Monday, June 13, 2011

Pete's Talking About a Song, a Movie and One Heck of a Novel

A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion
From the acclaimed author of Atticus and Mariette in Ecstasy comes a stylish novel set in the hard-drinking, fast-living New York City of the Jazz Age that follows two lovers in a torrid affair on an arc of murder and sexual self-destruction.
Based on a real case whose lurid details scandalized Americans in 1927 and sold millions of newspapers, acclaimed novelist Ron Hansen’s latest work is a tour de force of erotic tension and looming violence.

Trapped in a loveless marriage, Ruth Snyder is a voluptuous, reckless, and altogether irresistible woman who wishes not only to escape her husband but that he die—and the sooner the better. No less miserable in his own tedious marriage is Judd Gray, a dapper corset-and-brassiere salesman who travels the Northeast peddling his wares. He meets Ruth in a Manhattan diner, and soon they are conducting a white-hot affair involving hotel rooms, secret letters, clandestine travels, and above all, Ruth’s increasing insistence that Judd kill her husband. Could he do it? Would he? What follows is a thrilling exposition of a murder plan, a police investigation, the lovers’ attempt to escape prosecution, and a final reckoning for both of them that lays bare the horror and sorrow of what they have done.

Dazzlingly well-written and artfully constructed, this impossible-to-put-down story marks the return of an American master known for his elegant and vivid novels that cut cleanly to the essence of the human heart, always and at once mysterious and filled with desire.

Pete says:
"Just when you'd thought you'd heard the last England Dan & John Ford Coley reference...

The 70's pop/rock duo England Dan and John Ford Coley sang the melodic lyric 'It's sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.' The characters in that song decide to accept their sad fate and pine away about what might have been if the 'right one' had been theirs. Not so for our lovers in A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion, the new novel by Ron Hansen. Set in the high-flying flapper days of mid 1920's New York City, Ruth and Judd throw caution to the wind and begin a torrid affair despite having spouses at home and young children to raise.

For Ruth, marriage has devolved to the point where her husband's very breathing is repulsive to her, or something as innocuous as the way his steps fall in the hallway. But in those days divorce was uncommon and problematic and a woman might not fare as well when compared to today's court decisions. Judd, too, married young and has no love left for his wife. Ruth becomes everything to him and with a little prodding a plot is hatched. Life insurance papers are forged and Ruth's husband must die. 

If this sounds like the movie plot of 'Double Indemnity', it is. Both are based on the real life court case of these misguided lovers. If you enjoyed that movie as much as I did then you simply must read this book. The affair itself is a wild and reckless romp, replete with sex and smoking and plenty of booze despite the era of prohibition. The court case thereafter is utterly fascinating and the decision and its aftermath simply stunning. It is indeed 'sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along,' but sadder still to see an otherwise decent couple allow their blind passion to drive them straight to hell."

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