling up with a book. We think it deserves framing, or at least  a bumper sticker: the only things I know of that actually like to curl up with a good book are the silverfish in my basement.

On point, Mr. Hitchcock. As always, on point.


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