I might have a backwards way of selecting my literature. Whereas the modern reader is apt to watch a movie because he liked the book that inspired it, I, on the other hand, am searching out reading material based on movies I enjoy. People often say the books are better than the movies in most of these circumstances, so perhaps my approach will result in the discovery of great books.
The novels I have recently been hunting are based on movies I have here blogged about: Piccadilly Jim and The Saint series. I have been most optimistic about locating the former, as it seems to be available to a degree online. The latter I have held little hope for because the series of stories seems to be out of print, largely, though also sporadically available online.
During this past week and a half while on vacation in the Pacific Northwest, I stopped in every bookstore I came across to inquire about these items. All returned negative results except one. Powell’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon, might be the largest such retailer in the country. It occupies one square block and at least three stories of retail space. I asked the man at the desk about “Piccadilly Jim” and was told it was not in stock but to otherwise checkout the impressive P.G. Wodehouse collection. I did so, was impressed, and had a last minute impulse to check alphabetically on the chance the title I sought was there. Indeed it was, to my vast excitement!
I then took it upon myself to look up “The Saint” books by Leslie Charteris. The computer said at least one was available, but to my surprise, a whole shelf was lined with a variety in the series. Unable to properly choose where to begin, I selected the four hard covers in stock (to my pocketbook’s dismay). They include the first in the series, “Meet the Tiger”, a version printed in 1940.
I’ve already delved into “Piccadilly Jim” and am finding it wildly different from the movie version starring Robert Montgomery. Some of the changes made for the movie I perceive to be a means to play to the actors’ strengths, such as by altering Eugenia from a strong wife into a ditzy wife-prospect under her sisters thumb, ala Billie Burke. I also recently caught a few moments of a modern movie of the story that had me utterly confused because it differed so much from what I recalled of the Montgomery version. I think in actuality it is more true to the novel.
So my love of Wodehouse is being furthered through this new find and I can’t wait to delicately make my way through the ancient hardcover Saint books. Hunting for a piece of literature history is certainly more thrilling than picking up a readily available classic at Barnes and Noble. Hooray for independently owned bookstores!