Friday, February 20, 2015

David Handler

David Handler’s first book in the Berger and Mitry series, The Cold Blue Blood, was a Dilys Award finalist and BookSense Top Ten pick. Handler is also the author of eight novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including Edgar and American Mystery Award winner The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald.

His new mystery is Phantom Angel.

Recently I asked Handler about what he was reading. His reply:
I love to comb through used bookstores. There’s a terrific one near my home on the Connecticut shoreline called the Book Barn. I was pawing around in the murder and mayhem section there recently when I came across an old 50-cent Dell paperback from the early 1960s entitled Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 14 of My Favorites in Suspense. I grabbed it. The reason I did is because one of those 14 favorites of his happened to be "The Birds," the 1952 short story by the great Daphne du Maurier that was the basis for Hitchcock’s breathtakingly brilliant 1963 movie. I love the movie. I love Daphne du Maurier’s writing. And yet, for some reason, I’d never come across the story before.

I just read it this morning. Have you ever read it? Oh, you must. It’s amazing. Not at all like Hitchcock’s movie. It’s a spare, simple tale about a quiet English coastal farmer named Nat Hocken who discovers one autumn day that he, his wife and children are suddenly being attacked by birds. Big birds. Small birds. All birds. The Hockens barricade themselves in their cottage and yet the birds keep coming, first breaking the windows, then pecking their way through wooden storm shutters. Nat has no idea why this is happening. He has no time to wonder why. He is too busy fighting to keep his family alive.

Hitchcock and his screenwriter, Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), invented most of the elements that we remember about the film version of The Birds. The meet-cute between Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor at the pet shop in San Francisco. Her impulsive visit to his family’s place in Bodega Bay with the pair of caged lovebirds. Rod Taylor’s clinging, disapproving mother, played by Jessica Tandy. The village schoolteacher, Suzanne Pleshette, who’s still carrying a torch for him. None of these things exist in the short story.

Yet the terrifying essence, which is that one day our feathered friends decide they don’t want to share this planet with us anymore, is exactly the same. And I swear it’s even more frightening in Du Maurier’s starkly simple telling. If you’re a fan of the movie you’ve just got to read it. You must.
Visit David Handler's website.

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2011).

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2012).

Writers Read: David Handler (August 2013).

Writers Read: David Handler (March 2014).

--Marshal Zeringue