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The Tremor of Forgery: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 202)

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Howard Ingham finds it strange that no one has written to him since he arrived in Tunisia - neither the film director that he is supposed to be meeting in Tunis, nor his lover in New York who is, he hopes, missing him. While he waits around at a beach resort, unable to get going on the film script he is there to write, he starts work on a new novel, about a man living an a Howard Ingham finds it strange that no one has written to him since he arrived in Tunisia - neither the film director that he is supposed to be meeting in Tunis, nor his lover in New York who is, he hopes, missing him. While he waits around at a beach resort, unable to get going on the film script he is there to write, he starts work on a new novel, about a man living an amoral double life. Howard also befriends a fellow American who has a taste for Scotch and a suspicious interest in the Soviet Union, and a Dane who appears to distrust Arabs intensely. When bad news finally arrives from home, Howard thinks he may as well stay and continue writing, despite the tremors in the air of violence, tensions and ambiguous morals.


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Howard Ingham finds it strange that no one has written to him since he arrived in Tunisia - neither the film director that he is supposed to be meeting in Tunis, nor his lover in New York who is, he hopes, missing him. While he waits around at a beach resort, unable to get going on the film script he is there to write, he starts work on a new novel, about a man living an a Howard Ingham finds it strange that no one has written to him since he arrived in Tunisia - neither the film director that he is supposed to be meeting in Tunis, nor his lover in New York who is, he hopes, missing him. While he waits around at a beach resort, unable to get going on the film script he is there to write, he starts work on a new novel, about a man living an amoral double life. Howard also befriends a fellow American who has a taste for Scotch and a suspicious interest in the Soviet Union, and a Dane who appears to distrust Arabs intensely. When bad news finally arrives from home, Howard thinks he may as well stay and continue writing, despite the tremors in the air of violence, tensions and ambiguous morals.

30 review for The Tremor of Forgery: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 202)

  1. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Our Way of Life The affluent feeling of Mediterranean sexual tension is Highsmith’s trademark. Who will end up with whom is a sort of background radiation in her books. Her characters are always 1950’s Americans but they could easily be mistaken for the 1930’s English of Agatha Christie - with more libido and less confidence. The Tremor of Forgery is no exception. In this story, though, she plays an interesting dialectic between two Americans in Tunisia - one a coastal liberal, the other a right-w Our Way of Life The affluent feeling of Mediterranean sexual tension is Highsmith’s trademark. Who will end up with whom is a sort of background radiation in her books. Her characters are always 1950’s Americans but they could easily be mistaken for the 1930’s English of Agatha Christie - with more libido and less confidence. The Tremor of Forgery is no exception. In this story, though, she plays an interesting dialectic between two Americans in Tunisia - one a coastal liberal, the other a right-winger from the heartland. The first, Ingham, lives his smug, petty life as if the rest of the world would eventually catch up to the standard set by America, and meanwhile could be enjoyably exploited. The latter, Adams, is afraid the world just might catch up to America, and in the process inflict great harm on “our way of life.” The context of the action is the Six Day War between Israel and Egypt, which also happens to be the point of highest intensity of the American War in VietNam. Highsmith uses this context to provoke a judgment on her characters. The ‘conservative’ Adams is, of course, in favour of the country’s ever increasing engagement in VietNam and predicts inevitable victory in light of vastly superior technology. The Arab-Israeli conflict he is less sanguine about, primarily because he doesn’t like Semites - Arabs or Jews. His theory of the world is that America is being persecuted and must defend itself from these and other inferiors. But Highsmith’s real target is the liberal Ingham who has no theory of the world whatsoever, except that he’s doing fine. His concerns are trivial, as are his emotional attachments. He is repulsed by Adams’s views but doesn’t contradict him for reasons of politesse. He’s writing a novel (with the same title as Highsmith’s) in which the main character is a rationalised version of himself, a conman who feels no guilt about his massive embezzlement. He has no tremor whatsoever as he forges cheques from his employer. His self-delusion is complete. By the time The Tremor of Forgery was published in 1969, Highsmith’s references to casual sex and homosexuality had become passé. American society had moved on from its overwhelming Puritanism of the 1950’s. Nevertheless she could read that society very well. What she saw then is the birth of what we have now grown to maturity in American politics - a religiously grounded, xenophobic, violent, faction describing themselves as anti-communist; and a self-absorbed, commercially successful, apparently sophisticated and worldly faction with no social conscience whatsoever. I think she foresaw the development clearly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont

