As promised, for all you fans of Alfred Hitchcock and I definitely include myself amongst you, I would like to introduce documentary filmmaker and author, Tony Lee Moral, to Fiction Books. Tony recently took the time to put together this fantastic guest post, where he discusses the genius of Alfred Hitchcock and the influence Hitchcock had on his own writing style, as he branches out into the world of fiction writing, with his debut murder mystery / suspense novel, Playing Mrs. Kingston. Tony has already received critically acclaimed success with three non-fiction books he has written about the great man, arguably one of the masters of the thriller / suspense genre, so relax for a few moments, as Tony introduces us to the characters behind Playing Mrs. Kingston, Hitchcock style!
‘PLAYING MRS. KINGSTON’
Enter Miles Kingston, a rich and influential playboy who, for reasons of his own, asks Catriona to take on the biggest role of her life…as his wife. Despite her boyfriend’s misgivings about the arrangement, Catriona knows that this could easily be the most lucrative acting job she’s ever had. All she has to do is keep up the act for a few weeks, and she’ll walk away with thousands.
When tragedy strikes, the whole arrangement threatens to strangle Catriona. She quickly realizes that living with the Kingston family is a much more delicate and dangerous affair than she ever could have guessed.
And if she isn’t convincing in the role of Mrs. Kingston, much more than just her acting career will be at stake.
Hi, I’m TONY LEE MORAL
I was born in the historical town of Hastings, Sussex, England. From an early age I looked to the horizon, with a keen quest for knowledge and an avid interest in writing.
Following an early publishing success, with the formation of my own software company for the booming home computer market, I moved on to work in the internationally renowned BBC Natural History Unit, where I spent many formative years filming in remote places around the world, everywhere from the Himalayas to the Amazonian rainforest.
In 1999, I moved to California to work on the award winning ‘The Shape of Life’ series, to write my books on Alfred Hitchcock, and to continue making my diverse and eclectic documentaries, ranging from biographies to current affairs, in the course of which I have been privileged to interview a veritable A-Z of celebrities from the arts and sciences.
As well as making films around the world, I have launched my own production company Sabana Films, dedicated to making bespoke documentaries.
Check out all my latest news on my website.
Follow me on Twitter.
Like my fan page on Facebook.
HOW TO WRITE CRIME BOOK CHARACTERS IN THE STYLE OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK
I think Hitchcock was a great storyteller and that will never go out of fashion. He was a master entertainer who put the audience first and always wanted to take them on a roller coaster ride.
When writing my crime murder mystery novel, Playing Mrs. Kingston, I was greatly influenced by the larger than life characters in Alfred Hitchcock’s films. As I write in my book, Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass, characters in Hitchcock’s films often fall into three types which are useful models when writing suspense thrillers:
The Blonde Heroine: I modelled Catriona Benedict, aka Catherine Kingston, after the Hitchcock heroines, especially Ingrid Bergman in Notorious, Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest. The quintessential Hitchcock heroine is cool, svelte, alluring, mysterious, impeccably dressed, and more often than not, blonde. Sometimes they are duplicitous like the Judy/Madeline character played by Kim Novak in Vertigo.
These women are often punished for a crime that they have committed, such as the secretary who steals $40,000, played by Janet Leigh in Psycho and Kim Novak’s dual character in Vertigo. Ever since his early film The Lodger, Hitchcock maintained that blondes make the best victims. In The 39 Steps, the public sees that marquee star Madeline Carroll has no time to be her usual sophisticated self; she is far too busy racing over moors, rushing up and down embankments and being chased by the villains. Similarly in Playing Mrs Kingston, I have my heroine Catriona nearly strangled at the opera, being pursued across the rooftops of downtown Soho in New York wearing high heels, and involved in a shoot out at the Battery Park docks.
The Wrongfully Accused Man: This was a character Hitchcock repeatedly returned to throughout his career from The 39 Steps to Frenzy, and is reflected in Catriona’s boyfriend Mario in my novel. The wrongfully accused man stories featured innocent men forced to dodge both the real villains and the police until they can unmask the true criminal and prove their innocence. The 39 Steps, Saboteur, The Wrong Man, North by Northwest and Frenzy all revolved around mistaken identities and wrongful accusations.
Like Mario, who is a saxophonist at the Stork Club in my book, the man on the run in these wrongfully accused films is the average man. Hitchcock said, “I have never been interested in making films about professional criminals or detectives. I much prefer to take average men, because I think the audience can get involved more easily.” By making Mario, likeable, passionate, and full of money problems, I ensured that the reader would care about him when he becomes wrongfully accused of murder later on in the story. And when Catriona goes down to the wine cellar in the middle of the party at The Stork Club to meet her lover Mario, it’s reminiscent of Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) meeting her lover Devlin (Cary Grant) in Notorious.
The Psychopath: The serial killer or psychopath had long fascinated Hitchcock ever since The Lodger, through to Psycho. Hitchcock’s films often feature a roster of crazy psychos. In Shadow of a Doubt, a beloved uncle is really the ‘Merry widow murderer’ who strangles women. In Rope, two buttoned down students are thriller killers. Two strangers swap murders in Strangers On a Train and in Psycho and Frenzy, both films revolve around psychopaths who are serial killers. What do these crazy guys have in common? They are all attractive and seductive.
When you consider the roster of Hitchcock villains such as Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train, Anthony Perkins in Psycho, and Barry Foster in Frenzy, they are all charming and appealing. Similarly when writing my central villains, Miles Kingston and Louis Ferrero, I made sure they were handsomely dressed, charming to the ladies, with impeccably tastes and manners, else how could they entice Catriona into their world?
Hitchcock has given us some of the most memorable villains to grace the screen. That’s because he avoided the cliché through character and made his villains attractive. “All villains are not black, and all heroes are not white. There are grays everywhere. You can’t just walk down Fifth Avenue and say he’s a villain and he’s a hero. How do you know?” said Hitchcock. “In the old days, villains had moustaches and kicked the dog.” Very often you see the murderer in movies, made to be a very unattractive man. I’ve always contended that it’s a grave mistake, because how would he get near his victim unless he had some attraction?”
One central rule I was keen to avoid was writing clichéd characters and stereotypes. Catriona isn’t a black and white character but has many shades of grey. She is compelled by her actions, but often she doesn’t know why she is doing them, her motivation is very much driven by instinct and her love and desire to protect Mario. All the characters in Playing Mrs. Kingston have something to hide or are pretending to be someone that they are not. Catriona is putting on a performance, as are Miles, Grace, Freddie, Ferrero and Ward. Just like the forged paintings, character impersonation becomes a central theme of the novel, which is reflected in the abstract paintings that form the backdrop of 1950s New York where the novel is set.
The quest for new stories, sharing human experiences, empathy with my fellow human beings, and telling a good yarn, is what drives me.