Vera Caspary's Laura: A Classic EPUB Book That Will Keep You Spellbound
Laura by Vera Caspary: A Classic Noir Romance
If you are looking for a thrilling and captivating read, you might want to check out Laura by Vera Caspary. This novel, published in 1943, is considered one of the greatest noir romances of all time, and it was also adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film in 1944. But what makes Laura so special? In this article, we will explore the plot, the characters, and the themes of this masterpiece of mystery and suspense.
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What is Laura about?
Laura is a novel that tells the story of a brutal murder and a tough detective who falls in love with the victim. Laura Hunt, a beautiful and successful advertising executive, is found shot dead in her apartment. Mark McPherson, a hardboiled NYPD detective, is assigned to investigate the case. As he interviews Laura's friends and acquaintances, he becomes fascinated by her life and personality. He also discovers that she had many admirers, including Waldo Lydecker, a cynical columnist who mentored her career, and Shelby Carpenter, a charming but unreliable fiancé. As McPherson digs deeper into the mystery, he finds himself drawn to the mere idea of Laura. But is she really dead?
Who is Vera Caspary?
Vera Caspary was an American writer who was born in 1899 and died in 1987. She wrote novels, plays, screenplays, and short stories, mostly in the genres of mystery, crime, and romance. She was also a feminist and a socialist who challenged the stereotypes and conventions of her time. She is best known for Laura, which was her most successful and acclaimed work. She also wrote other popular books, such as Bedelia, The Man Who Loved His Wife, and The Secrets of Grown-Ups.
Why is Laura a classic noir romance?
Laura is a classic noir romance because it combines elements of both noir and romance genres. Noir is a style of fiction that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s, characterized by dark, cynical, and pessimistic stories that often involve crime, corruption, violence, and moral ambiguity. Romance is a genre that focuses on the emotional and romantic relationship between two or more characters, usually with a happy ending. Laura blends these two genres by creating a complex and intriguing plot that involves a murder mystery, a love triangle, a twist ending, and a femme fatale. It also uses stylistic features of noir, such as flashbacks, narration, dialogue, and atmosphere.
The plot of Laura
The plot of Laura is divided into five parts: Prologue, Part One: Waldo Lydecker's Story; Part Two: Mark McPherson's Story; Part Three: Shelby Carpenter's Story; Part Four: Laura's Story; and Epilogue. Each part is narrated by a different character, who gives their own perspective and version of the events. The plot is also structured as a combination of present and past, as the investigation of Laura's murder alternates with flashbacks that reveal her life and relationships.
The murder mystery
The novel begins with a prologue, in which Waldo Lydecker, a famous columnist and radio commentator, introduces himself and his connection to Laura Hunt. He claims that he was the only one who really knew her and loved her, and that he is writing her story to honor her memory. He also reveals that he was present when Mark McPherson, a young and handsome detective, came to his apartment to question him about Laura's murder. He says that he decided to help McPherson solve the case, and that he accompanied him to Laura's apartment, where they found her body lying on the floor, with a shotgun wound in her face.
In Part One, Waldo Lydecker tells his story of how he met Laura five years ago, when she was a young and ambitious copywriter who wanted to interview him for an advertising campaign. He was impressed by her intelligence and beauty, and he offered to mentor her and help her advance in her career. He also became her friend and confidant, and he introduced her to the high society of New York. He admits that he was in love with her, but that he never expressed his feelings or made any advances, because he was afraid of losing her friendship. He also says that he was jealous of any man who showed interest in her, especially Shelby Carpenter, a penniless playboy who proposed to Laura and whom she accepted.
In Part Two, Mark McPherson tells his story of how he became obsessed with Laura after seeing her portrait in her apartment. He says that he spent hours staring at the painting, trying to figure out who she was and what she felt. He also says that he searched her personal belongings, such as her letters, diaries, clothes, and perfume, looking for clues about her life and personality. He confesses that he fell in love with her image, and that he dreamed of meeting her and kissing her. He also says that he continued his investigation, interviewing other people who knew Laura, such as Bessie Clary, her loyal maid; Danny Dorgan, a young hoodlum who claimed to be Laura's friend; Mrs. Dorgan, Danny's mother and Laura's former neighbor; and Diane Redfern, an artist and model who was allegedly Laura's rival.
In Part Three, Shelby Carpenter tells his story of how he met Laura at a party hosted by Waldo Lydecker, and how he courted her and proposed to her. He says that he loved Laura sincerely, but that he also needed her money and social status to support his lifestyle. He also says that he had a secret affair with Diane Redfern, whom he met at an art gallery where Laura bought her portrait. He reveals that on the night of the murder, he went to Laura's apartment to break up with Diane, but he found her dead on the floor. He panicked and fled the scene, leaving behind his shotgun and his engraved cigarette case.
