Monday, February 6, 2012

Crimes in Time

A guest post by J.J. Murphy. 

In Woody Allen’s recent Oscar-nominated movie, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, a fancy old car swoops down a narrow, cobblestone side street. The car picks up Owen Wilson’s character in current-day Paris and whisks him magically, without explanation, back to the City of Light in the Roaring 20s.
Wilson’s character, Gil, a hack Hollywood screenwriter, is stunned when he meets the literary giants of the Lost Generation—Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, as well as Cole Porter, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Now, Gil is torn—does he pursue the romance of the Lost Generation, or does he forgo it as a dream and make the most of his current modern life?

Fortunately for us, we don’t have to make that kind of a choice. With fantastical, fictional confections such as MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, we can have the best of both worlds. In these kinds of books and movies, we can revel in the romantic history and joie de vivre of the past, while only temporarily escaping the complexities and comforts of the present.

Another entertaining romp between the past and present is the film TIME AFTER TIME. Remember this old gem? In this time-traveling movie, Victorian-era science fiction writer H.G. Wells is showing off his time machine, when one of Wells’ party guests suddenly steals it.

This man turns out to be Jack the Ripper, who travels to 1970s San Francisco. (He makes the funny but pithy comment that, although he was a monster in old England, he’s just one of the crowd in urban America.) When the time machine returns by itself to the Victorian age, Wells follows him because he knows he’s the only one who can bring Jack the Ripper to justice. It manages to be both a fish-out-of-water tale (for Wells) as well as an enjoyable cat-and-mouse thriller.

If you like these films, you might like a fictional series that features famous literary figures of the 1920s, like MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, along with a rollicking, playful murder mystery, like TIME AFTER TIME.
Set in Prohibition-era New York, the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries has famed witty writer Dorothy Parker as something of a wisecracking, cocktail-swilling sleuth and humorist Robert Benchley as her easygoing sidekick (and possible love interest). It’s not science fiction—the only time traveling that happens is the journey that the reader takes back to the Jazz Age, where “anything goes.”

So,whether you enjoy my Algonquin Round Table Mysteries or another book or film set in days gone by, I encourage you to put down your smartphone or your laptop, and pick up a story that takes you back in time. (Hmm, if you use your smartphone or laptop to read or watch one of these tales, I guess you shouldn’t put them down after all... Again, we’re lucky we don’t have to make the choice between present and past. We can enjoy them both—and I encourage you to do so!) 

J.J. Murphy is the author of The Algonquin Round Table Mysteries. In the first book, MURDER YOUR DARLINGS, Dorothy Parker finds a rival critic, stabbed with a fountain pen, beneath the Algonquin Round Table. In the second book, YOU MIGHT AS WELL DIE, Dorothy enlists the help of Harry Houdini to determine why a second-rate artist apparently jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge.


  1. A mystery series featuring Dorothy Parker as an amateur sleuth sounds intriguing. (Although, I confess that I didn't finish watching Midnight in Paris.)

  2. What fun! To take real people, with bigger-than-life characters, and put them in a mystery.

    Great post, J.J., and the best of luck with your series.

  3. I so wish I could meet Dorothy Parker! Wonderful series, JJ. Thank you for the guest blog.

  4. Thanks for letting me visit!

    Love to hear from anyone with any other favorite "time traveling" tales! How about "The Alienist"? Or "The Dante Club"? Or the Maisie Dobbs mysteries?

  5. I don't know if any of you have read Arthur Reeve but he has an excellent book (out of print) I discuss here.

  6. An entertaining and informative post! Thanks, JJ! I'll look for your books - they sound fascinating!


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