David Thomson – Suspects (1985)
Author: David Thomson
Genre: Drama, crime, film noir, metanarrative
What are the stories behind stories? In and around them, the events generations before or minutes after the last word, the final frame? Film critic and historian David Thomson fuses worlds from American film drama into the dreary universe of the novel Suspects, where hope begets regret. Don’t worry about knowing all the films referenced, for the stories and writing compel a reader through. What unifies the book is the wealth of connections, either through echoed themes or unexpected crossovers.
Over a hundred characters drift within and between the chapters, ranging from Norman Bates to Norma Desmond, Harry Lime to Travis Bickle. Suspects’ exploration of background or future events may enhance — or taint — later viewings of certain films. For instance, the chapter focused on The Godfather’s Kay Corleone brings about shock that sticks years after reading this novel. A different chapter finds that Casablanca‘s Rick and Louis have become more than just friends. Later, Ilsa Lund buys Edward Hopper’s painting High Noon, infusing this novel about films with another medium’s forlorn vision.
Suspects is especially recommended for “Noirvember” reading for how it weaves the themes of film noir throughout. It is noir fatalism that fuels this depiction of “the American psyche,” where historical memory has intertwined with movie memory since the invention of the moving picture. Thomson may be proposing with this novel that cinema itself contains stories behind our stories. Film seizes light to create flickers of life, and in doing so, captures our shadows and reflections.