Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Inspector Frost And Jane Eyre

Hi Flower.

I'm always interested how a person comes to read this book and not that book. How do you come to a book Flower? How do you choose?

The books that I read as a teenager that have stayed with me the longest seem to be the books that I was led to by television or the movies. The perfect example of this is Jane Eyre. I saw Jane Eyre before I read Jane Eyre. I was 12 or 13 and a small bunch of us were sick. My poor Mother. It was me, brother V and sister A. We were in the last halcyon days of staying home from school with strep throat so there really was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

The Front Room, because it was the one with the TV in it, had been turned into our sick room. This was in the Dark Time before even VCR's let alone DVD players and TV was different back then. After tiring of game shows and soaps we came across Jane Eyre. I must have had the remote (Thank goodness they at least had been invented by then!) because a black and white movie from the 1940's is not something V or A would have given a second look at.

I loved it. Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine, Agnes Moorehead (Endora without her mod, caftan party clothes on! Who knew?) and he with the most marvelous voice, Henry Daniell. I was familiar with the title because there was a copy of that book in the bookcase at the top of the hall stairs. After basking in the delights of the movie I got the book and started reading. It was even better than the movie! Go figure. To be honest seeing the movie I am sure helped me to understand the novel and overcome any difficulties with the 19th century writing style.

This was the edition I read. It was a Signet paperback. I have no idea what the pub date on my copy of this edition was but I remember that the price on it was $1.75. Isn't that a wonderful cover? I was able to look it up on line and find out that the cover illustration was done by James Hill. I was not able to find out much information on Hill and his other work.

As an adult it's a rare thing for TV or movies to bring me to a book. One exception was Inspector Frost. Maybe ten years ago the British television series was shown on A&E. I adored it. The character of Frost and the actor, David Jason, who played him were a perfect match. Frost is a typical detective in some ways. He's a loner, cares too much about victims, is not politically correct, chafes under authority and doesn't care about things or appearances but what sets him apart is that he is also an every man. Oh yeah and he's not an addict or recovering addict either, that's refreshing. He's the guy who lives down the street in the house where the grass always needs to be cut, whose car rattles a bit and who knew your Father years ago. Short, rumpled and earthy David Jason makes Frost a slightly softer man than he is in the novels but Frost is still the type of memorable character you want to spend time with and not just a jumble of habits that grow wearisome.

After seeing the series I read the novels Inspector Frost was based on by R.D. Wingfield:

Frost At Christmas

A Touch of Frost

Night Frost

Hard Frost

Winter Frost

They are terrific books. The mystery part of the mysteries are tightly plotted and page turning. Wingfield builds the depressed midlands city of Denton from the poor up. The characters are vivid, working class, real people from the coppers to the villains. The interaction between Frost, great at his job but hardly a model civil servant, his fellow officers and the public is by turns sharp, funny and heartbreaking. I have to say I learned some very colorful slang from these novels as well.

Why am I heading down memory lane with the Inspector? Well because there is now a brand new Frost novel available! Sadly, R.D. Wingfield passed away a few years ago but author James Henry has taken on Frost and brought us a brilliant prequel to the series. In First Frost, Jack is only a Detective Sergeant without the spectacular track record that afforded him leeway to be insubordinate latter in his career, with an unhappy marriage and a special gift for irritating others. His direct superior is on a bender and the other is missing so when a young girl disappears Superintendent Mullett is forced to give the case to Frost despite his better judgment.

As of right now First Frost has not been published here in the U.S. and I cannot find any indication that it will be, BUT the original five novels in the series are available here and definitely worth your time! Or if you prefer try the television series either way you cannot go wrong.

P.S. I do adore the cover on the first copy of Jane Eyre I ever read. It has been a favorite ever since that fateful sick day. A cover I judge other cover by.
Here is the current cover on the Signet edition. What do you think? Does the word hideous come to mind? Traditionally Jane Eyre covers have been figurative--as most covers for classic novels are. Usually a Jane Eyre is a reproduction of a painting of a solitary woman from the 1800's sewing or reading.
 I have never seen a cover on Jane Eyre that looked so 1984 Rosamunde Pilcher, so collected nature poems, so banal.
As long as I am complaining about the utter bleech of the current Signet edition how about a couple wonderful covers that come out recently? These two are by Coralie Bickford-Smith and Ruben Toledo respectively. They make me want to buy and read Jane all over again!

No comments:

Post a Comment