Thursday, February 03, 2011
6. This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith
This Sweet Sickness doesn't rank amongst my favourite of her works and at some point I even found it a bit trying. But it does pick up by the second half and ultimately she delivers a succesful tale of a man driven mad by his obsession with a woman. She is such a master at writing about what is going on inside the head of a crazy person. It's not just the internal dialogue, but subtle little clues, like sudden surges of energy or erroneous perceptions (that the reader is aware of).
I did have one exciting moment that sadly turned out to be not so exciting. The basic story is that a scientist, David Kelsey, pines after the woman he left behind in his town (to make money to be able to marry her). She ends up going out with another guy and then marrying him and the "protagonist" can't let go, to the point that he has bought another house and spends every weekend there, preparing for her eventual arrival in that home. He sends letters to her and eventually harrases her enough that her husband comes out to confront him. They get in a scuffle and the husband falls and hits his head on the concrete porch stairs and dies.
Kelsey drives to the police station and pretends he doesn't know the guy. And here is where I flipped out. "He [David Kelsey] said that the man had arrived at his house in a belligerent mood, addressed him as Parker or something like that, and eventually pulled a gun."
It sure seemed like a potential Highsmith/Westlake connection. I was actually jumping up and down and shouting at my wife "I think Patricia Highsmith may have read Parker!" I was under the impression that This Sweet Sickness was written in 1970 and I went on a flurry of google searching, which then made me realize that the paperback I was reading was released in 1970, but the book was originally written in 1960, years before The Hunter came out. :(
It sure does sound like a reference to Parker, though doesn't it? I mean isn't he always attracting beligerrent dudes with guns coming looking for him?
My wife did offer one appeasement to my disappointment. Perhaps Westlake had read This Sweet Sickness and the name had stuck in his head? The name Parker comes up twice more in that section as he continues to lie to the cops. Highsmith and Westlake were contemporaries. Can anybody find evidence that one may have read the other on the web?