    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 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 more 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 quaint antique 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, more 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 question simply disappears, no questions 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 more 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 question 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 more than a simple crime thriller. I was all the more impressed reading it in situ, aware of the ambiguity of my surroundings, aware that this was a place where certainties may be no more 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 question what Ingham questions; to question 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    My third Highsmith, and nowhere near my last. Blurbs call her "a practitioner of the murder mystery genre" and The Times named her "the greatest crime writer of all time." But no crime - other than a few thefts - occurred in this book. Still, yes, there was suspense, although it just hung there, unspecified, and without need of resolution. The protagonist is an American writer, in Tunisia on a kind of assignment, but nevermind that. He's also working on his next novel, about a man, engaged in frau My third Highsmith, and nowhere near my last. Blurbs call her "a practitioner of the murder mystery genre" and The Times named her "the greatest crime writer of all time." But no crime - other than a few thefts - occurred in this book. Still, yes, there was suspense, although it just hung there, unspecified, and without need of resolution. The protagonist is an American writer, in Tunisia on a kind of assignment, but nevermind that. He's also working on his next novel, about a man, engaged in fraud, who is leading a kind of double life. There are inexorable echoes of his own life, of course. Of his novel, our protagonist writes, it's about: whether a person makes his own personality and his own standards from within himself, or whether he and his standards are the creation of the society around him. Like in Tunisia, a reader might ask. As does our protagonist: He had the feeling that in the months he'd been here, his own character or principles had collapsed, or disappeared. What was he? There are love interests, infidelities, Vietnam, the Six-Day War. There's a bit of sex, but as always with Highsmith, we are spared the details. There's homosexuality, treated well, again as always with Highsmith. And there's a character, again recurrent with Highsmith, a character who is unlikeable, intrusive, but who can gather the threads of circumstantial evidence, and surmise the truth. We wish he wouldn't. We want our protagonist not to be caught. But the unlikeable character will not go away. This was not insubstantial, page-turner though it may be. I kind of grew to love it maybe. There would be no whodunit ending and I didn't expect that. Still, I felt the novel portended some message at the end, maybe even some wisdom. So, as I will, ponder this: There is nothing . . . nothing so blissful in the world as falling back into the arms of a woman who is---possibly bad for you.

  4. 4 out of 5

    J.

    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 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 more 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 questions, blithely knowing, hearing the ripples and answering tones, just like the musician aiming at that final, puzzle-solving end-chord. Cat and mouse, but a lot of fun.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    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. 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joy D

    Set in the mid-1960s, American protagonist Howard Ingham, an author, has traveled to Tunisia to work on a screenplay with a director, who has not yet arrived. While waiting, Ingham decides to begin his next novel. Howard is anxious that he has not heard from his fiancé, Ina. He meets two other men and strikes up an acquaintance. Francis Adams is an American broadcasting anticommunist messages to Russia. Anders Jensen is a Danish artist. Howard finds himself embroiled in a mysterious disappearanc Set in the mid-1960s, American protagonist Howard Ingham, an author, has traveled to Tunisia to work on a screenplay with a director, who has not yet arrived. While waiting, Ingham decides to begin his next novel. Howard is anxious that he has not heard from his fiancé, Ina. He meets two other men and strikes up an acquaintance. Francis Adams is an American broadcasting anticommunist messages to Russia. Anders Jensen is a Danish artist. Howard finds himself embroiled in a mysterious disappearance and possible death of an Arab man. The theme of this novel parallels the theme of the book Ingham is writing. As Ingham states, “Essentially, it’s whether a person makes his own personality and his own standards from within himself, or whether he and the standards are the creation of the society around him.” The plot follows Ingham’s ethical decisions, where he is at times influenced by his current environment as opposed to what he would have done if he were still living in the United States. This book is too slow-paced to be described as a thriller. It is more a psychological study of behavior. Though it may not pack a lot of action, the character development makes up for it. Ingham is often alone with his thoughts, or in conversation with Adams and Jensen. Their interactions, along with the thread of mystery, kept my attention. This is my first book by Highsmith. Her writing style reminds me a bit of Graham Greene, sans religion.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    COUNTDOWN: Mid-20th Century North American Crime BOOK 37 (of 250) This 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-readable). HOOK - 4 stars: "You're sure there's no letter for me," Ingham asked. "How COUNTDOWN: Mid-20th Century North American Crime BOOK 37 (of 250) This 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-readable). HOOK - 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 novel. PACE - 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 thrillers. PLOT -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 surprised.) CHARACTERS - 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 quite picture it, physically, I couldn't grab onto the look which makes this place even more 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 is...I 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 4.0, 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 2019. ORIGINAL 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: signed/unsigned 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".

