Friday, 15 November 2013

The Doors of Sleep by Thurman Warriner

Published 1955 chapter 1









She was standing beneath the carved head of the girl on the corbel, and their features were uncannily alike. In her arms she carried a sheaf of early chrysanthemums. She was wearing a thin brown dress, polka-dotted; she looked very slender and young. As Mr Ambo watched, she put the flowers in two tall vases under the chancel arch, kneeling on the steps to arrange them. She stood there a moment, head on one side, gave them a final touch and turned away…

[later, the same day] Then a curious and disturbing thing happened. [Mr Ambo] thought he saw someone on the terrace steps. His sight being less acute now, he concentrated all his powers of vision on that shadow in the waning light. A woman, surely, in a brown, polka-dotted dress. For a moment he thought Alyson must have returned unexpectedly, then he realized the inadequacy of that as an explanation…

‘No,’ Vinery said, ‘it wasn’t my wife.’

‘You saw her?’ Mr Ambo asked, and Vinery burst into a long laugh…




observations: This is a creepy little episode – never really explained, and with no great purpose. Although this is a murder story, there is no question of this appearance being related to alibis or people being where they shouldn’t. There is no real explanation of it in the book. In an earlier entry – which should be read with this one - we said that Warriner can’t make up its mind what kind of a book it is.

There is a nasty atmosphere of a wicked, manipulative husband indulging himself in psychological abuse, and a rather interesting take on marriage from an Archdeacon:

By heaven, no, it isn’t to say that God joins together every couple who stand at the altar. I’d put it at about ten percent. Majority of ‘em use God as a sort of super-registrar.

The wife in this case – the woman in the polka-dot dress - is too perfect for her own good, an empty character to modern eyes. There is a fairly excruciating passage where Lottie – the bra-less girl from the previous entry – who is obviously of low origins but rising up in the world, is described as subtly learning from Alyson, her social superior, getting hints on how to dress.

I complained about a recent detective story set in the 1950s because he misquotes a famous line of poetry. I’d have thought that much less likely to happen in a Penguin book of the 50s, but I’d be wrong – same line, same mistake. (The correct line is: They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.)

There are some splendid names in the book – Charlesworth Vinery and Amen and Starry Sleep – but I suppose if your own name is Thurman Warriner you have a headstart in this area.

I thought it would be easy to find a suitable picture of a woman in a polka-dot dress (she didn’t have to be a ghost after all) but it was very difficult. This one is from Dovima is Devine’s photostream.

10 comments:

  1. I'll pass on the book. There's something quite sexy about this woman and her hat, it's not red is it?

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    1. I was quite pleased with this picture, having had some difficulty finding one, but no idea what the colours are - nor the significance of a red hat!

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    2. You've never heard the saying......."red hat, no knickers".....

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    3. I must have forgotten that one as I grew older....

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  2. Moira - That is a great picture for this post! And an eerie scene you've chosen to share. I know what you mean about books that aren't sure exactly what they want to be, but this one sounds like it's got some fine features to it. And I do love those names!

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    1. Yes indeed. And it really was an enjoyable book in its own way - I did acquire another one by the same author, which shows something, doesn't it? Expect the next one on the blog soon.

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  3. I cannot see the lady wearing brown. When I saw the photo I thought of white dots on a dress of a primary colour - a bold fashion statement - rather than an ordinary brown. I think of bright red with a subtler red for handbag, gloves and hat. A black and white photo lets the imagination fill in the colour.

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    1. Yes and yes - I agree with all you say Bill! Thanks....

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  4. This is vintage (pre-1960's for my purposes), and I will put it on a list to look for. I especially liked the excerpt on marriage, so it sounds like I might enjoy it. As I mentioned in my comments on the last post on this book, never heard of the author before.

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    1. I don't know where I picked that one up, 2nd hand shop somewhere, and had never heard of him before: but he wrote quite a few books. I have found another one, so that will turn up on blog soon.

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