The Tremor of Forgery

The Tremor of Forgery[Reading] ➹ The Tremor of Forgery By Patricia Highsmith – Howard Ingham llega a Tunicia con la intención de preparar el guión de una película Desconectado de su ambiente habitual inmerso en un medio extraño en una cultura regida por una escala de valores Howard Ingham llega a Tunicia con la intención de preparar el guión de una película Desconectado de su ambiente habitual inmerso en un medio extraño en una cultura regida por una escala de valores totalmente ajena Ingham sufre una crisis de identidad. The Tremor of Forgery is the first novel by Patricia Highsmith that I have ever read It was this year’s main ‘holiday book’ taken with me to Tunisia for no better reason than it is set in Tunisia I chose it in other words for precisely the same reason that I took Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile to Egypt last year Setting out on a review here is beset with uncertainty a little like going on safari without a guide a map or a compass I simply have no landmarks no basis for comparison I certainly know of Highsmith’s work her reputation as a writer of thrillers and crime stories through film adaptations of novels like Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr Ripley but as commendable as these may be they are little better than palimpsests The Tremor of Forgery is a simple subtle and altogether deceptive piece of work a trap for the unwary for those beguiled by surfaces As I read it the impressions crowded in I had no Highsmith to compare with Highsmith What I had instead was Albert Camus’ The Stranger and Paul Bowles' Let it Come Down novels that also happen to be set in North Africa the latter in Morocco and the former in Algeria Tunisia’s neighbours in the Maghreb But there is than mere geography here All of these books deal with displacement alienation and moral ambiguity; all if you like are about Strangers on a Plain I simply loved The Tremor of Forgery loved the author’s limpid prose style loved the way she handled her themes loved the psychological insight This is no mere writer of crime fiction; this is an author on a far higher plain than poor old dear old Agatha Christie Her sense of place and time is perfect She seems to understand Tunisia though I have no idea if she has ever been there She certainly understands the experience of living in an alien culture the challenges this presents to the moral lumber and sense of certainty that the outsider brings along with the luggage The main outsider here the narrator is Howard Ingham an American writer who comes to Tunisia to work on a screenplay His story unravels against the background of the Six Day War between the Arabs and Israelis Though this has no direct impact on Ingham it creates an underlying mood of anti Western hostility that may or may not have had an impact on Anders Jensen a Danish artist and homosexual that Ingham befriends Incidentally as a small aside here Highsmith in Ingham’s correspondence preserves the rather uaint antiue dating convention whereby the last two numbers of the year are substituted with a dash So we have June 8 19 – Hey but we already know this is 1967 The Tremor of Forgery creates a tremulous mood right from the outset Ingham is alone in a strange land There is no word from home either from John Castlewood the film director who is supposed to be joining him in Tunisia or from Ina his girlfriend and possible future wife in New York Increasingly apprehensive he decides to work on a new novel which concerns a morally ambiguous banker The ambiguity here is heightened by the fact that Ingham selects The Tremor of Forgery as a working title only to discard it As time passes – still no word from the States despite increasingly desperate pleas – he makes friends with two wholly contrasting fellow expats – Jensen whom I have already mentioned and Francis Adams another American Jensen hates the Arabs though paradoxically he has gone native living in a seedy Arab neighbourhood in the seaside town of Hammamet More than that in going native he has taken on the moral ambiguity of his surroundings where life and death are matters of indifference Adams is a contrast in every way A rather absurd character he is a Rock of Gibraltar so far as Western and American standards of morality are concerned Pompous and possibly delusional he broadcasts a weekly talk show to the Soviet Union a secret he confides to his new friend The content is so laughably self righteous that Ingham accords him the nickname of OWL – Our Way of Life Bit by bit Ingham’s own standards are corrupted a reflection in real life of the action in his evolving novel the elliptical story within the story He grows closer to Jensen his most important confidante important than the distant Ina who remains distant even when she eventually appears on the scene The heart of the mystery is a death or is not a death – we simply never know Ingham absorbs a lot of Jensen’s distrust of the Arabs one Arab in particular a notorious thief This Arab may or may not have attempted to break into Ingham’s hotel bungalow in the dark In guarding against the intruder Ingham reaches for the only weapon to hand his typewriter which he