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    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 more 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 hea 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 more 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 friendship/love between the two men, their care for the animal, is completely believable. There is more 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. note: if you want to avoid spoilers, you'd best skip the comment section below.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    Mary Patricia Plangman, born in Texas in 1921, moved to NYC to attend Barnard, and became a successful writer (comics folks: Her first writing gig was in comics, as a writer for the comic book series Black Terror!), changing her name to Patricia Highsmith (though she also wrote one “lesbian” novel called The Price of Salt/Carol initially under a pseudonym). She moved to Europe permanently in her forties after having published several books, where she was more critically acclaimed and popular tha Mary Patricia Plangman, born in Texas in 1921, moved to NYC to attend Barnard, and became a successful writer (comics folks: Her first writing gig was in comics, as a writer for the comic book series Black Terror!), changing her name to Patricia Highsmith (though she also wrote one “lesbian” novel called The Price of Salt/Carol initially under a pseudonym). She moved to Europe permanently in her forties after having published several books, where she was more critically acclaimed and popular than in in her native US. Highsmith’s first novel, Strangers on a Train was first published in 1950, and in 1951 Alfred Hitchcock adapted the work for the screen, so she was a sensation almost from the first. Highsmith wrote many great books but may be best known for her series of four Ripley novels (as in The Talented Mr. Ripley). I read this book because Black Oxford wrote a strong review of it, and because I saw Graham Greene said: "Miss Highsmith's finest novel to my mind is The Tremor of Forgery, and if I were to be asked what it is about I would reply, 'Apprehension'." I’m a Greene fan, and as I read Tremor I thought of him and several of his books that take a grim view of Ugly Americans (cf., a novel by Burdick and Lederer, 1958). Set in Tunisia in the sixties, The Tremor of Forgery focuses on a successful writer named Howard Ingham, who goes there to write a screenplay. There he meets an American propagandist, Howard Adams, who speaks on a Voice of America-type radio show, and a gay painter named Anders Jeffries. Early on, Ingham’s writing to his girlfriend in NYC, but initially she is not writing back. Later we find out why (SPOILER); she was having an affair with Ingham's film producer, though she later rebuffs him, who then kills himself. Ingham decides to write a novel instead of the screenplay. Early on, there doesn’t seem to be much going on here except some "low level" anti-Arab racism on the part of all these men. Ingham’s novel is the story of a banker who forges documents to steal money he then gives to the poor. Ingham himself is robbed of many of his valuables, and then one night, he finds someone breaking into his apartment, throws his typewriter at the guy, hurting him, but he doesn’t follow up to see if the guy is killed, and doesn't tell anyone about it. Adams hears about the guy getting hurt, asks Ingham about it, who denies any knowledge. Adams doesn't believe Ingham, thinks this secrecy constitutes a moral problem, though Jensen, who hates most of the Tunisian Arabs even as he paints some of them, does not. As Ingham’s girlfriend shows up, we find she had had an affair with the producer, though she seems to come clean about it, and she sides with Adams on the moral position with respect to the possible killing. The hallmark of Highsmith’s work seems to be this growing “apprehension” of which Greene speaks, and a sort of quietly building intensity as things spiral downhill. Another aspect of her work, including in Strangers on the Train and the Ripley books, is the presence of sexually ambiguous characters, sketched with psycho-socio realism. Ingham is one of these characters. That adds a layer of tension between Jensen and Ingham, and also Ingham's girlfriend, who thinks the two guys are nto each other. Many people think Tremor is Highsmith’s best novel. In spite of how grim and uneventful it sounds, it focuses interestingly on the moral ambiguity of its four main character moving from the Colonialist West to Northern Africa even as the Vietnam War and civil rights demonstrations happen in the US. We see connections between white middle class views of the Vietnam war and racism in the US in parallel to the sort of casual colonialist behavior of white middle class folks visiting in Tunisia. I liked it, as it has this sense of growing dread about it, as these folks all seem headed to moral ruin, as much of America seemed to be in the sixties. It could be paired with Greene's Quiet Americans or Our Man in Havana.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    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 consequences. The main character didn't seem to be anxious and so I wasn't either. The main character, Howard Ingham, simply wasn't the ha 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 consequences. 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 type. What 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 do. I 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Caterina

    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 his/her encounter with a completely different culture, but instead judges everything by western measures. The moral issue of the story was quite inadequate for me, my personal view is that one has to do his/her duty and live by a certain moral code in any culture anywhere in this world. Reason is the b 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 his/her encounter with a completely different culture, but instead judges everything by western measures. The moral issue of the story was quite inadequate for me, my personal view is that one has to do his/her 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 anymore! Not my best Highsmith.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sketchbook

    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 ! 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 !

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    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 myste 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!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristine Brancolini

    The Tremor of Forgery defies description. I loved it and I'm at a loss to explain why. Patricia Highsmith must have been an utterly intriguing and mysterious woman. The only other books I have read by here are the first three Ripley books, which I devoured one after another in short succession. This book is neither a mystery nor a thriller. It is a morality tale. And even though nothing much happens, I can't stop thinking about the protagonist, Howard Ingham. He is the book's narrator and it's f The Tremor of Forgery defies description. I loved it and I'm at a loss to explain why. Patricia Highsmith must have been an utterly intriguing and mysterious woman. The only other books I have read by here are the first three Ripley books, which I devoured one after another in short succession. This book is neither a mystery nor a thriller. It is a morality tale. And even though nothing much happens, I can't stop thinking about the protagonist, Howard Ingham. He is the book's narrator and it's fascinating to follow his thinking as he tries to explain away an inexplicable lapse in morality. So, here are the three elements that I think combined to knock my socks off. The setting. Tunisia, summer, 1967. Near the beginning of the book, the 6-Day Arab/Israeli War occurs. And for the rest of the book, Ingham and his friends discuss the war and its potential to impact them as they live and work in seaside Hammamet. This is so strange given the recent eruption of violence in the Gaza Strip. Could the situation be more different today? We take it for granted that the Israelis have superior military strength than Hamas. Still no ceasefire. Still no peace. In 1967,Tunisia was untouched by the war or the continuing conflict once it ended. Parts of the book read like a travelogue, as Ingham and a Danish artist named Jensen travel around the country. But Highsmith also establishes this atmosphere of unease from the first page and never lets it go. The narrative structure. The reader is dropped almost in the middle of the action. Within a couple of pages, Highsmith has completely set up Ingham and his situation. Ingham has gone to Tunisia to meet a movie producer who wants him to write a screenplay set there. But John Castlewood has not arrived as expected and Ingham cannot reach him. They met through Ingham's girlfriend Ina, who works for CBS, but he can't reach her either. Since this is 1967, Ingham is writing letters and cabling. There's something about him being cut off from everyone back home that adds to the menacing atmosphere. Letters play an important role throughout the book. While waiting to hear from someone, Ingham begins writing a novel about a man named Dennison who embezzles money from the bank where he works. He lends it to people in need. Throughout the entire novel The Tremor of Forgery, Ingham is writing a novel that in the beginning had the same title. For Ingham, "[his] novel was more real and definite than Ina, John, or anything else. But that was to be expected, Ingham thought. Or was it?" (68) The dilemma. Can't tell you, but suffice to say that Ingham creates a situation in which he should be experiencing his own crisis of morality. But, curiously, he isn't. Here's a quotation from near the end of the book: "It has to do with the book I'm writing. Essentially, it's whether a person makes his own personality and his own standards from within himself, or whether he and the standards are the creation of the society around him" (p.193). And since Ingham is in Tunisia and "the Arabs all around [him] had different standards, different ethics," well, under those circumstances Ingham thinks that we might begin to question our own morals, our own ethics. Graham Greene thought this was Patricia Highsmith's best book and maybe it's not that, but she's a brilliant writer and it's definitely a compelling read. And although Camus covered similar ground in The Stranger, I'll take Highsmith any day.

