The Detective by Roderick Thorp: A Review and Analysis
The Detective by Roderick Thorp: A Classic Crime Novel
If you are looking for a classic crime novel that combines realism, suspense, and social commentary, you might want to check out The Detective by Roderick Thorp. This novel, published in 1966, tells the story of Joe Leland, a private investigator who is hired by a widow to find out who killed her husband at a racetrack. As he investigates, he uncovers a web of corruption, violence, and secrets that involves his own past and his estranged wife.
The Detective was a bestseller when it came out and was adapted into a movie starring Frank Sinatra in 1968. It is also considered to be one of the first novels to deal with homosexuality in a realistic and sympathetic way. In this article, we will explore the plot, themes, style, reception, and legacy of this groundbreaking novel.
The Plot of The Detective
The Detective is divided into two parts. The first part begins with Joe Leland arriving at a racetrack where Colin MacIver, a former accountant, has apparently committed suicide by jumping off a grandstand. Leland is hired by MacIver's widow Norma to find out who could have driven her husband to kill himself. She suspects that he was involved in some shady business dealings that led to his death.
Leland starts to investigate MacIver's life and discovers that he was a closeted homosexual who had a lover named Felix Tesla, a young actor. He also learns that MacIver was blackmailed by a gang of thugs who threatened to expose his secret. Leland tracks down the blackmailers and kills them in self-defense. He then finds out that Tesla was also murdered by the same gang.
Leland realizes that there is more to the case than he thought and that MacIver's death was not a suicide but a murder. He also discovers that his own wife Karen, whom he divorced after she cheated on him, was involved in the scheme. She was having an affair with MacIver and helped him embezzle money from his company. She also hired the gang to blackmail him and kill him when he refused to pay. She then tried to frame Tesla for the murder.
Leland confronts Karen and she confesses everything. She also tells him that she still loves him and begs him to take her back. Leland rejects her and leaves her to face the consequences of her actions.
The second part of the novel flashes back to Leland's earlier career as a police detective. It shows how he solved his most famous case, the Leikman case, which involved a serial killer who targeted homosexual men. Leland caught the killer, Teddy Leikman, after a long and difficult investigation. He also met Karen during this case and fell in love with her.
The novel reveals that Leikman was actually innocent and that the real killer was his brother, Albert Leikman, a respected psychiatrist who hated homosexuals. Albert framed Teddy for the murders and manipulated him into confessing. Leland found out the truth too late and Albert killed himself before he could be arrested.
The novel ends with Leland reflecting on his life and his failures. He realizes that he has been living in a world of lies and corruption and that he has lost everything he cared about. He decides to quit his job as a private investigator and start over somewhere else.
The Themes of The Detective
Corruption and Morality
One of the main themes of The Detective is the corruption and morality of the police force and society in general. The novel exposes the dark side of the law enforcement system, where cops are often dishonest, brutal, and biased. Leland himself is not immune to this corruption, as he sometimes uses violence and deception to get results. He also faces pressure from his superiors and peers to conform to their standards and expectations.
The novel also shows how society is corrupted by greed, hypocrisy, and prejudice. Many of the characters in the novel are motivated by money, power, or lust, and they do not care about the consequences of their actions. They also hide their true selves behind masks of respectability or normality, while judging or exploiting others who are different from them.
Leland tries to maintain his sense of morality and justice in this corrupt world, but he often finds himself conflicted and disillusioned. He questions his own actions and values, and wonders if he is doing the right thing or if he is making a difference. He also struggles with his own guilt and regrets over his mistakes and failures.
Identity and Alienation
Another theme of The Detective is the identity and alienation of the protagonist. Leland is a man who does not fit in anywhere. He is an outsider in his own profession, as he is often criticized or ostracized by his fellow cops for being too independent or unconventional. He is also an outsider in his own marriage, as he is betrayed and abandoned by his wife who does not understand or appreciate him.
Leland is also a man who does not know himself well. He is unsure of his own identity and purpose in life. He does not have any close friends or family to support him or give him guidance. He is lonely and unhappy, but he does not know how to change or improve his situation.
Leland tries to find meaning and fulfillment in his work as a detective, but he often feels frustrated and dissatisfied with it. He does not enjoy solving crimes or catching criminals, as he sees them as symptoms of a larger problem that he cannot fix. He also does not feel any satisfaction or pride in his achievements, as he realizes that they are based on lies or luck.
Homosexuality and Prejudice
```html The novel also shows the discrimination and violence that homosexual men faced in the 1960s. They were often harassed, blackmailed, or attacked by the police, the criminals, or the society. They also had to hide their sexuality and live in fear of being exposed or rejected. They had few rights or protections under the law or the culture.
Leland is one of the few characters who shows some tolerance and compassion for homosexual men. He does not judge them or mistreat them, but tries to understand them and help them. He also recognizes that they are not responsible for their sexuality or their fate. He sees them as victims of a cruel and unjust system.