throws hitting his target possibly killing him or possibly not killing him All we know all Ingham ever knows is that after a scream a fall and a scuffle in the dark there is nobody and no body The Arab in uestion simply disappears no uestions asked This is the core of this clever little book as intense as a medieval morality tale with modern existential and psychological overtones made all the intriguing by an ever present sense of threat Ingham tells Jensen What does it matter? he responds; nobody cares It matters says Adams He suspects that Ingham has had a part in the Arab’s fate or is failing to tell the whole story Drawn between the one pole and the other Ingham begins to uestion who and what he is who and what he has become Do not look for resolutions here there are none When Ina appears briefed by Adams she puts pressure on Ingham to confess the whole truth though there is really no whole truth to confess She comes draped in conventional religious morality though there are clear overtones of hypocrisy here particularly in the relationship she may have had with the movie director who has since committed suicide a relationship that is never fully revealed I was so impressed by The Tremor of Forgery not at all what I expected far than a simple crime thriller I was all the impressed reading it in situ aware of the ambiguity of my surroundings aware that this was a place where certainties may be no solid than the mirages I saw in the great salt lake of Chott el Jerid This is a beautifully unsettling story that if properly read may very well lead you to uestion what Ingham uestions; to uestion who and what we are Unlike Strangers on a Train or The Talented Mr Ripley this is a book that is unlikely ever to be made into a movie It’s far too realistic for that People on vacation or on a working vacation or on a vacation that turns to work occasionally are slightly different than ordinary people Their connection to the world is shifted their spending dining recreating interacting habits are all slightly different in the vacation or travel mode Either their guard is up or down or the general components of what comprises their guard has shifted a little subtly changed The talented Miss Highsmith sympathizes taking genuine interest and fairly bloodthirsty delight in the crossed signals and misplaced allegiances that can result Written in 1968 The Tremor Of Forgery is Highsmith at the top of her game or even maybe just past it enough that her usual ingredients are stirred shaken and mixed up a fair amount Without doing a summary of the plot it's enough to say that her usual Innocent gets himself entangled in traps of moral sexual criminal and cultural dimension all while trying to navigate a self appraising re inventory of his life and oh yes happens to be writing a novel The best of it is in the early going when an imminent unnerving 'something' is swirling in the air of the Tunisian resort where our protagonist has set up camp As usual in Highsmith something inevitable is happening forming in dark clouds just around the bend but for the moment we only feel the foreboding The North African setting offers something we don't usually get in this author's books which is a drastic horizontal plane of action the desert and sea of the location; it is somehow even dizzying to watch the usual bad to worse spiral take place in this land of deep focus and undefined context and yes of course Messrs Camus and Bowles are standing in the shadows Once the gears and cogs begin to rotate we're on firmer ground but the unmentioned the between the lines dread of the situation are what has hooked the reader by this point When I say she's past the top of her game it is because there is something simple maybe like chamber music that is being played here; every action and counter action prompts an overtone or an undertone each duly appears in time and on cue Highsmith is composing her weirdo music here tapping the keys that will set the mood for the entrance of the theme that sets up the uestions blithely knowing hearing the ripples and answering tones just like the musician aiming at that final puzzle solving end chordCat and mouse but a lot of fun There has always been traces of Paul Bowles in Highsmith's fiction and this book is almost a love letter of sorts to Bowles' world Without moral overtones one falls into the spell of evil or at least except it on a face value Very disturbing even creepy like I found this different from other Highsmith novels in that the characters are all fairly likeable and believable not as extreme or as paranoid as I've come to expect What isn't likeable is Howard Ingham's increasingly less than sympathetic view of Arabs Ingham imagined that Arabs were or less always the same from one day to the next that no external events could much affect them for example Highsmith does a good job of showing Ingham's shifting sense of self of morality in the heat barrenness and otherness of the Tunisian landscape She seems genuinely interested in exploring notions of morality and in following Ingham's search for an authentic self less intent on taking us down the path of an inevitable downturn Ingham missteps but he also confesses