  15. 4 out of 5

    D

    Interesting story. Nothing much happens but a growing unease about an ambiguous incident. The writing is superb and highly effective to enforce a sense of unease. See this review for more details. Recommended. Interesting story. Nothing much happens but a growing unease about an ambiguous incident. The writing is superb and highly effective to enforce a sense of unease. See this review for more details. Recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Merl Fluin

    A man goes abroad and slowly falls apart. Does he lose himself, find himself, or discover he has no real self at all? Yes, the same old Highsmith theme, but somehow (how? how? how the hell does she do it?) it never gets stale. I chanced upon this one in a second-hand bookshop and made the mistake of reading the first couple of pages on the bus home. I say mistake because once I'd started it the rest of my life was cancelled until I'd finished. Almost nothing happens for most of the book, and whe A man goes abroad and slowly falls apart. Does he lose himself, find himself, or discover he has no real self at all? Yes, the same old Highsmith theme, but somehow (how? how? how the hell does she do it?) it never gets stale. I chanced upon this one in a second-hand bookshop and made the mistake of reading the first couple of pages on the bus home. I say mistake because once I'd started it the rest of my life was cancelled until I'd finished. Almost nothing happens for most of the book, and when something does happen you're not sure what it was... and it's mesmerising.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy R

    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, quirks 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 t 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, quirks 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 TALENTED. Her main (male) character is nearly always some version of herself--esp the more successfully depicted ones. Ergo, her depictions of heterosexual relationships always strike me as a little "off." (Not that I would know much more 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 unbelievable.) Of 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 quasi-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 more 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-dressing. Gotta give Patty credit, though: She knows her neurotics. And her books obsess me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Filipe

    Writer arrives in Tunisia. Time passes. Poor judgement in the depiction of Tunisians. Some letters are written. More time passes. Slowly. A conservative character with strong views is introduced. More letters are written. Hurray, somebody gets killed. Oh, but we find out in a letter. More characters who treat Tunisians like animals are introduced. Time passes. It’s hot. There’s an “accident.” Consequences are inexistent. Guess what— letters. It’s really hot and the writer complains. He extends h Writer arrives in Tunisia. Time passes. Poor judgement in the depiction of Tunisians. Some letters are written. More time passes. Slowly. A conservative character with strong views is introduced. More letters are written. Hurray, somebody gets killed. Oh, but we find out in a letter. More characters who treat Tunisians like animals are introduced. Time passes. It’s hot. There’s an “accident.” Consequences are inexistent. Guess what— letters. It’s really hot and the writer complains. He extends his trip. He starts writing his new book. Rinse and repeat for a long time. Girlfriend arrives. It’s hot. No more letters. More time passes. Weird judgements are made. There’s talk about marriage. Nope, scratch that. Girlfriend leaves. Yay, one more letter. Wait, is our hero actually gay? Also nope. He leaves. The End.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    There is no straightforward incident that sends the narrative into motion. Nor is there a clear path that Howard Ingham, the main character, follows to pick up clues. Much like Highsmith's Ripley tales, this novel finds itself far more concerned with the inner workings of the central character. The reader will take every meal and spend every waking minute with him. The author's knowledge of how to make the reader feel the emotional status of her characters is on display here. The nervousness tha There is no straightforward incident that sends the narrative into motion. Nor is there a clear path that Howard Ingham, the main character, follows to pick up clues. Much like Highsmith's Ripley tales, this novel finds itself far more concerned with the inner workings of the central character. The reader will take every meal and spend every waking minute with him. The author's knowledge of how to make the reader feel the emotional status of her characters is on display here. The nervousness that one finds when in a possibly hostile foreign country surrounds this narrative. Also interesting to a current reader is a late sixties examination of world politics. Although the novel is set in Tunisia, the topics that are discussed feel very contemporary in the light of the current Israeli conflict. On a lighter note, Highsmith is at her best when describing the exotic locales in the novel. It reads like a beautiful travelogue, highlighting the best hotels and dinners in a fashion that an American traveler can relate to. Altogether a fine read blending mystery and travel and politics. I actually “lived” in Tunisia while reading. The reading was s-l-o-w and a bit dry in places, but oddly alluring and page turning. It propelled me through, even when nothing was "happening". It was clean and understated and I loved this book....

