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By Its Cover: Footsteps in the Dark

Novel by Georgette Heyer

It’s a throwback to what was once considered cool and sophisticated. A man and a woman light up there cigarettes on this cover of Georgette Heyer’s 1932 novel. Though perhaps better known as a writer of Georgian and Regency romances, Footsteps in the Dark was Heyer’s first of several detective novels.

Perusing through a selection of ebooks, this cover (also used for a print version) caught my eye. The man and woman, dressed in evening wear typical of the 1920s/1930s, are prominently featured on the cover in an indeterminate location, though the background color and hazy light are suggestive of a nighttime outdoor setting. The man holds his lighter ready to ignite the woman’s cigarette while his own cigarette awaits perched between his lips. It’s almost like a scene out of a Hollywood movie and instantly made me wonder if there was a connection between this novel and an Errol Flynn film.

In 1941, Errol Flynn starred in a film titled, Footsteps in the Dark. Flynn plays an investment handler turned lurid detective novelist who becomes involved in a murder case. It’s long been on my list of movies to watch, but I haven’t had the pleasure yet. Turns out this movie, while not as successful as Flynn’s other films, was originally based on a 1937 stage play, Blondie White. The play is about the adventure of an author of detective novels who solves a real murder with his wife, and the titular character is a burlesque dancer involved in the crime.

By comparison, Heyer’s novel is about a rundown estate, reputedly haunted, inherited by three siblings from their late uncle. “When a murder victim is discovered in the drafty Priory halls, the once unconcerned trio begins to fear that the ghostly rumors are true and they are not alone after all!” It’s up to them to uncover either a “supernatural predator” or a “corporeal culprit.”

Two very disparate plots. One a lighthearted film involving diamonds, murder, and misunderstandings. The other a novel of upper English class types in a classic country manor setting. Both would be of interest to fans of mysteries, especially the amateur sleuth, cozy-type. While there’s no connection between the two, it’s interesting to note that the characters of the novel cover bear a passing resemblance to Flynn and co-star, Brenda Marshall, as featured on the DVD cover for the film. This is likely a result of the predominant style and fashion of the period though.

Regardless, the novel cover drew my attention and interest which in turn led to a renewal of interest in the film, though unrelated. Perhaps it’s time both book and film moved up my to read/to watch lists.

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Categorised in: Mystery, Reviews

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