and still is able to follow his less conventional self to achieve a surprisingly for Highsmith happy turn of affairs by the novel's end Highsmith's portrait of the Danish artist Jensen and his beloved dog the growing friendshiplove between the two men their care for the animal is completely believable There is tenderness in this novel despite the harsh landscape because of? than I'm used to seeing in Highsmith territory The American OWL provides comic moments but he too is taken seriously as a character noteif you want to avoid spoilers you'd best skip the comment section below COUNTDOWN Mid 20th Century North American Crime BOOK 37 of 250This is my second reading In my first review below I state this is the most unusual Highsmith I've read that remains true and that I'd have ended the book 20 pages earlier with Ingham lit a cigaratte and there I was wrong perhaps And still there are 3 Highsmith novels I think better Right now that is as Highsmith novels are just so re readableHOOK 4 stars You're sure there's no letter for me Ingham asked Howard Ingham I n g h a m He spelt it a little uncertainly in French though he had spoken in English The plump Arab clerk in the bright red uniform glanced through the letters in the cubbyhold marked I J and shook his head Non m'sieur This 2 paragraph opening tells us Howard Ingham is waiting on a letter that he is unsure the clerk understands him that he's somewhere geographically that consists of mixed cultures that Howard himself is apparently well traveled and well educated as far as languages but still he is unsure of his own communication capabilities What's in the letter? Who is it from? Where is Ingham anyway? Tunisia You might like me want to pronounce his name as Ingraham as you read But it's i n g h a m It's off a bit and perfect for a Highsmith novelPACE 3 Steady character development and continual tension after an early murder takes place But Highsmith doesn't rush things she never does She isn't Spillane she doesn't write pure action thrillersPLOT 4 Ingham is hired to write a screenplay set in Tunisia and to be filmed there The producer John Castlewood has sent Ingham ahead to get a feel for the area to perhaps get a first draft in place Ingham is also writing a follow up novel to his very successful The Game of If After weeks of not hearing from John nor from his girlfriend Ina he finally gets a letter His world is turned upside down by the contents of said letter Then someone breaks into his bungalow and things go bad Our 'hero' is alone in a foreign country no one is coming for him he has only his mind and the novel he is writing to deal with issues When Highsmith nails a certain coffin shut one can hear and feel it And you'll be surprisedCHARACTERS 4 Ingham decides not to name his new novel The Tremor of Forgery because perhaps that's too close to all that's happening Then there is the problem of a missing body Dead or alive? There are no cops investigating the crime Hotel management refuses to discuss the issue The employees say nary a word And is Ingham turning into the character in his new book? Is this the way he writes himself out of his predicament? Howard makes a few friends and when Jensen puts the move on Howard he says no but they become best friends We're told early page 2 in the book that Homosexual relationships had no stigma here which puts an early spin on several relationships A missing dog plays a large part in friendships as does the never met ex wife of Ingham Charlotte ATMOSPHERE 5 Tunisia is an area of mixed cultures Highsmith makes that clear And she does it beautifully it's a place I'd love to visit I could never uite picture it physically I couldn't grab onto the look which makes this place even intriguing The politics of the world seem just right and presented really for Ingham to ignore the rest of the universe And Ingraham's frustration and confusion comes through clear as day we as readers are alone but with him We as readers don't know what to do where to go If you've become enthralled in a horror movie say and you scream at the screen No don't go that way you know something Here you just don't know what to yell at the character And he can't settle down there's a good reason he moves from his very nice bungalow to a mid to low level hotel with no indoor plumbing he isI think this is something each reader has to decide He can't access Tunisia either he just doesn't fit it This is a case where the author had to place the story in a location unfamiliar to most readers A place where culture boundaries are iffy SUMMARY This book is very good better than I remembered Overall my rating is 40 so my original 3 star rating increases to 4 In 1987 the New Yorker declared this to be her best work It's definitely the one that placed Highsmith solidly in literary territory But still this is not one of my favorite Highsmith novels As I'm making a few final touches to this review I'm placing this book back on my 'to read' shelf for 2019ORIGINAL REVIEW January 19th 2016 This is the tenth Highsmith work I've read and for me it's her most unusual The title is perfect as there are tremors of forgeries everywhere signedunsigned artwork; a man who might be dead; even