  20. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I hated this title -- it seemed so hokey. Like “The Whip of Larceny” or “The Chains of Shoplifting” or something. But Highsmith nailed so much in this novel. The mood and tone rocked -- I’m so glad I read this in a steamy August in Baltimore -- not quite Tunisia, but I could start to begin to relate. I’m not big into mystery -- if this indeed qualifies -- but she did an excellent job of maintaining tension in a lazy atmosphere redolent of scotch and sweat -- the sun reduces problems to absurdity I hated this title -- it seemed so hokey. Like “The Whip of Larceny” or “The Chains of Shoplifting” or something. But Highsmith nailed so much in this novel. The mood and tone rocked -- I’m so glad I read this in a steamy August in Baltimore -- not quite Tunisia, but I could start to begin to relate. I’m not big into mystery -- if this indeed qualifies -- but she did an excellent job of maintaining tension in a lazy atmosphere redolent of scotch and sweat -- the sun reduces problems to absurdity, but the problems still hover about. As if something terrible is about to happen, at any moment, if someone bothers to get up off of his bum to do something about it. This leads to her exploration of amorality and whether it denotes derangement or cultural climate. Some strong characterization, and excellent editing, which I always appreciate. She also wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley, as well as other Ripley novels, which I haven’t read. But I would definitely recommend this one. Especially in the summer. And she references Proust on the last page!!!!!! He is EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!!

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    Closer to 3.5 By the time you come to this novel (the 13th of Highsmith's 22), if you see yourself as a real fan of the author, how you feel about this particular book will depend on your expectations - or whether you harbor any. If you were expecting the typical Highsmith novel - or, rather, formula (because she generally seems to follow a few of those), 'Tremor...' may be a real letdown. In fact, it may then be an out-and-out bore to you. You may sporadically find yourself thinking, 'C'mon, let Closer to 3.5 By the time you come to this novel (the 13th of Highsmith's 22), if you see yourself as a real fan of the author, how you feel about this particular book will depend on your expectations - or whether you harbor any. If you were expecting the typical Highsmith novel - or, rather, formula (because she generally seems to follow a few of those), 'Tremor...' may be a real letdown. In fact, it may then be an out-and-out bore to you. You may sporadically find yourself thinking, 'C'mon, let's get on with it, shall we?' ~ when that's exactly what she's doing. However - if you're open to following in a different (less psychotic) direction, and can find the enjoyment the author found in a more relaxed (for her, anyway) method of storytelling, then you may be right there with her, not missing a step, and you may appreciate that Highsmith made the decision to exercise some different muscles - probably to see if she actually had them. For one thing: there may be more genuinely nice characters in this work than in any other Highsmith book I've read so far. But what I've been hinting at is an overall restraint. Yes, terrible things happen in this novel; though, as far as that goes, this could be seen as Highsmith-lite. It's not new that Highsmith is again exploring morality... although, wait; that may actually be exactly what's new in this instance: an actual consideration of genuine morality, as opposed to the display of amorality that the author usually favors. Graham Greene called this Highsmith's "finest novel". I wonder if Greene noticed just how closely Highsmith seemed to be following his lead. Even if I didn't ultimately find this as memorable (or, needless to say, hard-hitting) as a number of other Highsmith creations, I can't say it's particularly off-putting in any way and it has some general plus-factors. A considerable number of the character insights are well-observed. Highsmith adds a (peripheral) gay male character and, for a change, he's just a simple, normal guy (!). And, of course, the exotic setting adds spice. I admire what Highsmith did here. I think she gave herself a nice 'break'.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    The Tremor of Forgery [1969] – ★★★★ In this thriller by Highsmith, Howard Ingham, an American writer, finds himself in hot Tunisia. He is there to help shoot a film based on one of his books, but, mysteriously, no one appears from the people he is supposed to work with. Then, he finds out that the film director has committed suicide in New York, and, at his point, a psychological/spiritual gulf seems to grow between him and the people who he has just recently left in America. Amidst camel rides, The Tremor of Forgery [1969] – ★★★★ In this thriller by Highsmith, Howard Ingham, an American writer, finds himself in hot Tunisia. He is there to help shoot a film based on one of his books, but, mysteriously, no one appears from the people he is supposed to work with. Then, he finds out that the film director has committed suicide in New York, and, at his point, a psychological/spiritual gulf seems to grow between him and the people who he has just recently left in America. Amidst camel rides, couscous dishes and friendly banter with the locals, a corpse appears on Ingham’s path and one violent act soon makes him question his own sense of morality. The Tremor of Forgery might not have aged well, but it is still a quietly-thrilling book by the author who knows how to keep delicious suspense until the very last pages. Similar to Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley, there is a possible murder happening during one’s protracted mission abroad, people arrive to join the main character unexpectedly and delays in the receiving of letters means that the main character feels stranded and abandoned in a world foreign to him. The letters to and from New York which Ingham receives give plenty of opportunities to make all sorts of wrong interpretations and Ingham feels he does not have sufficient control over events. There is also the danger that Ingham, who starts to write a novel called The Tremor of Forgery, starts losing his grip on actual reality as Tunisia’s climate and his isolation make him more productive, but also more imaginative: “He had never known the sun so close and big. People farther north didn’t know what the sun was like, he thought. This was the true sun, the ancient fire that seemed to reduce one’s lifespan to a second and one’s personal problems to a minuscule absurdity” [Highsmith, 1969: 41]. It is little wonder that Graham Greene, the author of The Quiet American [1955], said that The Tremor of Forgery is “Highsmith’s finest novel” – like Greene’s The Quiet American, The Tremor of Forgery concerns a relationship between two English-speaking (one younger and one older) men who find themselves in an exotic place during civil unrest and on different sides of “a moral compass”. There is also the mention of a spy in The Tremor of Forgery and one character decides to stay in a country for a different purpose that was originally planned. In Highsmith’s narrative there does not seem to be anything unusual going on for most of the time, but there is still this feeling that something is amiss. These are small things, but they compel us to read further. This is coupled with Ingham’s growing doubts about himself and his past relationships with women – “suddenly, everything seemed so doubtful, so vague” [Highsmith, 1969: 34]. Then, Ingham meets Jensen, a young painter, who is undisturbed by Ingham’s growing indifference as to the plight of local people, while Ingham is increasingly trying to adopt “a native way of living” after one unfortunate incident during the night. Moments of quietness in Highsmith’s books are deceptive and should not be taken for the lack of action or ideas. Highsmith is a very clever writer and does not have to rely on plot twists every chapter to keep us intrigued. There is no sense of pressure in her book to move forward with the plot or reveal to us action or something substantial to get us interested – and yet, we are and will be interested. The same can be said about Highsmith’s secondary characters – the author has no intention of making them overly interesting or extraordinary – although they have their eccentricities, they still come across as rather ordinary – they simply are what they are. The Tremor of Forgery has some unlikeable characters and it is hard to imagine it being published today because of the presentation of local people in the book and certain other themes (even though it is clear that the point of view here will be the American tourists full of prejudice). However, Highsmith is her usual brutal honesty here, presenting a convincing portrayal and insight into one character whose deepest fears are slowly being realised in a foreign and exotic to him country.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Gamboa