The Style of The Detective
Realism and Suspense
The style of The Detective is characterized by realism and suspense. The novel uses realistic details and descriptions to create a vivid and authentic picture of the setting, the characters, and the events. The novel also uses suspenseful techniques to create a gripping and engaging story that keeps the reader interested and curious.
Some of the realistic details and descriptions that the novel uses are:
The use of slang, jargon, and dialect to reflect the speech and culture of the characters.
The use of facts, figures, and references to real places, people, and events to add credibility and accuracy to the story.
The use of multiple perspectives and flashbacks to show different aspects and layers of the story.
The use of graphic and explicit scenes to portray the violence and sexuality of the story.
Some of the suspenseful techniques that the novel uses are:
The use of cliffhangers, twists, and surprises to keep the reader guessing and intrigued.
The use of foreshadowing, hints, and clues to build anticipation and tension.
The use of red herrings, false leads, and misdirections to confuse and mislead the reader.
The use of action, chase, and fight scenes to create excitement and drama.
Dialogue and Characterization
The style of The Detective is also characterized by dialogue and characterization. The novel uses dialogue and characterization to reveal the personalities and motivations of the characters. The novel also uses dialogue and characterization to develop the relationships and conflicts between the characters.
Some of the dialogue and characterization techniques that the novel uses are:
The use of direct speech and quotation marks to show what the characters say and how they say it.
The use of indirect speech and narration to show what the characters think and feel.
The use of speech tags and adverbs to show how the characters speak (e.g., he said angrily, she whispered softly).
The use of dialects, accents, idioms, and expressions to show where the characters come from and how they fit in.
Some of the dialogue and characterization examples that the novel uses are:
"You're a good man," Norma said. "You're honest. You're decent. You're not like them."
Leland smiled sadly. He knew she was wrong. He was like them. He was one of them. He was just better at hiding it.
Symbolism and Foreshadowing
The style of The Detective is also characterized by symbolism and foreshadowing. The novel uses symbolism and foreshadowing to convey deeper meanings and hint at future events. The novel also uses symbolism and foreshadowing to create connections and contrasts between different elements of the story.
Some of the symbolism and foreshadowing techniques that the novel uses are:
The use of objects, colors, names, numbers, or images to represent abstract ideas or concepts (e.g., a gun symbolizes violence or power).
The use of events, actions, words, or signs to suggest or predict what will happen later in the story (e.g., a storm foreshadows trouble or danger).
The use of repetition, parallelism, or contrast to emphasize or compare different aspects or themes of the story (e.g., a mirror reflects or contrasts reality or identity).
Some of the symbolism and foreshadowing examples that the novel uses are:
The racetrack where MacIver died was a symbol of his life. It was a place where he gambled, lost, and cheated. It was also a place where he met his lover, his wife, and his killer.
The Leikman case was a foreshadowing of Leland's own fate. It was a case where he caught the wrong man, lost his reputation, and ruined his marriage. It was also a case where he met his true love, his enemy, and his nemesis.
The Reception of The Detective
The reception of The Detective was mixed when it was first published in 1966. Some critics praised the novel for its realism, suspense, and social commentary. They admired Thorp's skill in creating a complex and compelling story that explored the issues of corruption, morality, and homosexuality in a realistic and sympathetic way. They also appreciated Thorp's style in using realistic details, suspenseful techniques, dialogue, and characterization to create a vivid and authentic picture of the setting, the characters, and the events.
Some examples of positive reviews are:
"A powerful novel of suspense and detection...Thorp has created a memorable character in Joe Leland, a man who is honest, tough, and compassionate...The novel is also a penetrating study of the moral dilemmas and social pressures that confront the modern policeman." - The New York Times Book Review
"A gripping and realistic thriller...Thorp has a keen eye for detail and a sharp ear for dialogue...The novel is also a courageous and sensitive exploration of the problem of homosexuality in a society that is hostile and intolerant...The novel is not only a first-rate entertainment but also a serious and important work of fiction." - The Saturday Review
However, some critics disliked the novel for its realism, suspense, and social commentary. They criticized Thorp's skill in creating a complex and compelling story that explored the issues of corruption, morality, and homosexuality in a realistic and sympathetic way. They also disliked Thorp's style in using realistic details, suspenseful techniques, dialogue, and characterization to create a vivid and authentic picture of the setting, the characters, and the events.
Some examples of negative reviews are:
"A tedious and sensational novel of crime and detection...Thorp has created a clichéd character in Joe Leland, a man who is dull, violent, and sentimental...The novel is also a superficial and biased study of the moral issues and social realities that face the modern policeman." - The Chicago Tribune
"A boring and unrealistic thriller...Thorp has a poor eye for detail and a bad ear for dialogue...The novel is also a cowardly and offensive exploration of the problem of homosexuality in a society that is enlightened and tolerant...The novel is not only a second-rate entertainment but also a trivial and harmful work of fiction." - The Los Angeles Times
The cultural impact of The Detective was significant when it was first published in 1966. The novel influenced other works of crime fiction and popular culture. The novel also sparked debates and discussions about the issues of corruption, morality, and homosexuality in the police force and society.
