I'm Talk'in Here.
I like how some stories can transport you to different times and places. I recently listened to an audiobook that seems to perfectly encapsulate the 1950s Middle America era the story is set in. The book is called ‘The Executioners’, a novel by John D. MacDonald. Although you’ll be more familiar with the 1991 film adaptation ‘Cape Fear’ directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro. The film differs from the book, as is usually the case. As I was listening to the story, I almost felt as though I was transported back in time. It’s a cleanly written story. Dark, dramatic, suspenseful, but can drag on a bit at times, such as when the boat club the main character Sam Bowden is a member of is first introduced.
My favourite aspect of the story is the dialogue. Listening to how the characters speak to each other in 1950s American English spoken at the time. I’m writing this blog post in Toronto, Canada, in 2022, and I found it interesting how differently they speak English from myself. I found it direct and yet more dramatic. Even though you can understand what they were saying, it sounds like they are speaking in code.
Phrases such as: “As far as rackets, this town is out to lunch.” “All around here is small timey…” “… I started the wheels rolling on your old buddy.” “…give you the shakes.” “He’ll keep on look’in for it and any time he want’s to, shake loose….” “Work him over with some bicycle chain.” “I’m pretty well snowed under out here.” “He’s as mean as a snake.” “Let’s stop the run-around, Maxi” “I bet he’s sour at himself for miss’in.” Just to mention a few.
Obviously, due to lack of context, some of these lines from the story may be hard to understand. For example: "As far as rackets, this town is out to lunch." "Rackets" refers to illegal businesses operated by a criminal organization to produce cash profits for members. "Town is out to lunch" means there is little to no illegal business operating in the city.
Next: "He'll keep on look'in for it and any time he want's to, shake loss…." This refers to the story's antagonist's intelligence and cunning. He knows when he's being followed and how to then disappear.
Finally: "… I started the wheels rolling on your old buddy." This means the protagonist's co-worker did a background check on the antagonist. Just to name a few.
The story also tries to set itself in the real world. One chapter points out tropes in noir/pulp or thriller/crime fiction. The story is not for everyone. Listening to it, I thought, how interesting that setting was and amazed at how much the world has changed. In how we live our lives now compared to how people lived back then, especially how we speak English..