    "The Sea of Doubt" is the title of this book in Italian, which, in my opinion, should've been its original title. Why? Howard is an interesting character in crisis to read about until he starts constantly changing his mind as to whether or not he loves Ina. Besides, after chapter 20, I started to feel a bit bored, like Jensen, everytime Abdullah's murder came up. I understand that Abdullah's murder is "the excuse" to address the moral issues in the book, but since such murder was more like an ac "The Sea of Doubt" is the title of this book in Italian, which, in my opinion, should've been its original title. Why? Howard is an interesting character in crisis to read about until he starts constantly changing his mind as to whether or not he loves Ina. Besides, after chapter 20, I started to feel a bit bored, like Jensen, everytime Abdullah's murder came up. I understand that Abdullah's murder is "the excuse" to address the moral issues in the book, but since such murder was more like an accident, I couldn't help thinking "let it go and move on!" whenever they went back to it. In the end, the only character I ended up liking was Jensen. OWL's preaching, along with Ina's hypocrisy, couldn't be more annoying and easy to dislike. However, the book atmosphere is hypnotizing and enthralling, and I loved reading it even though much wasn't happening in some chapters. I can understand why Graham Greene and The New Yorker considered this to be Highsmith's finest novel, but she's written better books filled with aprehension, suspense and existentialism issues such as "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Strangers on a Train". The political, religious, moral and even sex issues addressed in this book make it worth reading, but I would've liked more depth about them. I'd define this book as an existentialist travelogue, because the descriptions of what it's like to be in Tunisia are very thorough. All in all, and despite the unexpected but disappointing ending, it's worth reading, specially if you're a Highsmith's fan. If you've never read Highsmith, don't start with this one, because it's certainly not a "mystery and suspense" book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Joyce

    There is a broad consensus even among those who knew and admired Patricia Highsmith that she could be a nasty piece of work. Be that as it may, I've got a lot of time for anybody who was prepared to lean into a candle flame and deliberately set their hair alight in order to liven up a tedious dinner party, which is apparently one of the many stunts she pulled during a long career of social misbehaviour. Her writing also suggests that there was a lot more going on beneath the self-styled misanthr There is a broad consensus even among those who knew and admired Patricia Highsmith that she could be a nasty piece of work. Be that as it may, I've got a lot of time for anybody who was prepared to lean into a candle flame and deliberately set their hair alight in order to liven up a tedious dinner party, which is apparently one of the many stunts she pulled during a long career of social misbehaviour. Her writing also suggests that there was a lot more going on beneath the self-styled misanthropic exterior. Her characters tend to be subtly and sympathetically drawn anti-heroes, driven by the idiocy of those around them to commit some reckless act that has all sorts of ruinous but usually avoidable consequences. This is the case with The Tremor of Forgery, although this is a slower, quieter novel than predecessors such as Deep Water and the Cry of the Owl. Without wanting to give anything away, it also has an uncharacteristically uplifting ending. No less a judge than Graham Greene believed this to be Highsmith's best novel. For what it's worth I reckon it's right up there too, although I've still got quite a few to get through.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Lawrence

