Behind the Fiction Past
By Brenda Weeaks


Hello! This month we are going to look Behind the Fiction of Novels in Verse.

When going down a list of subjects to present for the column, my eye caught the one type of writing that truly impresses me. Don't get me wrong all writing impresses me. As far as I'm concerned all writers are under paid and under valued, but this type of writing is truly unique. I am speaking of the Novel in Verse, which is a group of rhyming sonnets put together to create a storyline. They are most often accompanied by illustrations. If extensive, they can demand some serious concentration. You will find them in all genres and most age levels, from literary fiction to Sci- Fi and Mystery. Some are contemporary and some date centuries back. There is a vast audience for this type of reading. I hope once you leave this page, you seek out one or two out and experience the novel in verse for yourself.

My favorite novels in verse are two mysteries - Send Bygraves by Martha Grimes and Jack, The Lady Killer by H. R. F. Keating. Below you will find an samples of both along with some others.

One day I mentioned in passing what I was working on and my daughter, whom I had recently had a British lit class with, in her "duh, mom voice" said, Beowulf? British Lit? She is right, but, honestly, since that particular epic was continually mingled with the rambling of the professor's personal life and her ancestry discoveries I never really did get into the story, so I will move on to those I did. Below are some recommendations of Novels in Verse. Click on the titles that interest you and you will be taken to each book's page at Amazon.Com where you can learn more it.





The Wild Party by Joseph M. March

Queenie was a blonde, and her age stood still,
And she danced twice a day in vaudeville.
Gray eyes.
Lips like coals aglow.
Her face was a tinted mask of snow.
Furnished like a third-act passion set:
They owed two months on the rental.

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

A little button at the end of each range activated the fluorescent track above it.
A yellowing 5 x 7 index card
Scotch-taped below each button said EXTINGUISH LIGHT WHEN NOT IN USE.
Geryon went flickering
through the ranges like a bit of mercury flipping the switches on and off.
The librarians thought him
a talented boy with a shadow side.

Send Bygraves by Martha Grimes

We're a decent lot. We cause no trouble.
(That Spot of bother with the poisoned dogs
At Smyth-Montcrieff's? We'd nothing to do with that!)
You standing, Sergeant? Ah, thank you, I'll have a Double
Diamond. Jameson on the side. That fog's
Thick as pea soup ihnit? I'll tell you flat:
We don't' much like the Yard nosing about
In little Puddley. Keeping ourselves to ourselves,
We do. We've nothing to hide. We're a decent lot.

The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth

The old folks settle down with books:
He with Tom Jones, she with a thriller
Entitled Jack the Lady-Killer.

Jack, The Lady Killer by H. R. F. Keating

Jack, the Lady Killer, there's
My title, chosen for this tale.
A tribute, bold, from one who dares
Follow a poet (will I fail?)
Of sparkling wit and dazzling rhyme.
But, as for me, I'll stick to crime.
Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate,
My quote's from that. If not quite straight,
it holds my plot in embryo.
But where to set my nascent verse?
Answer: yes, I can't do worse
than India. So, there I'll go,
back to my old stamping ground.
But with a yesteryear sleuthhound.


JACK, THE LADY KILLER by Keating, H. R. F.
Poisoned Pen Press – December 1999
ISBN: 1890208248
Historical Mystery in Verse (Poem)

Reviewed by Brenda Weeaks,
Buy a Copy

(H. R. F. Keating also writes the Inspector Ghote mystery series set in India.)

Jack, The Lady Killer is an unusual mystery because it’s written in verse with illustrations. The first mystery I read in verse was Martha Grimes, Send Bygraves, and I have been a fan of this unique style of story telling ever since. I am thrilled to say H.R.F. Keating’s mystery in verse was just as unique and fun to read as Send Bygraves.

Mr. Keating gives the author Vikram Seth credit for inspiring him after he read his verse novel THE GOLDEN GATE. He even quotes a verse of Vikram Seth’s at the beginning of this mystery and I think those in the publishing business will get a kick out of it.

Mr. Keating’s mystery takes place in 1935. Jack Steele, a new recruit to the Imperial Police Service in India is sent to take care of a panicked elephant. While he’s gone someone murders widow Milly Marchbanks. With the District Superintendent in hospital Jack finds himself working the crime. A witness, a boy named “Little Brown Gramophone” tells Jack that just before Milly died she cried, “ No, Jack, no! So searching for a member of the Briton Club named Jack should seem easy . . . but it isn’t. The author takes the reader through the suspects, clues and emotions of Jack in verse.

If you haven’t experienced a verse novel or mystery, you have to try one.



General Fiction

The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth is 690 sonnets about California yuppies created read as fiction.

