I’d never read Daphne Du Maurier until I read Kiss Me Again, Stranger, a collection of 8 short stories. “Where have I been all these years?”, I asked myself. Housed in the mystery section of the antiquarian bookstore Westsider Rare and Used Books on Broadway and 78th Street (give or take a block or two), some stories were mysteries and some were just odd, for lack of a better term. All were good.
I did learn something from the book, though. Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds was based on a Du Maurier story of the same name. That and the fact that Du Maurier wrote the story and the screenplay is almost where the similarity ends. One takes place in the U.S. and the other in England. One has a romance and one doesn’t. One is about survival and the other isn’t. I must admit the original story is quite compelling. They are both scary, though!
I’d tell you my favorite story, but they are all so different and as I look at the titles to write this, they all conjure up the story lines and I like them all. Kiss Me Again, Stranger, the story, is about GIs being murdered. The Apple Tree is about a tree taking revenge. The Little Photographer is about a vacation liaison turned bad and No Motive is about a suicide. You see, the stories are all over the place, but once started, I couldn’t put the book down.
I find that Du Maurier’s stories and Vera Caspary’s writings have a similarity in their feel. Contemporaries (Laura by Caspary was written in 1943 and Rebecca by Du Maurier was written in 1938) it is not the mystery that is commanding but the story, the atmosphere created by the authors, the surroundings described by the authors. These are not ‘police procedurals’. They are creations. A few days ago I wrote about painting a picture with words. I found both Du Maurier and Caspary created canvases.
I know I’ve just rambled but since I couldn’t really describe the stories, I had to find a way to tell you why I like these authors so much. I hope I have and I hope my enthusiasm will rub off on you.
Just a note on Westsider Rare and Used Books. Quite a store. It’s very narrow. It has a second floor and the stairs are lined on both sides with books. Be careful climbing. Books are stacked on shelves reaching all the way to the 20+ feet ceiling. It’s got a great mystery corner as shown in this photo to the left of the door (the paperbacks are shelved two deep), but it has a very eclectic collection. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by.