    Less a novel and more an academic exercise, the subjects Highsmith is writing about—racism, stand your ground, propaganda, Israel—are eerily relevant forty-six years later.* There's suspense in the sense that you don't know what's going to happen next, but it's not exactly suspense because you don't necessarily care. Pretty sure I started this at least once previously because during the first half I had an odd sense of déjà vu. *Can you not make an m-dash on this thing? Less a novel and more an academic exercise, the subjects Highsmith is writing about—racism, stand your ground, propaganda, Israel—are eerily relevant forty-six years later.* There's suspense in the sense that you don't know what's going to happen next, but it's not exactly suspense because you don't necessarily care. Pretty sure I started this at least once previously because during the first half I had an odd sense of déjà vu. *Can you not make an m-dash on this thing?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Nutting

    Like an Aesop fable there was a moral to this story, I’m just not sure what it was?? The main character, Howard Ingham, was a real weirdo. He and his friends (?) drank enough Scotch to flood the Mediterranean. The dog was the only likable one. Many references to the conflict between the Arabs and Israelis, this book was written 50 years ago but nothing seems to ever improve in the Middle East. Liked learning more about Tunisia, otherwise it was a slow moving tale of despondency and indecision. I w Like an Aesop fable there was a moral to this story, I’m just not sure what it was?? The main character, Howard Ingham, was a real weirdo. He and his friends (?) drank enough Scotch to flood the Mediterranean. The dog was the only likable one. Many references to the conflict between the Arabs and Israelis, this book was written 50 years ago but nothing seems to ever improve in the Middle East. Liked learning more about Tunisia, otherwise it was a slow moving tale of despondency and indecision. I would have preferred reading the book he was writing, that plot sounded pretty good.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tentatively, Convenience

    On the cover of this is a quote purported to be from writer Graham Greene: "Highsmith's finest novel" & I'm inclined to agree. As w/ "Found in the Street" [see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39...], the deaths aren't central mysteries to be solved, they're psychological mood setters. &, again as in "Found..", descriptions of personalities & the basic attitudes toward life that they represent are really the central concern. Highsmith's sympathetic depiction of the main On the cover of this is a quote purported to be from writer Graham Greene: "Highsmith's finest novel" & I'm inclined to agree. As w/ "Found in the Street" [see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39...], the deaths aren't central mysteries to be solved, they're psychological mood setters. &, again as in "Found..", descriptions of personalities & the basic attitudes toward life that they represent are really the central concern. Highsmith's sympathetic depiction of the main character, a writer, is gentle & sensitive to a remarkably refined level. Unlike anything else I've read by this author so far, Highsmith brings in politics: anti- Vietnam War, an exposure of American imperialist arrogance, etc.. But none of it's heavy-handed. As in her treatment of the Lindemann character in "Found..", Highsmith's OWL is presented in a well-rounded way despite his obnoxiousness. The setting is Tunisia & Highsmith uses the cultural clash between the main character's NYC background & Arab culture to present a view of humanity in wch no oversimplification prevails. I don't know if Highsmith ever went to Tunisia but on pp106 & 113 she references a bk wch I assume/deduce she may've consulted in order to make "A Tremor of Forgery" more realistic: Norman Douglas' Fountains in the Sand: The main character, Ingham, has the bk w/ him: "Ingham would never see Miss Darby again, he supposed, which mattered neither to her nor to him. He was reminded of a passage in the Norman Douglas book which he had liked, and he picked up the book and looked for it. Douglas was talking about an old Italian gardener he had met by accident somewhere in Tunisia. The passage Ingham had marked went: "...he had travelled far in the Old and New Worlds; in him I recognized once again that simple mind of the sailor or wanderer who learns, as he goes along, to talk and think decently; who, instead of gathering fresh encumbrances on Life's journey, wisely discards even those he set out with." Unlike most crime fiction writers, Highsmith has a gentleness here that reminds me of Jean Genet's. There's no need to wallow in brutality to keep this reader, at least, engrossed. 2 people possibly die violent deaths, the reader never discovers the circumstances of one of them & is never sure whether the other person has even died. This is very subtle - where lesser writers wd metaphorically splatter the blood as much as possible in the reader's face in order to shock them into paying attn, Highsmith takes the much more difficult path of trying to address the complex psychological, cultural & social circumstances surrounding the event - leaving some of these a mystery when it's appropriate to do so to create an understanding of the main character's situation. Also unlike many of Highsmith's own novels (I think particularly of her "A Suspension of Mercy" [my review of that is here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15...]), the characters don't inevitably spiral down to their doom b/c of bad decisions. In my review of "..Suspension.." I write: "2 fairly ordinary people, a married couple, have some minor quirks. Their bad decisions follow one after the other in believable ways that're related to their quirks. Things cd go one way or the other - almost all the way to the end. But the bad decisions eventually lead to a tragedy that's even more tragic b/c of its sheer stupid unnecessariness." & this is certainly NOT the case in "The Tremor of Forgery" - although Highsmith sets up the reader to frequently wonder whether it will be. Decisions that Ingham makes seem to be heading in a self-destructive direction: his non-reporting of a corpse found, his staying on in Tunisia, his continued friendship w/ the OWL, his prevaricating over his relationship w/ Ina, his avoidance of a more public confronting of his altercation w/ a burglar. But instead of using these behaviors of Ingham's to ensnare him, Highsmith chooses a less sensational & perhaps more realistic way in wch things get worked out in moderation. Even the title of the bk is cleverly misleading & an opportunity for Highsmith to make writerly self-reference. My applause, Patricia Highsmith! I wish you were still alive so I cd compliment you in person!

