Ring Twice For Laura by Vera Caspary
Ring Twice For Laura by Vera Caspary is the 1942 serialized novel that would become famous as the 1944 Otto Preminger movie ‘Laura.’ It is the story of a New York City career woman mistakenly thought murdered in her own apartment and the three men most affected: her narcissistic former lover, her philandering fiancee, and the hard-boiled detective assigned to investigate her case.
Ring Twice For Laura by Vera Caspary is the 1942 serialized novel that would become famous as the 1944 Otto Preminger movie ‘Laura.’ Serialized over seven weeks in Collier’s Weekly Magazine, it is the story of a New York City career woman mistakenly thought murdered in her own apartment and the three men most affected: her narcissistic former lover, her philandering fiancee, and the hard-boiled detective assigned to investigate her case.
With original illustrations by Earl Cordrey, this volume also contains MY “LAURA” AND OTTO’S written by Caspary in 1971 about the adaptation of her novel into Preminger’s classic noir film.
Vera Caspary (1899–1987) was a writer of novels, plays, screenplays, and short stories. Though she claimed she was not a “real” mystery writer, her novels effectively merged women’s quest for identity and love with murder plots. Independence is the key to her protagonists, with her novels revolving around women who are menaced, but who turn out to be neither victimized nor rescued damsels.
Ring Twice For Laura has 23 illustrations.
Read more about The Story of Laura.
Excerpt: Ring Twice For Laura
THE city that Sunday morning was quiet. Those millions of New Yorkers who, by need or preference, remain in town over a summer week end had been crushed spiritless by humidity.
Sitting at my desk, pen in hand, I treasured the sense that, among those millions, only I, Waldo Lydecker, was up and doing. The day just past, devoted to shock and misery, had stripped me of sorrow. Now I had gathered strength for the writing of Laura’s epitaph. My grief at her sudden and violent death found consolation in the thought that my friend, had she lived to a ripe old age, would have passed into oblivion, whereas, the violence of her passing and the genius of her admirer gave her a fair chance at immortality.
My doorbell rang. Its electric vibrations had barely ceased when Roberto, my Filipino manservant, came to tell me that Mr. McPherson had asked to see me.
“Mark McPherson!” I exclaimed, and then, assuming the air of one who might meet Mussolini without trepidation, I bade Roberto ask Mr. McPherson to wait. Mohamet had not rushed to meet the mountain.
This visit of a not unimportant member of the police department—although I am still uncertain of his title or office—conferred a certain honor. Lesser folk are unceremoniously questioned at headquarters. But what had young McPherson to do with the murder? His triumphs were concerned with political rather than civil crime.
Screened by the half-open door of my study, I watched him move restlessly about my drawing room. He was the sort of man, I saw at once, who affects to scorn affectation; a veritable Cassius who emphasized the lean and hungry look by clothing himself darkly in double-breasted blue worsted, unadorned white shirt and dull tie. His hands were long and tense, his face slender, his eyes watchful.
My drawing room, it was obvious, irritated him; to a man of his fiercely virile temperament, such delicate perfection must be cloying. But habit had made him alert to detail. Shunning Lowestoft, Crown Derby and Wedgewood, he stretched his hand toward the mercury glass which he associated with the globe-and-pedestal vase he had observed on the mantel in Laura’s living room.
I leaped like a mother leopard. “Careful, young man! That stuff’s priceless!”
He turned so sharply that the small rug slid along the polished floor. As he steadied himself against the cabinet, porcelain and glass danced upon the shelves.
“A bull in a china shop,” I remarked. The pun restored my humor. I extended my hand.
He smiled mechanically. “I’m here to talk to you about the Laura Hunt case, Mr. Lydecker.”
He settled his long frame carefully upon a frail chair. I offered a cigarette from a Haviland casket, but he pulled out a pipe.
“You’re supposed to be quite an authority on crime yourself, Mr. Lydecker. What do you think about this business?”
I warmed. No writer, however popular, disdains a reader, however humble. “I am honored to know that you read And More Anon.”
“Only when my paper happens to open to the page.”
THE affront was not displeasing. In the world I frequent, where personality is generously exposed and friendship offered without reticence, his aloofness struck an uncommon note. I forgave graciously.
“Isn’t criminal investigation out of your line? A trifle unimportant for a man of your achievement?”
“I’ve been assigned to the case.”
Except for the purp-purp of his pipe, the room was silent.
“To a man of your achievement, Mr. McPherson,” I said, “the investigation of a simple murder is probably as interesting as a column of figures to a public accountant who started as a bookkeeper. . . . How about some whisky?”
“Don’t care if I do.”
I poured him a stiff one. He took it and returned the empty glass for another.
“I hope you don’t mind the crack I made about your column, Mr. Lydecker. To tell the truth, I do read it once in a while.”
“Why don’t you like it?”
Without hesitancy he answered, “You’re smooth all right, but you’ve got nothing to say.”
“What is your idea of good literature, Mr. McPherson?”
When he laughed he looked like a Scotch boy who has learned to accept pleasure without fear of sin. “Yesterday morning, after the body was discovered and we learned that Laura Hunt had stood you up for dinner on Friday night, Sergeant Schultz was sent up here to question you. So he asks you what you did all evening. . . .”
“And I told him,” I interrupted, “that I had eaten a lonely dinner, reviling the woman for her desertion, and read Gibbon in a tepid tub.”
“Yeah, and you know what Schultz says? He says this writer guy, Gibbon, must be pretty hot for you to have to read him in a cold bath.”
Roberto announced breakfast. With his natural good manners, he had set a second place at the table. I had not taken a bite of food since that hideous moment, twenty-four hours earlier, when I had been informed, while eating raspberries with clotted cream, that Laura’s body had been discovered in her apartment.
The picture of red berries, vivid against the luster of a Spode-Copeland bowl, returns whenever I recall the voice of Sergeant Schultz and the tragic statement that Laura Hunt, after failing to keep her dinner engagement with me, had been shot and killed. Now, in the attempt to restore my failing appetite, Roberto had stewed kidneys and mushrooms in claret. While we ate. Mark described the scene at the morgue where Laura’s body had been identified by Bessie, her maid, and her aunt, Susan Treadwell.
In spite of deep suffering, I could not but enjoy the contrast between the young man’s appreciation of the meal and the morbid quality of his talk. “When they were shown the body,” he paused to lift a morsel on his fork, “both women collapsed. It was hard to take. The face was nothing but blood and bone,” he soaked toast in the sauce. “With BB shot you can imagine . . .”
I closed my eyes as if she lay before me, as Bessie had discovered her, naked except for a blue silk taffeta robe and a pair of silver slippers.
“Fired at close range.” He spooned relish on his plate. “Mrs. Treadwell passed out, but the servant took it like a veteran. A queer duck, that Bessie. Cool as a cucumber when the boys got up to the apartment. Opened the door and pointed to the body so calmly you’d have thought it was an everyday thing for her to find her boss murdered.”
Excerpt From: Vera Caspary. “Ring Twice For Laura.”
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