Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Woman with the Blue Pencil -- Gordon McAlpine

When it comes to crime metafiction, Gordon McAlpine is tops.  Under a different name, he's the author of Hammett Unwritten, which I reviewed here, and now he's published The Woman with a Blue Pencil.  It's not easy to summarize, but I'll give it a try.  Just before the attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese-American named Sam Sumida, who's become an amateur sleuth investigating the murder of his wife, leaves a movie theater showing The Maltese Falcon only to discover that the world has changed completely, and not just because of Pearl Harbor, about which he knows nothing. 

Nobody knows him, either.  Nothing remains of his life before he entered the theater.  He doesn't even exist.  No one knows who he is, there's no record of the murder, there are people living in his home, and more.  Sam, it turns out, is a character excised from a novel called The Orchid and the Secret Agent, by another Japanese-American named Takumi Sato.  

We're presented with Simuda's story as he doggedly continues his investigation, along with chapters from the newer version of the novel in progress.  A third thread of the story is made up of the letters that Sato receives from his editor.  The letters are darkly hilarious, and the excerpts from The Orchid and the Secret Agent are funny in a different way.  Nothing is what it seems to be here, as the separate unrealites keep changing, thanks to the woman with the blue pencil, who's not what she seems, either.

All this and only 189 pages.  Highly recommended if you like this sort of thing.  If you think you don't like this sort of thing, give it a try anyway.  The book might convince you otherwise.

3 comments:

Don Coffin said...

Thanks again for adding to the pile...of pixels, but, still...

Don Coffin said...

I started this tonight (2/19) and, 1/4 of the way into it, I is pretty amazing. Just the concept is amazing, and the execution is brilliant.

Bill Crider said...

Not like anything else you're likely to read this month, either.