“Murder in Mount Holly” by Paul Theroux who was an Early Favorite

“Murder in Mount Holly” by Paul Theroux (1969, 2011)  –  148 pages

In England, fiction writing is an honorable profession.  There are many writers there plying the fiction trade, turning out fine novels and story collections every few years.  In the United States things are different.  There is no honor at all in writing fiction in the United States.  The only hope for anyone who writes a novel or story in the United States is that he or she can hit the big time and sell it as a movie script. 

 Although Paul Theroux was born in Massachusetts and now resides in Hawaii and Massachusetts, I consider him more of an English writer than a United States writer.  He turns out a fine book of fiction every few years, and he doesn’t try to set the world on fire every time he publishes a book.   He is a professional writer. 

 If there is one model for Paul Theroux as a fiction writer, I would say it is Graham Greene.  A Paul Theroux novel or story can take place anywhere in the world and always tells an interesting story. Also, like Greene, many of Theroux’s books are non-fiction travel writing. 

 When I first started reading fiction, I cautiously stuck to the classics not venturing far from their safe shores.  Paul Theroux was really the first writer besides Anne Tyler whom I discovered while he and she and I were still young.   Thus some of his early novels such as ‘Saint Jack’, ‘The Black House’, “Picture Palace”, and ‘The Family Arsenal’ have stayed vividly in my mind.  Soon after, I would discover other young writers such as William Boyd and Ian McEwan and Alice Munro

 “Murder in Mount Holly” was written by Theroux in 1969 which makes this his first novel.  He was living in, you guessed it, England at that time, and the novel was only published in England then.  Apparently someone now decided the novel was good enough that it should finally be published in the United States in 2011.     

 “Murder” is a cartoonish comic romp of a novel set in 1965 in Mount Holly which is a fictitious town somewhere in the United States.  I won’t go in to any of the details of the plot, because the plot is an outlandish old thing of not much interest to anyone and certainly not to me.  As well as being outlandish, it seemed terribly out of date as if written by someone who had no feel whatsoever for the 1960s in the United States.  Although I consider “Murder” more or less an author’s juvenilia, it does have a certain energy, a zest for writing that causes me to return again  and again to Paul Theroux novels.  Of all his novels though, “Murder in Mount Holly” is my least favorite.

 Instead of publishing this novel, I would have preferred that they had published one of Paul Theroux’s better developed novels from the 1970s which still have that youthful energy and which I have listed above.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. He’s certainly been churning them out for a long time, according to this website: http://www.paultheroux.com/

    I loved Mosquito Coast and My Secret History when I read them about 20 years ago, but not read anything else by him since then.

    As an aside, his two children, who are English, are very well known here, mainly as TV journalists.

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    • Hi Kimbofo,
      Yes, Paul has been most prolific. I didn’t know that his children were in England. I know his nephew Justin Therous is in the US and is now dating Jennifer Aniston. I wonder how he is related to Marcel Theroux, a young novelist I’ve also wanted to read.

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  2. Posted by Wolfy on February 27, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    I want to check out this book.

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