  28. 4 out of 5

    pinknantucket

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm afraid I missed the point of this novel. Howard Ingham, a writer, has travelled from New York to Tunisia, to work on a film project with a soon-to-arrive acquaintance. In the meantime he starts work on a new novel. A few things happen; he gets caught up in some lies, feels disassociated from regular life, wonders if he really loves his girlfriend, maybe kills someone etc. Highsmith writes well, of course, but I wasn't entertained, challenged or provoked on reading this. I didn't experience su I'm afraid I missed the point of this novel. Howard Ingham, a writer, has travelled from New York to Tunisia, to work on a film project with a soon-to-arrive acquaintance. In the meantime he starts work on a new novel. A few things happen; he gets caught up in some lies, feels disassociated from regular life, wonders if he really loves his girlfriend, maybe kills someone etc. Highsmith writes well, of course, but I wasn't entertained, challenged or provoked on reading this. I didn't experience suspense, only a certain frustration. I only persevered because I haven't been able to finish many books recently & thought I needed to knuckle down and get to the end of at least ONE and Highsmith's was a lot shorter than Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections". I've read three of Highsmith's books - "The Talented Mr Ripley", of course, this one and another about a married couple that I don't remember very well. All three explored how ordinary people cross moral borders into deceit, murder etc. (Or perhaps to just consider murder). What Highsmith does so well is make it all seem so possible, so understandable. I found it almost unbearable to follow Tom Ripley's story, because he is so ashamed and anxious and uncomfortable in his own skin that you understand perfectly whey he felt pushed to take the actions he did. You wonder if, in the same circumstances, you might have done the same. Howard Ingham's actions, though he made some poor decisions, just didn't pack the same punch as Ripley's. Also there is no forgery. Misleading title alert!! For a while Ingham communicates with his friends in New York only by mail and I had hopes for some elaborate forgery conducted by a mysterious nemesis to misinform and mess with his mind, while he was alone, vulnerable and isolated. Unfortunately I was mistaken on this point.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I read this on the strength of one blurb that said this was considered Patricia Highsmith's best novel. I knew her as the creator of the amoral, homicidal Mr. Ripley, but hadn't read anything by her. Normally, I wouldn't have stuck with such an empty story until the end, but I kept waiting for some twist that would make the wait worthwhile. It never came. The Tremor of Forgery refers to a possible title for a novel being written by the protagonist, Howard Ingham, about an embezzler. He's working on I read this on the strength of one blurb that said this was considered Patricia Highsmith's best novel. I knew her as the creator of the amoral, homicidal Mr. Ripley, but hadn't read anything by her. Normally, I wouldn't have stuck with such an empty story until the end, but I kept waiting for some twist that would make the wait worthwhile. It never came. The Tremor of Forgery refers to a possible title for a novel being written by the protagonist, Howard Ingham, about an embezzler. He's working on the book in the baking heat of 1960s Tunisia, where he's gone to write a screenplay at the behest of a producer he met in New York. The producer never shows up because of a tragedy that will be revealed, but Ingham decides to stay on in the little village of Hammamet even after he no longer has a purpose for being in the country. Along the way, he befriends a gay Danish painter whose dog goes missing, and a middle aged American who spends his evenings broadcasting American propaganda into Russia on shortwave radio. The broadcaster is so full of patriotic platitudes that Ingham starts referring to him as OWL, for Our Way of Life. Eventually, Ingham's girlfriend Ina visits from New York, and he has to decide if he's going to propose. There is one other mysterious incident that will punctuate this novel, but like everything else about this book, it feels cryptic and disconnected. A Wikipedia entry about Highsmith made it clear that she had difficulty forming lasting relationships, and Ingham is a perfect representation of that -- a young man who can't seem to commit to anyone or anything. And then to complicate matters, the book repeatedly refers to the Danish man's habit of trolling the landscape for young boys to have sex with. In the end, I was left with a novel that didn't educate, inspire or comfort. It was as empty and dry as the desert it was set in.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kate.

    The Stranger, The Cure, and Tremor of a Forgery: it’s an existential trifecta. In life, sings The Cure, “I can turn and walk away / Or I can fire the gun / Staring at the sky staring at the sun / Whichever I choose / It amounts to the same: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.” So discovers Howard Ingham, just like Meursault before him. But unlike Meursault, Howard Ingham's moral Arab-killing dilemma in the North African desert is plagued by a hyper awareness that his values --thus, himself?-- are different when The Stranger, The Cure, and Tremor of a Forgery: it’s an existential trifecta. In life, sings The Cure, “I can turn and walk away / Or I can fire the gun / Staring at the sky staring at the sun / Whichever I choose / It amounts to the same: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.” So discovers Howard Ingham, just like Meursault before him. But unlike Meursault, Howard Ingham's moral Arab-killing dilemma in the North African desert is plagued by a hyper awareness that his values --thus, himself?-- are different when in Tunisia. I wonder is this really existentialism (awesome) or just situational ethics (boring)? While other Americans skate happily through the moral spiderwebs of infidelity and suicide and political pomposity, Ingham’s late night tussle with an Arab burglar leaves him sweating in a hovel, losing his girl, and then blissfully flying back to the States to begin all over again. Whether he confesses to the murder, whether he breaks this girl’s heart, whether his hand does indeed tremor in hesitation before and after every misdeed… well, I guess it all amounts to the same: absolutely nothing.

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