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Monday, April 16, 2018

In Sunlight or in Shadow

Lawrence Block had the great idea to put together an anthology of stories that are all based on a particular Edward Hopper painting and called it In Sunlight or in Shadow. Hopper is a great subject for writers, as his paintings depict scenes of loneliness and alienation, which is ripe for literary exploration.

Unfortunately, I found this book to be only about half good. Many of the authors are genre writers, and while I am not a snob about that--Michael Connelly and Stephen King are great writers, period--some of them aren't suited to the kind of prose necessary to interpret Hopper's works.

But there are some good stories here. To start with Connelly, he chose to use Hopper's most famous painting, Nighthawks, by incorporating the painting itself into the story. His hero Harry Bosch is tailing a woman who visits the painting each day in the Chicago Museum of Art. King, on the other hand, takes the painting Room in New York and titles his story "Music Room." The two people in the painting are up to some very bad things.

Other stories seem to have no connection to the story. I didn't get Jill D. Block's story based on Summer Evening, "The Story of Caroline." And Lee Child's "The Truth About What Happened," based on Hotel Lobby, seems dashed off and incomplete.

On the plus side, I loved Joe R. Lansdale's "The Projectionist," based on New York Movie. It would make a good movie. And Lawrence Block's "Autumn at the Automat," based on Automat, is very evocative of Hopper's world--what's more Hopperesque than a lone woman eating an automat?

For those who love Edward Hopper, I say take a chance with this, and try you're own if you're a writer. Frankly, though Connelly's story was terrific, I was hoping he'd spin a yarn about the people inside Nighthawks.

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