Eugene Onegin (Bollingen Series, 72) by Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin and translated by James E. Falen is a historical novel set during the 1820s in Russia. It follows the fate of three men and three women. It has a large cast of characters and offers plenty of literary, philosophical and autobiographical excursions.
Fredy Neptune by Les A. Murray is about an Australian named Friedrich Boettcher who fights aboard a German battleship during WWI, journeys from the Holy Land to Africa to America to the Far East and back to Australia. He sees much and it's expressed in the poerty.
Lola by Tim McLaurin is a literary novel in verse. It's about how a single father's death affects those around him. Point of view is from his children - one, Lola, being Mentally handicap.
Omeros by Derek Walcott is a literary, mythological saga. Omeros is Greek for Homer. It's about the idea of Homer and the idea of poetry written on a Homeric scale. A story of exile and wandering.
Don Juan - Lord Byron by George Gordon Byron is fiction novel in verse. A mock-epic of love, politics, passion and satire.
Pirouette of Earth by Ian M. Emberson is another novel in verse.
The Wild Party: The Lost Classic written by Joseph M. March. Drawings by Art Spiegelman. First published in 1928, this novel in verse is about love, relationships, and sexual adventures.
True North by Fred Johnston is a Military type Irish novel in verse that takes place in the 1940s and WWII.
Dead Reckoning by Haxton Brooks is a novel in verse about a Vietnam veteran, drug addiction, and a staff cover up when the lead character escapes the hospital.
Daughter of Christopher Columbus, Vol. 1 by Rejean Ducharme is about Columbia Columbus the daughter of Christopher Columbus. She wanders the world in search of friendship after her father dies.
Don Quickshot: A Comic Novel in Verse by William F. Van Wert is a modern day tale of Don Quixote. The lead character, Don Quickshot, is a Mafia Don. He has a sidekick, Pedre. The story takes place in South America. There is plenty of pusn, literay allusion and satire to entertain readers.
Ruslan and Ludmilla by Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin, Nancy Dargel
Human Landscapes from My Country by Nazim Hikmet is an epic novel in verse

The Same Sea written by Israeli author Amos Oz is an unusual novel in verse with characters that speak to their author. It's about love, eroticism, loyalty and betrayal. It's a bit different.

Gondals Queen by Emily J. Bronte

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson is a contemporary version of the myth of Geryon and Herakles. Geryon is a red winged monster.

Noah's Aardvark by Jules Rothenstein

History : The Home Movie by Craig Raine chronicles the author's family tree from 1906-1984. The renowned British poet follows the stories of the Pasternak and Raine families, citing how the history of the twentieth century has shaped them and describing their influences on each other.

The New Bath Guide or Memoirs of the B--R--D Family (1766) by British author Christopher Anstey is a satire on various aspects of Bath life.

The Folding Cliffs: A Narrative by W. S. Merwin is a 19th century verse narrative about the tragic history of Hawaii; how it was invaded and how it handle leprosy.

Teen to Young Adult

Crashboomlove by Juan Felipe Herrera is a young adult novel in verse. Taken from the the author's own life as well as a lifetime of dedication to young people, this one shows readers what it's like to be a teen, a student, a migrant worker in California. Awarded the Best Poetry Book (English) by the Latino Literary Hall of Fame (June 2000). Winner of the 1999 Americas Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature. Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize--Young Adult Fiction

Love Ghosts and Nose Hair written by Steven Herrick and illustrated by Gregory Rogers a verse novel for young adults. It's about love, death, and self-image.
A Place Like This by Steven Herrick is an easy to read novel in verse from Australia for teenagers and young adults. It deals with love and self-image.
The Spangled Drongo by Steven Herrick is a novel in verse about Twelve-year-old Sam who has soccer fever. He lives with eccentric Auntie Ashmara and Ronaldo his dog.

Science Fiction / Fantasy

Happiness by Frederick Pollack is a science fiction novel in verse that deals with utopian-dystopian. On X-day the universe turns inside-out, leaving an extensive "Zone" to the controls of a leftist cabal. An able-bodied Stephen Hawking--the mastermind--lurks in the margins. His henchman heads a posse of enforcers who dispense Dante-esque rewards and punishments.

The World, Vol 1 by Dilip Suraana


Send Bygraves by Martha Grimes and illustrated by Devis Grebu is about a British detective who solves his cases from afar.

Jack, The Lady Killer by Keating, H. R. F.
Christine by alex s. defazio. 'Christine' revolves around the murder of its title character, a mysterious girl who does not speak and expresses herself only through secretive dance.
Branches is written by Mitch Cullin and Illustrated by Kikushima, Ryuzo. It's a chilling short novel in verse which is a police drama that takes place in Texas. A stepfather is cruel to his stepson.
The Monkey's Mask: An Erotic Murder Mystery by Dorothy Porter is a lesbian detective novel in verse.

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