It is 1923. Rose Baker is a typist in the New York City Police Department on the lower east side. Confessions are her job. The criminals admit to their crimes, and like a high priestess, Rose records their every word. Often she is the only woman present. And while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves that room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for making coffee.
It is a new era for women, and New York City is a confusing time for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. Now women bob their hair short like men, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. But prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood and clinging to the Victorian ideal of sisterhood.
But when glamorous Odalie, a new girl, joins the typing pool, despite her best intentions Rose falls under Odalie’s spell. As the two women navigate between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the station by day, Rose is drawn fully into Odalie’s high stakes world and her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.
I’m not huge on suspense or psychological thriller, but I make an exception for well-crafted books such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train, and even Gone Girl. I don’t mind characters who might be evil and I have to keep reading to find out their secrets.That’s pretty much the reading/listening experience for this book, but it was magnified since listening to CDs takes longer than it would take for me to read the print. I knew something had happened, but had to keep listening to untangle everything and figure out what. Unfortunately I felt like too much time was spent on the details and the setting and the mundane part of life, and the payoff wasn’t enough for me. I would have preferred more insight into the obsession, if that’s what it was, or the many lies, if that’s what it was. You see, I still don’t really know. I’ve listened to the last epilogue three times and I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to think now. In some cases, that’s good, but in this case, I feel a bit robbed of the payoff I was expecting.Gretchen Mol was a good reader, particularly because she never lets you read anything into her voice, adding to the veiling of the mystery. She had a very even tone and I liked her voice for Odalie.
I can see why this book is on the “must-read” list for book clubs, because there would be a lot to discuss. Who is the “other typist” and what exactly happened in the end?
I’m not sure exactly how I came across this broadcast recording. But I’m very glad I did. It’s as part of a collection called The Golden Apples Of The Sun – a five part half hour of radio drama series adapting Ray Bradbury stories. This episode, episode 2, includes a pair of stories.
The first, The Flying Machine, is a short “fantasy” set in a mythical China. The story was familiar somehow so I looked it up and realized it was in an issue of Playboy that I have. I have appended the beautiful accompanying illustration (by Franz Altschuler).
In the same broadcast was an iconic tale of an obsessive compulsive murderer. Called, The Fruit At The Bottom Of The Bowl, it was first published as Touch And Go! in a mag called Detective Book (November 1948). Unfortunately, I don’t have a beautiful scan of the first publication of that. Instead, I have a terrible scan (see below).
But, my new friend John Feaster, who I found through LibriVox, mentioned an adaptation of it in the EC Comics comic called Crime SuspenStories (#17). And that I do have a nice picture of.
The Golden Apples Of The Sun – The Flying Machine
Adapted from the story by Ray Bradbury; Adapted by Lawrence Gilbert; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 30 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: BBC Radio 5
Broadcast: January 30, 1991
Producer Peter Hutchings.
And The Fruit At The Bottom Of The Bowl was adapted to TV for The Ray Bradbury Theater. And it stars Michael Ironside and Robert Vaughn!