FICTION | Authors Peter Swanson and Ross Armstrong each pay homage to the greatest thriller director...
A pair of authors discuss the enduring influence of the director of Rear Window.
He was known as the Master of Suspense, so it’s perhaps no surprise that a pair of authors have been channelling Alfred Hitchcock’s scares in their new novels.
Peter Swanson (top right) has followed his twisty thriller hit The Kind Worth Killing with Her Every Fear, a Boston-set novel about an apartment swap that turns into a nightmare. “I did think of it as my take on a gothic tale,” Swanson tells Crime Scene. “I like books that slowly immerse you into a situation and character.”
The novel begins with anxiety-prone Kate Priddy travelling from London to the US to stay in her cousin’s plush home. But her arrival coincides with the discovery of a murdered woman in the neighbouring apartment. With the element of voyeurism in Her Every Fear, Rear Window (1954), starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, is one specific Hitchcock influence. The Boston-based author also cites Rope (1948) for its compelling portrayal of a pair of psychopaths.
“He influences my writing in general just because I’m a huge fan,” says Swanson. “I get some story ideas through his movies, and I’ve always been interested in his kind of suspense. He has all these hallmarks, but one of them is ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations.” He’s such a fan, Swanson once wrote a sequence of 53 sonnets for each Hitchcock film.
British author Ross Armstrong (below right) combines Hitchcock-style suspense with a concept that’s close to home in his debut novel, The Watcher. The fractured narrative is from the point of view of Lily Gullick, a troubled resident of a modern apartment complex in a gentrified corner of London. “I lived in the flat in which Lily lives,” Armstrong tells Crime Scene. “It was a really eerie place, a real pseudocommunity. In some ways it’s like a modern haunted house, I just thought it was such rick pickings to write about.”
Described as “The Girl On The Train meets Rear Window,” the novel has an increasingly paranoid Lily setting out to solve a murder that may or may not have happened in the flat she’s been watching on the other side of the reservoir. While many psychological thrillers are marketed with comparisons to Hitchcock, Armstrong says he’s often found any connection to be superficial. “I wanted to do something that’s really undeniably Hitchcockian,” he says of Lily’s narrative.
Armstrong wrote the book during the day while he was appearing in a play – his acting career also includes Jonathan Creek, Ripper Street and Foyle’s War. While he doesn’t anticipate appearing in an adaptation of The Watcher, he’s hopeful a film might happen. “You could go a few different ways with the book – it could be quite abstract or it could be a gleaming David Fincher-style thing,” he says.
Having been inspired by the waterside building in Stoke Newington, Armstrong hasn’t ventured far at all. “Because of the book, I managed to buy a flat next door to the place I was renting, which is weird because that’s where one of the other characters lives,” he says. “It’s an odd sort of place to live, but I love it too.”
Her Every Fear (Faber & Faber) and The Watcher (HQ) are out now.