Triptych theme: Protagonists = (potentially) romantic couple engaging in near-constant witty repartee. AKA “The Nick & Norah Triptych”
How it Came About: Some time ago, when I was in Australia for WorldCon, the fabulous Peter Ball and I got to talking about our shared love for Nick & Norah, both movie and book, and he somehow got me to watch the DVD with commentary, which was actually quite fascinating. Among other tidbits about how the two authors had collaborated to produce the book, Rachel Cohn said that part of her inspiration had been Hammett’s characters Nick and Norah Charles, a rich and glamorous married couple “who solve homicides in between wisecracks and martinis” (as described on the back of the book). Cohn said she wanted to capture that sense of fun and witiness in a romantic couple. I later discovered Nick & Norah Charles had a forerunner in Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence, who don’t drink quite so much but are just as clever when it comes to both wise-cracks and crime-solving.
Favorite things and fun quotes from this triptych below the fold!
Favorite things about this triptych: Although there are moments when both The Secret Adversary and The Thin Man feel dated on gender issues, Tuppence and Norah Charles are amazingly strong and fascinating female characters–much more proactive than the typical female secretary stock character of some genre books of their day.
But, of course, the witty repartee itself is the best thing about these books. Verbal sparring is just a far more interesting way for characters to show affection than I-love-you-forevers and heart-shaped boxes.
Is one of these things not quite like the other?: Yes, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist definitely stands out for being much more recent and for not being a mystery. Would be interesting to see what Cohn & Levithan would have done with a YA mystery, though of course what they did do was just as fun…
Favorite?: They’re all great reads, but I’d have to go with The Thin Man as my fav, just because the Charles couple’s dialogue is so fun, by far the winner of the witty repartee contest.
The Secret Adversary:
Tuppence: Marriage is my best chance [of getting rich]. I made up my mind to marry money when I was quite young. Any thinking girl would! I’m not sentimental you know. …
Tommy: Certainly not. No one would ever think of sentiment in connection with you.
The Thin Man:
Norah (eating a piece of cold duck with one hand and working on a jigsaw puzzle with the other): You used to be a detective: find me a brownish piece shaped something like a snail with a long neck.
Nick: Piece of duck or puzzle? Don’t let’s go to the Edges’ tonight, they’re dull folk.
Norah: All right, but they’ll be sore.
Norah (after a violent encounter with gangsters at “The Pigeon Club”): I love you, Nicky, because you smell nice and know such fascinating people.
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist:
Nick (calling his own cell phone, which Norah has left with by accident): Is Nick there?
Norah: No, he’s out defeating a minor threat. Do you want to call back for his voicemail?
Nick: Can you give him a message?
Norah: Do I need a pen? Cuz if I do, you’re so fucking out of luck.