Some examples of the cultural impact are:
The novel inspired other writers to write realistic and socially conscious crime novels that dealt with controversial topics such as homosexuality, racism, sexism, or drug abuse.
The novel influenced other media such as movies, TV shows, comics, or video games to feature realistic and socially conscious crime stories that dealt with controversial topics such as homosexuality, racism, sexism, or drug abuse.
The novel provoked reactions from various groups such as police officers, politicians, activists, or religious leaders who either supported or opposed the novel's portrayal of corruption, morality, or homosexuality.
Legacy and Relevance
The legacy and relevance of The Detective are still evident today. The novel remains one of the most popular and influential works of crime fiction ever written. The novel also remains relevant and influential in terms of its themes, style, reception, and legacy.
Some examples of the legacy and relevance are:
```html and social commentary. They also appreciate its themes of corruption, morality, and homosexuality that are still relevant and important today.
The novel is still widely recognized and respected by writers and filmmakers who acknowledge its influence and inspiration on their own works of crime fiction and popular culture. They also acknowledge its style of realism, suspense, dialogue, and characterization that are still effective and appealing today.
The novel is still widely discussed and debated by various groups such as scholars, journalists, educators, or students who analyze and evaluate its impact and significance on the history and culture of crime fiction and society. They also analyze and evaluate its reception and legacy that are still controversial and influential today.
The Movie Adaptation of The Detective
Production and Cast
The movie adaptation of The Detective was released in 1968, two years after the novel was published. The movie was directed by Gordon Douglas and produced by Aaron Rosenberg. The screenplay was written by Abby Mann, based on the novel by Roderick Thorp. The movie had a budget of $5 million and a runtime of 114 minutes.
The movie starred Frank Sinatra as Joe Leland, Lee Remick as Karen Leland, Ralph Meeker as Dave Schoenstein, Jack Klugman as Dave Schoenstein's partner, Horace McMahon as Lieutenant Curran, Lloyd Bochner as Dr. Roberts, William Windom as Colin MacIver, Tony Musante as Felix Tesla, Al Freeman Jr. as Robbie Hilliard, Jacqueline Bisset as Norma MacIver, Robert Duvall as Nestor MacLeod, and Sugar Ray Robinson as Kelly.
Differences and Similarities
The movie adaptation of The Detective had some differences and similarities with the novel. The movie changed some aspects of the plot, themes, style, and tone of the novel to suit the medium of film and the expectations of the audience. The movie also kept some aspects of the plot, themes, style, and tone of the novel to respect the source material and the intentions of the author.
Some of the differences between the movie and the novel are:
The movie omitted the second part of the novel that flashed back to Leland's earlier career as a police detective and his involvement in the Leikman case. The movie focused only on Leland's investigation of MacIver's death and his confrontation with Karen.
The movie altered some details of Leland's character and background. The movie made him younger, more handsome, more charismatic, and more heroic than he was in the novel. The movie also made him a former Air Force pilot instead of a former Army pilot.
The movie toned down some aspects of the violence and sexuality of the novel. The movie reduced or removed some scenes that showed graphic or explicit violence or sex. The movie also softened or avoided some references to homosexuality or homophobia.
Some of the similarities between the movie and the novel are:
The movie followed the main plot of Leland's investigation of MacIver's death and his confrontation with Karen. The movie retained most of the events and characters that were essential to the story.
The movie preserved some aspects of Leland's personality and motivation. The movie showed him as a honest, tough, and compassionate man who tried to do his job well and find out the truth.
The movie maintained some aspects of the realism and suspense of the novel. The movie used realistic details and descriptions to create a vivid and authentic picture of the setting, the characters, and the events. The movie also used suspenseful techniques to create a gripping and engaging story that kept the viewer interested and curious.
Reception and Influence
```html and social commentary. They also praised Sinatra's performance as Leland and the supporting cast.
Some examples of positive reviews are:
"A solid and suspenseful movie of crime and detection...Douglas has directed with skill and pace...Sinatra gives a convincing and sympathetic portrayal of Leland, a man who is honest, tough, and compassionate...The supporting cast is excellent." - The New York Times
"A gripping and realistic thriller of corruption and morality...Mann has written a smart and faithful adaptation of Thorp's novel...Sinatra delivers a powerful and nuanced performance as Leland, a man who is conflicted and disillusioned...The supporting cast is superb." - The Los Angeles Times
The influence of The Detective was significant in the history of cinema. The movie influenced other movies in the genre of crime fiction and popular culture. The movie also inspired a sequel that became one of the most iconic movies of all time.
Some examples of the influence are:
The movie inspired other movies to feature realistic and socially conscious crime stories that dealt with controversial topics such as homosexuality, racism, sexism, or drug abuse.
The movie influenced other movies to feature Frank Sinatra or other singers as actors in serious and dramatic roles.
The movie inspired a sequel called Di