Monday, 3 January 2011

Alice and Crime


Alice in Wonderland is not only a timeless classic, but also one of my lifelong favourite books. The story has always fascinated me, and not simply because Lewis Carroll grew up not far from where I did, in Cheshire Cat country. On New Year’s Eve I watched Tim Burton’s film of Alice, and also had chance to reflect on the story once again.

The episodic nature of the story is one of its appeals, and Carroll’s inventiveness was so rich that his work has inspired countless others. In the crime field, Night of the Jabberwock by Fredric Brown is a super novel by a terrific writer. I haven’t really talked about Brown in this blog, but I rate him very highly.

The late Edward D. Hoch contributed a short story, ‘The War in Wonderland’, to an anthology that I edited, and it went on to win an award, which gave me a lot of vicarious pleasure. For my own part, I have toyed with the idea of an Alice theme for a crime story, but – so far – the ingredients haven’t come together to make a satisfactory whole. Maybe one day.

As for the film, it was an interesting take on the story, with a great cast including Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. The visual effects were impressive. But it didn’t owe too much to the original, and whereas Carroll produced a masterpiece, Burton only managed something that, although watchable and entertaining, felt slightly unsatisfactory. He is a good film-maker, but I still prefer his Mars Attacks!, an uneven but funny movie which I’ve just watched and enjoyed again.

11 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Now that's intriguing; an Alice theme for a murder mystery novel. hmmmm... There was an odd, almost macabre take on the Alice story in Tom Petty's video for his song Don't Come Around Here No More. After watching that, I can believe your idea might work...

Eric Mayer said...

Okay. Night of the Jabberwock is my next Fredric Brown. I discovered his mysteries not long ago and have only read two -- The Fabulous Clipjoint and the Screaming Mimi but both were excellent and a bit unusual.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I've always been fascinated by the story, too. I remember being a little girl and feeling really anxious that Alice hadn't caught up with that White Rabbit.

I saw the movie in 3-D, which made it a bit more entertaining (and my kids enjoyed it), but I missed having it follow the original plot.

aguja said...

¡D'acuerdo!
Alice in Winderland takes a special place in the hearts and minds of many children and travels with them into adulthood. As a child, I always wanted to 'escape' by some means into another place. I agree that the book is one of those classics in literature.
I have never seen the film and I think that I prefer to keep the word memories and my own vision of Wonderland.

I look forward to what you may come up with in the future. keep us posted!

Martin Edwards said...

Elizabeth, I imagine that was a much better way to watch the film than on TV.

Martin Edwards said...

Eric, I agree. The Screaming Mimi in particular is superb. I also liked Knock one two three, as well as some of his short stories.

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, Aguja, I feel duly encouraged to dust down that old idea of mine one of these fine days!

Fiona said...

Oh, please do work up the idea Martin! I have always loved Alice, and Dodgson had close connections with Guildford not far away so there's a wonderful collection in the museum plus special exhibitions from time to time.

The only problem I have is with writers of children's fantasy who kill their entire story with a final explanation that 'it was all a dream'. Grrr! Carroll could do it because he was the first, but when I read that elsewhere I want to hurl the book out of the window!

Dorte H said...

Though I love the book, I have never thought about turning it into crime. I hope you´ll try it! C.S. Lewis´ language has certainly been an inspiration - several of my fellow students loved quoting him.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I was disappointed with the film, although as you say the cast was great - particularly Johnny Depp! I'm not a fan of films that change the original books.

But an Alice theme for a crime story sounds interesting, somewhat along the lines that Agatha Christie used nursery rhymes, maybe.

Richmonde said...

Margery Allingham's novels have some Wonderland references. I'm thinking of Coroner's Pidgin and the red-faced, red-haired little lady who lives in a Victorian "castle". There's also a Bishop in the story. Perhaps they're just chess references!