In Part Four, Laura Hunt tells her story of how she survived the murder attempt. She says that she left New York for a few days to relax in the country, after having a fight with Shelby over his infidelity. She also says that she lent her apartment to Diane Redfern, who wanted to use it as a studio. She explains that on the night of the murder, she returned to New York earlier than expected, and she entered her apartment without turning on the lights. She heard someone moving in the dark, and she thought it was Shelby. She called his name, but instead of answering, the person shot at her with a shotgun. She managed to dodge the bullet, which hit the clock on the mantel instead. She then ran out of the apartment and called the police from a nearby phone booth.
In the epilogue, Mark McPherson reveals the identity of the killer: Waldo Lydecker. He says that he figured out that Waldo was in love with Laura, and that he killed Diane Redfern by mistake, thinking she was Laura. He also says that he tried to kill Laura again when she came back to her apartment, but he failed. He then planted evidence to frame Shelby for the crime. McPherson confronts Waldo at his apartment, where Waldo confesses his guilt and tries to shoot McPherson with a hidden gun. However, McPherson anticipates his move and shoots him first. Waldo dies in McPherson's arms, saying that he would have killed anyone who tried to take Laura away from him.
The characters of Laura
The characters of Laura are complex and intriguing, each with their own motives and secrets. They are also typical of the noir genre, as they represent different types of people who inhabit the dark and corrupt world of the city.
Laura Hunt is the protagonist and the femme fatale of the novel. She is a beautiful, elegant, and successful woman who has risen from a humble background to become a prominent advertising executive. She is also ambitious, independent, and generous, but also naive, insecure, and lonely. She attracts many men who admire her and desire her, but she also has trouble finding true love and happiness. She is the object of obsession for both Waldo Lydecker and Mark McPherson, who idealize her and project their own fantasies onto her. She is also the victim of a murder attempt by Waldo Lydecker, who tries to kill her out of jealousy and possessiveness.
Mark McPherson is the detective and the hero of the novel. He is a young, handsome, and smart cop who has a reputation for being tough and efficient. He is also cynical, sarcastic, and aloof, as he has seen too much violence and crime in his career. He falls in love with Laura after seeing her portrait and investigating her murder. He becomes obsessed with her image and personality, and he tries to solve the mystery of her death and life. He also competes with Waldo Lydecker and Shelby Carpenter for her affection and attention. He is the only one who can save Laura from Waldo's murderous intentions.
Waldo Lydecker is the villain and the narrator of the novel. He is a famous columnist and radio commentator who has a lot of influence and power in the city. He is also a cultured, sophisticated, and witty man who enjoys art, literature, and music. He is also arrogant, manipulative, and ruthless, as he uses his words and his connections to get what he wants. He meets Laura five years ago and becomes her mentor and friend. He falls in love with her, but he never tells her or acts on his feelings. He is jealous of any man who approaches her, especially Shelby Carpenter. He kills Diane Redfern by mistake, thinking she was Laura. He then tries to kill Laura again when she returns to her apartment. He also tries to frame Shelby for the crime.
Shelby Carpenter is the fiancé and the suspect of the novel. He is a charming, handsome, and charismatic man who comes from a wealthy family that has lost its fortune. He lives off his charm and his connections, but he also has a gambling problem and a debt to pay. He meets Laura at a party hosted by Waldo Lydecker, and he proposes to her shortly after. He loves Laura sincerely, but he also needs her money and social status to support his lifestyle. He has a secret affair with Diane Redfern, whom he met at an art gallery where Laura bought her portrait. He goes to Laura's apartment on the night of the murder to break up with Diane, but he finds her dead on the floor. He panics and flees the scene, leaving behind his shotgun and his cigarette case.
The themes of Laura
The themes of Laura are related to the issues and conflicts that arise from the interaction between the characters and their environment. They are also typical of the noir genre, as they reflect the dark side of human nature and society.
Obsession and identity
One of the main themes of Laura is obsession and identity. The novel explores how obsession can affect one's perception of oneself and others, as well as one's actions and decisions. Waldo Lydecker is obsessed with Laura Hunt, whom he considers his creation and his property. He tries to control every aspect of her life, from her career to her love life. He also tries to kill her when he thinks she is betraying him or leaving him. Mark McPherson is also obsessed with Laura Hunt, whom he considers his ideal woman and his soulmate. He tries to understand every detail of her personality, from her preferences to her feelings. He also tries to protect her from any danger or harm.
The novel also explores how identity can be shaped by one's appearance and reputation, as well as by one's actions and choices. Laura Hunt is a woman who has multiple identities, depending on who is looking at her or talking about her. She is a successful advertising executive, a beautiful and elegant lady, a loyal and generous friend, a naive and insecure girl, a desirable and elusive lover, a dead and alive victim. She is also a woman who struggles to find her true identity, as she is influenced by the expectations and opinions of others, especially Waldo Lydecker and Mark McPherson.
