Francis Booth

The Matriarch by G.B. Stern (1924)

British writer G.B. Stern (1890 – 1973) published a five-volume Jewish family saga collectively entitled, confusingly, both The Rakonitz Chronicles, the first three volumes published together in 1932, and The Matriarch Chronicles in their expanded 1936 form. 

This overview of The Matriarch, the first in a series and the best-known work by Stern is excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

Born in London as Gladys Bertha Stern, she was later Gladys Bronwyn, and wrote mainly under her initials. She was a friend of Somerset Maugham, H.G. Wells, Rebecca West, and Noël Coward, she wrote over forty novels, as well as plays, short stories, criticism. Read More→


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Evvie by Vera Caspary (1960)

Evvie (1960) is a sophisticated thriller by the remarkably prolific and unfairly forgotten novelist and screenwriter Vera Caspary. This appreciation and analysis of Evvie is excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

The publisher’s copy described the novel succinctly:

“This big, bursting novel of the roaring Twenties – and of two girls who believed that love and art could save the world, if not themselves – is in our view the best book that Vera Caspary has ever written, not forgetting Laura. Read More→


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The Gardenia by Vera Caspary (1952)

Even by her usual standards, Vera Caspary’s novella The Gardenia had a very quick route to the screen. Published in early 1952, producer Alex Gottlieb bought the film rights on September 3, 1952, and engaged Fritz Lang to direct (Caspary had no input into the script).

This overview of The Gardenia, the basis for the renowned 1953 film The Blue Gardenia, is excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

By November 24, 1952, the final shooting script was ready, a distribution deal was struck with Warner Brothers on the 27th, Lang began shooting on the 28th, and finished on Christmas Eve. Read More→


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Vera Caspary’s Ladies and Gents, and Women’s Flapper Novels of the 1920s

Women’s flapper novels of the 1920s captured the essence of a fleeting era known as the Jazz Age and Roaring Twenties. This look at a largely forgotten genre of fiction, many written by women, is excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

The 1920s was the age of the flapper — the free, single, modern woman unencumbered by long skirts or long hair who could go anywhere, do anything; she did not have to settle for what her mother had to settle for.

She could change her life and entire social and economic situation, if only through marriage, and even change her physical appearance. The Flapper magazine, with its slogan “not for old fogeys,” was based in Vera Caspary’s hometown of Chicago and started in 1922. The opening issue made its stance clear. Read More→


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Vera Caspary’s Bachelor in Paradise (1961): Sex and Bias in the ‘Burbs

The newly built Los Angeles suburb of Paradise in Vera Caspary’s 1961 novel Bachelor in Paradise is rather like the aspirational estate of Northridge in Caspary’s earlier story “Stranger in the House” (1943). Excerpted from A Girl Named Vera Can Never Tell a Lie: The Fiction of Vera Caspary by Francis Booth ©2022. Reprinted by permission.

“It is one of those suburbs distinguished in real-estate advertisements by the word exclusive. The residents spend large sums to separate themselves from neighbors whom they meet as often as possible at the Country Club . . . Pedestrians are seldom seen.”

It is also somewhat similar to the setting of Grace Metalious’s 1956 novel Peyton Place (1956), with its simmering suburban sexual tensions among the “simple, well-constructed, one-family dwellings, most of them modeled on Cape Cod lines and painted white with green trim” and to Pepper Street in Shirley Jackson’s The Road Through the Wall (1948), also set in a California suburb. Read More→


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