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Welcome to 17th Street, a website dedicated to Caleb Carr and the Alienist books. It features the latest Caleb Carr news, a full author biography and interview list, book summaries and timelines for The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness along with synopses Caleb Carr's other work, analyses of the characters from the Alienist books, and information on the real history behind the Alienist books. Navigation for this site is at the top, showing the different sections of the site. Relevant links within the section (if applicable) will show up in the left column.

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The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Alienist, Part Three, Chapter 31

Kreizler had engaged a first-class compartment, and after we’d settled into it I immediately stretched out on one seat with my face toward the small window, determined to strangle any curiosity I had about the behaviour of my friends with sleep. For his part, Laszlo pulled out a copy of Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone that Lucius Isaacson had lent him and began very contentedly reading.

Although nearly two years has passed since the book blog feature was established on 17th Street, it is only now that I am finally overviewing the sole novel included by name in The Alienist. Described by T. S. Eliot as “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels,” and by Dorothy L. Sayers as “possibly the very finest detective story ever written,” Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone also served as inspiration for Caleb Carr in the creation of the Alienist series. So, for our final book blog of 2015, let us take a journey back to Victorian England in search of the lost Indian Diamond known to history as The Moonstone.

What’s it about?

The Moonstone AudiobookThe Moonstone, First Period, Chapter 10

‘If you ever go to India, Miss Verinder, don’t take your uncle’s birthday gift with you … I know a certain city, and a certain temple in that city, where, dressed as you are now, your life would not be worth five minutes’ purchase.’

The year is 1848, and the spirited Miss Rachel Verinder is celebrating her eighteenth birthday in the company of family and friends at a house party on her family’s estate in Yorkshire. On this festive day, Miss Verinder receives an unexpected birthday gift that will change her life when it is stolen from her private chambers less than 24 hours after she receives it. The gift is the famous Yellow Diamond, reputed to be cursed, that was looted half a century earlier during the storming of Seringapatam. In a tale that will take you from the ‘shivering sands’ of the Yorkshire coast to London’s bustling streets, Wilkie Collins’s 1868 bestseller introduced an eager public to the idiosyncratic Sergeant Cuff—forerunner of Sherlock Holmes—whose powers of detection are stretched to the limit by three mysterious Indian Brahmin who will let nothing stand in their way to reclaim the lost Diamond, and a household in which nobody is above suspicion.

My thoughts

To explain why it has taken me so long to feature The Moonstone on 17th Street given its significance to the Alienist books, it might be best if I provide a little background before I begin. I first read The Moonstone 10 to 15 years ago, shortly after finishing Wilkie Collins’s first bestseller, The Woman in White. Having loved The Woman in White, I dived into The Moonstone expecting more of the same. Unfortunately, this approach left me somewhat disappointed.

Although it shares the same multiple-narration structure as its forerunner, I found The Moonstone—an early example of the detective novel—more methodological, slower paced, and lacking the psychological intrigue that had drawn me into The Woman in White. That is not to say that I disliked the novel, but where I might have given The Woman in White 5-stars, I probably would have given The Moonstone 3.5 or 4-stars. Thus, faced with the prospect of writing a book blog on The Moonstone for 17th Street, I found myself putting it off for as long as I reasonably could. One reading, I thought at the time, was enough.

However, as the months—nay, years—passed, and I felt that I could not put this off any longer, I decided to try re-reading The Moonstone as an audiobook (narrated by Peter Jeffrey)—and boy, am I glad that I did! Whether I went into the re-read with the right expectations and frame of mind this time (after all, I do enjoy a good detective novel), or whether I simply found a format that suited me better for this particular story, I can say with complete honesty that I loved this re-read, so much so that The Moonstone has become one of my favourite books of 2015, and is a solid 5-star read. Now I finally understand what the Isaacson brothers were on about all this time! | Continue reading →

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Another Op-Ed

Although there will be new 17th Street updates relating to the Alienist books in the near future, in the meantime another new Op-Ed from Caleb Carr has appeared in today’s New York Daily News. An excerpt from Mr. Carr’s new piece “Let Europe lead the war in Syria: History counsels caution for American troops,” along with a link to the full Op-Ed for interested visitors, has been included below.

A wave of bellicose media, congressional and independent critics have scoffed at the idea that France and the European Union should lead the fight to dismantle ISIS within Syria — suggesting instead the U.S., in the spirit of its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, go in with ground troops and guns blazing. But not only have these critics offered no effective alternative, they are missing key considerations that make a proposed American-led ground action in Syria potentially disastrous.

Continue reading at the New York Daily News.

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New LA Times Op-Ed

The Lessons of TerrorA new Op-Ed from Caleb Carr appeared in the Los Angeles Times this morning. An excerpt from the piece, entitled “If France wants to succeed against Islamic State, it should study the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan,” is included below, along with a link to the full Op-Ed.

The wisdom of the U.S. decision to keep troops in Afghanistan on a semi-permanent basis will be long debated. What is beyond debate is the brilliance of the post-9/11 invasion, which holds lessons for the French people following the massacres of Nov. 13 in Paris and the similarly appalling loss of life in the former French colony of Mali on Nov. 20.

After 9/11, instead of opting for the kind of knee-jerk bombings that had too often been ordered by the Clinton administration after Al Qaeda attacks against U.S. embassies and the destroyer Cole, the Bush administration (or, more truthfully, the Department of Defense led by Donald H. Rumsfeld) moved carefully, devising one of the more innovative military campaigns in modern American history.

Continue reading at the LA Times.

For visitors who may be unaware, Mr. Carr is a military historian who has taught at Bard College and has authored a number of non-fiction works including The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians in 2002. You can read more about The Lessons of Terror in the Other Books section of 17th Street.

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Cary Fukunaga talks The Alienist with EW

Cary FukunagaIn a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly regarding his latest production Beasts of No Nation, Cary Fukunaga shared some interesting details about how his role as director for The Alienist TV series might play out. Commenting on the lengthy preparation time the series’ “hundreds of pages” of material would require (as opposed to the “100 or 110 pages of material” required for a typical feature film), he explained: “If I were to direct the whole thing, I would probably break it up into two or three parts, almost as if it was two or three movies, and then prep them in that way.” Given the need for such a pre-production, he went on to state that he has considered taking on a “directional partner” so that they “could hop-scotch and help each other out and really approach it in the same spirit of a film, which is collaboration. They’re equal with you in terms of executing it.”

Having directed the eight episode series True Detective solo, EW reports that this would be the first time Fukunaga has ever taken on a directional partner, so such a move would certainly be an interesting development. Whether such a step is taken, however, will largely depend upon the scripts that are turned in, and Fukanaga’s bosses are also said to prefer his tackling the show on his own as well.

Cary Fukunaga’s full comments can be found at the Entertainment Weekly article. You can also catch up on prior developments regarding the series at 17th Street’s TV series page, or by perusing The Alienist TV series tag here on the blog.

Photo Credit: “Cary Fukunaga2009” by Johan GunnarssonFlickr: Cary Fukunaga. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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