Class and gender
Another theme of Laura is class and gender. The novel examines how class and gender can affect one's opportunities and challenges, as well as one's relationships and conflicts. Laura Hunt is a woman who has risen from a humble background to a prominent position in the advertising industry. She is also a woman who has to deal with the prejudices and pressures of a male-dominated society. She faces discrimination and harassment from her clients and colleagues, who either underestimate her or exploit her. She also faces manipulation and violence from her lovers and friends, who either envy her or covet her.
Shelby Carpenter is a man who has fallen from a wealthy family to a penniless situation. He is also a man who has to rely on his charm and his connections to survive in the city. He faces ridicule and resentment from his peers and rivals, who either mock him or threaten him. He also faces suspicion and accusation from his lover and his detective, who either doubt him or blame him.
Love and death
A final theme of Laura is love and death. The novel explores how love and death can be intertwined and opposed, as well as how they can influence one's emotions and actions. Waldo Lydecker loves Laura Hunt, but he also tries to kill her twice. He believes that he can only possess her in death, and that he can only prove his love by dying with her. Mark McPherson loves Laura Hunt, but he also thinks that she is dead for most of the novel. He believes that he can only meet her in his dreams, and that he can only express his love by solving her murder. Laura Hunt loves Shelby Carpenter, but she also discovers that he is cheating on her with Diane Redfern. She believes that she can only forgive him in life, and that she can only save him by clearing his name.
Summary of the main points
In conclusion, Laura by Vera Caspary is a classic noir romance that tells the story of a brutal murder and a tough detective who falls in love with the victim. The novel has a complex and intriguing plot that involves a murder mystery, a love triangle, a twist ending, and a femme fatale. The novel also has complex and intriguing characters who represent different types of people who inhabit the dark and corrupt world of the city. The novel also explores various themes that are related to the issues and conflicts that arise from the interaction between the characters and their environment.
Evaluation of the book and the film adaptation
Laura is a book that deserves its reputation as one of the greatest noir romances of all time. It is a book that combines elements of both noir and romance genres, creating a unique and captivating style of fiction. It is also a book that showcases the talent and the vision of Vera Caspary, who was an innovative and influential writer in her time. Laura is also a book that inspired an equally successful film adaptation in 1944, directed by Otto Preminger and starring Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, and Judith Anderson. The film follows the plot of the book closely, but it also adds some changes and improvements, such as enhancing the atmosphere, the dialogue, the music, and the performances.
Recommendations for further reading
If you enjoyed reading Laura, you might want to check out some other books by Vera Caspary or some other books in the noir genre. Here are some suggestions:
Bedelia by Vera Caspary: A novel about a woman who marries rich men and then kills them for their money.
The Man Who Loved His Wife by Vera Caspary: A novel about a man who suspects that his wife is having an affair with his best friend.
The Secrets of Grown-Ups by Vera Caspary: A memoir about Caspary's life and career as a writer.
by Dashiell Hammett: A novel about a private detective who gets involved in a quest for a priceless statuette.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler: A novel about a private detective who is hired to solve a blackmail case.
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain: A novel about a drifter who falls in love with a married woman and plots to kill her husband.
Here are some frequently asked questions about Laura and their answers:
Is Laura based on a true story?
No, Laura is not based on a true story. It is a fictional story that was inspired by Vera Caspary's own experiences as a woman working in the advertising industry in New York.
Who painted the portrait of Laura in the novel and the film?
In the novel, the portrait of Laura was painted by Diane Redfern, an artist and model who was also Shelby Carpenter's lover. In the film, the portrait of Laura was painted by Joseph Cotten, an actor and painter who was also a friend of Otto Preminger.
What is the significance of the clock in the novel and the film?
The clock is a symbol of time and fate in the novel and the film. In the novel, the clock is a gift from Waldo Lydecker to Laura Hunt, and it is also the object that saves her life when Waldo tries to kill her. In the film, the clock is a gift from Laura Hunt to Mark McPherson, and it is also the object that reveals Waldo's guilt when he tries to kill Laura again.
What is the difference between noir and hard-boiled fiction?
Noir and hard-boiled fiction are two related but distinct genres of fiction that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s. Noir fiction is characterized by dark, cynical, and pessimistic stories that often involve crime, corruption, violence, and moral ambiguity. Hard-boiled fiction is characterized by realistic, gritty, and unsentimental stories that often feature private detectives, criminals, and femme fatales. Noir fiction is more focused on the mood and the atmosphere of the story, while hard-boiled fiction is more focused on the plot and the action of the story.
What are some other examples of noir romance?
Some other examples of noir romance are Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, Gilda by E.A. Ellington, The Killers by Ernest Hemingway, Out of the Past by Daniel Mainwaring, The Lady from Shanghai by Sherwood King, and Vertigo by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac.