I just read K.C. Constantine’s The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes (1982), the fifth in the outstanding Mario Balzic series. An anecdote reminded me of something from another book.
Here Balzic, chief of police of Rocksburg, Pennsylvania, goes to talk to a woman who’s husband hasn’t come home.
Aside from cheap copies of wintry landscapes and still lifes of fruit and flowers on the walls, the only object to disrupt the tone of the room was the mounted head of a white-tailed deer on the wall above the dining area.…
Balzic had nothing against hunters in general—he had hunted birds all his adult life—or deer hunters in particular. There was something he just couldn’t understand about boasting about it, and having a deer’s head mounted and left on a wall was a boast without end. It reminded Balzic of a marine he’d met coming back to San Francisco after World War II. The marine had an envelope in his wallet and in the envelope was a strand of pubic hair from every female who’d allowed him to bed her. It was a meager collection, but the marine was extremely proud of it and Balzic could not think of him without a special sadness. Balzic could not explain why. It was just sad.
Any regular reader of Anthony Powell’s twelve-book sequence A Dance to the Music of Time will remember a scene from the eleventh book, Temporary Kings (1972). Here Pamela Widmerpool, who had had an affair with rich American playboy Louis Glober, meets his new girlfriend, Polly Duport. The narrator wasn’t at this incident, but has heard about it from Odo Stevens and Hugh Moreland. Pamela Widmerpool is speaking to start.
“Quite a lot of people have loved Louis.”
“They couldn’t help it,” said Polly Duport.
Pamela laughed softly.
“I expect you know,” she said, “Louis’s stuffed a charming little cushion with hair snipped from the pussies of ladies he’s had?”
Stevens said afterwards that “he recognized that inquiry as signal for trouble starting.” Both he and Moreland, in whatever other respects their stories differed, stood shoulder to shoulder as regards those precise words of Pamela’s.…
Pamela laughed quietly to herself, giving the impression that thought of Glober’s whim amused her. She turned towards him.
“You have, haven’t you, Louis?”
“Have what, honey?”
Glober was absolutely relaxed. Stevens, again fancying other people as scandalized as himself, supposed him taken aback a moment before. If so, Glober was now completely recovered.
“Stuffed a cushion?”
“As well as the ladies themselves?”
Something needs to be written comparing Constantine’s Balzic series and Powell’s Dance.