Friday 31 July 2009

Forgotten Book - The List of Adrian Messenger

My entry this week for Patti Abbott’s series of Forgotten Books is another title from the pen of Philip Macdonald, his last novel and yet possibly the most famous – The List of Adrian Messenger. The book’s celebrity derives to a large extent from the fact that it was filmed in 1963, four years after publication. George C. Scott was improbably cast as Anthony Gethryn, and the movie boasted unlikely cameos from Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum.

Messenger’s list contains the names of people who have died, over a period of time, in seemingly random fashion. What is the connection? Gethryn is intrigued, and embarks upon a quest to solve the puzzle and track down one of the most amazingly remorseless murderers in the annals of crime fiction.

I enjoyed the book as well as the film. The hook is genuinely gripping, and although the story falters a little here and there, it provides plenty of evidence of Macdonald’s storytelling gifts. Oddly, he did not write the screenplay – that was written by Anthony Veiller, about whom I know nothing.

Now, by the time you read this, I should be off on holiday for just over a week. I’ve scheduled daily posts in advance, and (provided I can master the technology….) I aim to be able to respond to comments and read other favourite blogs whilst away. Be good in my absence!


Terrie Farley Moran said...

I was a teenager when the movie came out and already hooked on mysteries so I loved the movie. Never realized there was a book.

I am sure it is well worth reading.


R/T said...

Ah, THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER. Notwithstanding the quirkiness of the cameos, the film--as I recall from so very long ago--worked rather well. Now, though, it is largely forgotten, which means, of course, you already have your offering for Patti Abbott's forthcoming "forgotten film" feature. This also means you've trumped me because I believe I would have thrown THE LIST into the list. So, now I will be scratching around in my little grey cells for something else from the scratchy past.

Dorte H said...

When my mother tells me to be good, I know exactly what she means. But in this criminal context?
You don´t imply I cannot plan or execute kidnapping, assault or murder, do you? (Now I think about it, I can see how liberal my mother is. She not only condones, but actually encourages my crimes).

Unknown said...

I like the movie quite a bit, and I read the book soon after seeing it.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Terrie. Yes, it is an odd book in some ways, featuring an amateur sleuth who feels about 30 years out of date, but I did enjoy it.

Martin Edwards said...

Tim, I'm glad you like this one too!

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Dorte. Okay, you win, you can be slightly bad!
We have now arrived safely in Barcelona. Unfortunately, not all of our luggage has....but at least it is warmer than England!

Martin Edwards said...

Bill, I don't know if you've read other Macdonald books, but although they are period pieces, I do think the best of them still have merit. X v Rex and Murder Gone Mad, for instance.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


". . . an amateur sleuth who feels about 30 years out of date . . .'

Fine with me. I often feel about 30 years out of date.


Martin Edwards said...

Me too, Terrie!