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Two Faces of January

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“[A] classic psychological thriller.”—USA Today

Originally published in 1964, and the winner of the CWA Best Foreign Novel Award, Patricia Highsmith’s The Two Faces of January is a chilling tale of suspense, suffused with her trademark slow, creeping unease.

In a grubby Athens hotel, Rydal Keener is bored and killing time with petty scams. But when he runs into another American, Chester MacFarland, dragging a man’s body down the hotel hall, ...

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The Two Faces of January

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Overview


“[A] classic psychological thriller.”—USA Today

Originally published in 1964, and the winner of the CWA Best Foreign Novel Award, Patricia Highsmith’s The Two Faces of January is a chilling tale of suspense, suffused with her trademark slow, creeping unease.

In a grubby Athens hotel, Rydal Keener is bored and killing time with petty scams. But when he runs into another American, Chester MacFarland, dragging a man’s body down the hotel hall, Rydan impulsively agrees to help, perhaps because Chester looks like his father. Then Rydal meets Collete, Chester’s younger wife, and captivated, becomes entangled in their sordid lives, as the drama marches to a shocking climax at the ruins of the labyrinth at Knossos.

A film version of The Two Faces of January, starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac (Drive, Inside Llewelyn Davis) is in production. Adapted by Academy Award nominee Hossein Amini (Drive), and produced by Working Title and Timnick Films (The Talented Mr. Ripley), it will be released later this fall.

“An offbeat, provocative and absorbing suspense novel.”—The New York Times

“Patricia Highsmith is one of the few suspense writers whose work transcends genre.”—The Austin American-Statesman

Rydal Keener is waiting. Chester McFarland is waiting. Chester's wife is waiting. Two murders later, they're all running--chasing each other across the continent, driven by a bond of hate and fear.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Patricia Highsmith

"[Highsmith's] characters are irrational, and they leap to life in their very lack of reason. . . . Highsmith is the poet of apprehension rather than fear."—Graham Greene

"For some obscure reason, one of our greatest modernist writers, Patricia Highsmith, has been thought of in her own land as a writer of thrillers. She is both. She is certainly one of the most interesting writers of this dismal century."—Gore Vidal

"Miss Highsmith's genius is in presenting fantasy's paradox: successes are not what they seem. . . . Where in the traditional fairy tale the heroine turns the toad into a prince, in Miss Highsmith's fables the prince becomes a toad—success is nearly always fatal. . . . Combining the best features of the suspense genre with the best of existential fiction—a reflection—the stories are fabulous, in all the senses of that word."—Paul Theroux

"Patricia Highsmith's novels are peerlessly disturbing—bad dreams that keep us restless and thrashing for the rest of the night."—Terrence Rafferty, New Yorker

"Highsmith, who can change reality to nightmare with one well-turned phrase, is a legendary crime writer."—Cleveland Plain Dealer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871132093
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Series: Highsmith, Patricia Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Highsmith
Though she penned such great psychological crime novels as Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith's gifts went largely unrecognized by American readers until recently. Fortunately, Highsmith's bizarre, subtly shaded novels were too good to remain obscure.

Biography

Suspense novels are often described as "chilling," but no one turns down the reader's emotional thermostat quite like Patricia Highsmith, author of such haunting psychological thrillers as Strangers on a Train and creator of the sociopathic series protagonist Tom Ripley. During her life, Highsmith was a popular author in Europe, where she lived; in her native United States, however, her books went sporadically in and out of print for decades. Now, the writer whom Graham Greene called "the poet of apprehension" has finally gained recognition in the States -- not only as a master of the suspense genre, but as a literary author of rare talent.

Highsmith grew up in Texas and New York, but spent most of her adult life in England, France and Switzerland. By most accounts she was a loner who avoided other people, including other writers; but she did have early help in her career from Truman Capote, who got her a stint at the Yaddo writers' colony in New York. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, tells the story of an architect and a psychopath who meet on a train and "swap" murders. The book gained Highsmith considerable fame, especially after it was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. A second novel, The Price of Salt, was printed under a pseudonym after her first publishers turned it down. Though her subsequent works didn't sell well in her home country, she kept turning out the kinds of novels and short stories the New Yorker called "bad dreams that keep us thrashing for the rest of the night."

Several movies have been loosely based on Highsmith's books, including Danny DeVito's Hitchcock spoof Throw Momma From the Train; Wim Wenders' The American Friend, adapted from Ripley's Game; and Purple Noon, a French film based on The Talented Mr. Ripley. But it was Academy Award-winning director Anthony Minghella's lush screen adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley, released four years after Highsmith's death and 44 years after the book's publication, that introduced Highsmith to a wider audience and led to a rediscovery of her works.

Subtle enough for a seminar yet entertaining enough for the beach, Highsmith's coolly narrated tales of terror display an observant eye for social behavior as well as individual psychology. Most books in the suspense genre provide a hero whose fundamental honesty and decency stand as bulwarks against the evil he or she confronts. But in a Highsmith novel, the reader is alone with victim and victimizer -- and an unsettling sense of empathy with both.

As Francis Wyndham has noted, Highsmith's "peculiar brand of horror comes less from the inevitability of disaster, than from the ease with which it might have been avoided. The evil of her agents is answered by the impotence of her patients -- this is not the attraction of opposites, but in some subtle way the call of like to like. When they finally clash in the climactic catastrophe, the reader's sense of satisfaction may derive from sources as dark as those which motivate Patricia Highsmith's destroyers and their fascinated victims."

Good To Know

Patricia Highsmith was born Mary Patricia Plangman; her parents divorced soon after she was born, however, and she was given her stepfather's last name. After Highsmith graduated from college, she lived for a time with her mother and stepfather in Greenwich Village, where she wrote comic books to support herself, including scripts for the Superman series.

A lesbian herself, Highsmith is thought to have written the first American novel in which a homosexual love story has a happy ending. The novel, The Price of Salt, was published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan; it was reissued in 1984 (as Carol), but didn't appear under the writer's real name until 1991.

Highsmith once told an interviewer that the only suspense writer she read was the master -- Dostoevsky, over and over. In her book Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, she wrote, "I think most of Dostoyevsky's books would be called suspense books, were they being published today for the first time. But he would be asked to cut, because of production costs."

The premise of The Talented Mr. Ripley was inspired by Henry James's The Ambassadors, in which a widow sends her fiance from America to Paris to fetch her wayward son.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Mary Patricia Plangman (birth name); Claire Morgan (pen name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 19, 1921
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Worth, Texas
    1. Date of Death:
      February 4, 1995
    2. Place of Death:
      Locarno, Switzerland

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