Thorne Smith`s TOPPER

Anyone else out there familiar with this book?

Im halfway through and Im completely smitten with it. Its not much like the tamer TV show with Leo G. Carroll (although I remember the alcoholic St. Bernard fondly). In the book, the ghosts are much more unpredictable and flippant. Marion Kerby considers that since her wedding vows mentioned until death do them part, shes free again, and George Kerby takes an ominous view of her hanging all over Topper.

What I enjoy most is Thorne Smiths writing style. He goes into great detail about the characters thoughts, the dialogue is lively and believable, and he takes care to select just the right word (Toppers cat is molded` to the armchair.)

And because its set in Prohibition era 1926, the constant drinking and carousing was probably more scandalous then than it now, but theres still something deliciously tantalizing about the flirty young Marion constantly materializing on top of Topper.

A real change from what I usually read. Why is Thorne Smith (not to mention Talbot Mundy or John Buchan) kept in print for new readers? If I win the lottery, I swear I`m going to start a publishing house to make inexpensive paperbacks available of writers like these.

Both “Topper” and “Night Life of the Gods” seem to currently be in print. The problem is that there are so many things that deserve reprints and only a small number of places that will reprint them (epecially if they aren’t “literary”). Further, the current mentality in most publishing houses is not interested in books that might sell steadily but in small quantities.

I’ve read just about all of Thorne Smith’s books–they’re not hard to find in used bookshops. I think of the old line, “he wrote an excellent book–in fact, he wrote it seven or eight times.” He was pretty much a one-trick pony. Plot: henpecked middleaged man meets with some kind of supernatural chick who introduces him to lot of sex and drink, and he’s much the happier for it.

I like his books, some more than others, but he was, shall we say, somewhat “limited in his scope.”

Also Topper Takes a Trip. Thank you, Modern Library Paperbacks.

RealityChuck is correct, I’m afraid…don’t go holding your breath looking for mainstream publishers to bring out handsome new editions of the popular fiction of the past. There may be money in it, but it not the BUCKETS of money that is expected/hoped for with every new title these days.

The only reason I can figure that these three Smith novels are back is that some Random House editor is currently in the good graces of his corporate boss, and was allowed to do up a couple of his favorite backlist titles.

Your best bet for Thorne Smith is to look for the Literary Guild omnibuses in used bookshops…THE THORNE SMITH 3-DECKER (The Stray Lamb; Turnabout; Rain in the Doorway) and THE THORNE SMITH TRIPLETS (Topper Takes a Trip; Night Life of the Gods; The Bishop’s Jaegers).

All that being said, I confess to liking the IDEA of Thorne Smith most than I like reading the novels themselves. Capsule synopses of his plots are highly entertaining, but the books aren’t really able to sustain the whimsy.

Count me as another fan! Although, as Eve points out, he mostly only has one plot, he is fun to read if you’re looking for something frivolous.

I’ll have to dig out my copy of Rain in the Doorway, and maybe see if the librarty has any more.

Hmm. I’ve had the book for years, but we’ve never read it… although I remember the TV show fondly, and the movie (with Cary Grant) ditto.

Mmmm… Courtney…

Oh, sorry. Zoned out for a moment there.

I just want to put in a plug for the movie version of Topper, and especially for the movie sequel- Topper Returns. The first is excellent, the second is hysterical. (IMO, of course.)

In Topper Returns, Toppers ditzy wife (played by Billie Burke) and his scaredy-cat butler (played by Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson) steal the show.

This one scene almost made me wet my pants when I first watched it, and I still crack up over it. When Eddie saw some ghostly footprints and got scared, he ran home and started packing. He throws a suitcase on his bed and grabs an armful of clothing which he tosses into into it- at which point you see that it’s dozens of white starched collars for his butler uniforms. Then he says, “I’m going back to work for Mr. Benny!” And I just roll…

See, he was Rochester the butler on Benny’s old radio show, which I adore, and he’s got this really deep croaking voice, and his eyes are all big and…

oh, nevermind, it’s probably just me…

[/end hijack]

The book does seem to sag noticeably toward the end, and the constant drinking soon becomes tiresome. But it was still very enjoyable.

I daresay were ready for a new feature film of TOPPER. With, hmm, lets see… Meg Ryan and Timothy Dalton as the Kerbys, and Anthony Hopkins as Cosmo Topper. No, no no. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. with Jack Nicholson. EWWW, no… never mind.

Movie trivia: Jean Harlow was supposed to play the female lead in the film version of Topper, opposite Cary Grant, and W.C. Fields as Cosmo Topper. When Jean died, Connie Bennett replaced her, and Fields dropped out, too.