romantic preferences that aren't resolved It's been said that great artists know when to stop I would have stopped twenty pages earlier with Ingham lit a cigarette But I've never been called a great artist Sweaty Tunisia in the blistering sun PaHi suspense writer of sheer dread keeps you uncomfortable in a labyrinth of amorality ethics and ambiguous relationships That said I don't think you can kill someone by hurling your typewriter at 'em in the dark The basic flaw here is the oopsy murder Consider the damage an inked eraser might cause if it hit the heart In her Introduction which I read as an Afterword Francine Prose calls this Highsmith's best Admittedly this is only my third by Highsmith so I'm definitely no expert on the subject but I didn't like this as much as The Talented Mr Ripley For me there was no tension There is an extraordinary event for which I assume I am expected to be anxious about conseuences The main character didn't seem to be anxious and so I wasn't either The main character Howard Ingham simply wasn't the hand wringing typeWhat I did like about this was there were two story lines Howard Ingham is an author writing about an embezzler His character Dennison has no guilty conscience Does he even have a tremor in the split second before his forgeries? Ingham is not an embezzler but his personality seems so very similar to that of his character Perhaps others would find this clever Prose also calls Highsmith funny That had never occurred to me Is there supposed to be humor in psychological novels? I simply didn't see anything in that vein but not everyone's sense of humor is the same Ingham's previous book titles are ridiculous but it never occurred to me to dwell on them long enough to crack a smile I admit I don't see humor in as many places as others doI didn't hate this and it certainly doesn't put me off reading another Highsmith But I could have skipped it and not missed anything I have purchased waaayyy too many books this year and decided to put myself on a book buying ban But when I visited one of my favorite bookshops I decided to ignore the ban and allowed myself to buy just one book I was on the fence with what I wanted and finally decided to purchase this Highsmith which on the front says one of her best from The New Yorker No No it isn't Apparently the reviewer had never read This Sweet Sickness or The Blunderer or even Tom Ripley There was no mystery in this book at all Oh wait I was mistaken There was a missing dog for a majority of the pages But he comes back This was a real disappointment And made me never want to visit Tunisia I honestly don't think I've read this one before which surprises me May just be my failing memory This novel ranks right up there with STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and TALENTED MR RIPLEY All of Patty's usual motifs uirks and neuroses are on full display here Reading Patty can be dangerous Patty is a misogynist lesbian or vice versa The ultimate misanthrope she shows contempt for most of humanity but she has a special animus towards women Look at the nasty homophobic speech she puts into the mouth of the only female character of note in this novel Or her vicious depiction of Marge Sherwood in TALENTEDHer main male character is nearly always some version of herself esp the successfully depicted ones Ergo her depictions of heterosexual relationships always strike me as a little off Not that I would know much on the subject than she did Patty reminds me of certain gay men of her era her attitudes which define character accdg to her The sex scenes in this one really ring false Howard and Ina are so formal distant and uptight with one another Like Patty had no idea how to play out the scenes; hence simply unbelievableOf course the only intimate relationship in the book is between Ingham and Jensen They actually trust each other like each other are at ease in the other's company These closety vaguely referenced uasi gay friendships pop up regularly in her novels and are often the strongest human connection but this time the subject that dare not speak its name is directly acknowledged than usual Ina's accusations The sexual hints which grow a bit heavy handed with all the talk of underpants and heat and reclining together under the desert stars Can one of these Highsmith heroes go on and make it with a guy just once None of these guys ever successfully comes across as a hetero male they just come across as Patty cross dressingGotta give Patty credit though She knows her neurotics And her books obsess me So this is how a liberal author would write in a pre politically correct era full of ethnic stereotypes but given with the well meant curiosity of the Westerner who is not actually appalled by hisher encounter with a completely different culture but instead judges everything by western measures The moral issue of the story was uite inadeuate for me my personal view is that one has to do hisher duty and live by a certain moral code in any culture anywhere in this world Reason is the basis of ethics please read your Aristoteles I still don't understand most of the protagonist's decisions and I actually don't care anyNot my best Highsmith