If you’re a fan of suspense and thrills, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Alfred Hitchcock. Known as the “Master of Suspense,” Hitchcock is considered one of the most influential filmmakers in history. His works have left a lasting impact on the film industry and each one has continued to captivate audiences for generations. But did you know that he was also a prolific writer? In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best Alfred Hitchcock books to read now, and explore the legacy of this iconic filmmaker.
The Master of Suspense: Who Was Alfred Hitchcock?
Before we delve into some of Hitchcock’s most famous works, let’s take a moment to learn a bit more about the man behind the movies. Born in 1899 in London, England, Hitchcock got his start in the film industry in the early 1920s, first as a title designer and later as a director. Over the course of his career, he directed over 50 films, establishing himself as one of the most innovative and provocative filmmakers of his time.
A Brief Biography of Alfred Hitchcock
Hitchcock’s early films were largely silent, and it wasn’t until the advent of sound that he began to make his mark on the industry. Some of his most notable works from this era include “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog” (1927), “Blackmail” (1929) and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934).
Despite his success in Britain, Hitchcock was eager to break into Hollywood, and he finally got his chance with the release of “Rebecca” in 1940. The film was a critical and commercial success, earning Hitchcock his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director.
Over the next few decades, Hitchcock would go on to direct some of his most famous works, including “Notorious” (1946), “Rear Window” (1954), “Vertigo” (1958), and “Psycho” (1960). These films are now considered classics and have had a lasting impact on the film industry.
In addition to his work in film, Hitchcock was also an accomplished writer. He published several collections of short stories, which are still widely read today. His works often explore the darker side of the human psyche and are known for their use of suspenseful plot twists.
Hitchcock’s Impact on the Film Industry
It’s impossible to overstate the impact that Hitchcock had on the film industry. His works were groundbreaking in their use of camera angles, lighting, and sound, and they continue to be studied and emulated today. Hitchcock also helped to popularize the thriller and suspense genres, paving the way for countless filmmakers and authors to follow in his footsteps.
One of Hitchcock’s most notable contributions to the film industry was his use of the “MacGuffin” plot device. A MacGuffin is an object or goal that drives the plot of a story, but is ultimately unimportant in and of itself. Hitchcock used this device in many of his films, including “North by Northwest” (1959) and “The Birds” (1963).
Another important aspect of Hitchcock’s work was his use of the “Hitchcockian blonde” archetype. This character, typically portrayed by actresses such as Grace Kelly and Kim Novak, is a cool, sophisticated woman who is often the object of the male protagonist’s desire. The Hitchcockian blonde is a complex and fascinating character, and her presence in Hitchcock’s films helped to redefine the role of women in Hollywood.
In conclusion, Alfred Hitchcock was a true master of suspense, and his contributions to the film industry are still felt today. His films continue to captivate audiences with their innovative storytelling and unforgettable characters, and his legacy as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time is secure.
Hitchcock’s Most Famous Works
Now that we’ve explored Hitchcock’s background and legacy, let’s take a closer look at some of his most famous works.
Arguably Hitchcock’s most famous film, “Psycho” tells the story of Marion Crane, a woman who steals money from her employer and ends up at the Bates Motel, run by the mysterious Norman Bates. The film is famous for its twist ending, which shocked audiences upon its release.
One of the most iconic scenes in “Psycho” is the shower scene, in which Marion is brutally murdered by a shadowy figure. Hitchcock shot the scene using a combination of quick cuts and startling sound effects, creating a sense of frenzied chaos that has become a hallmark of the film.
Another memorable aspect of “Psycho” is its score, composed by Bernard Herrmann. The screeching violins that accompany the shower scene have become instantly recognizable, and the score as a whole is widely regarded as one of the greatest in film history.
Rear Window (1954)
“Rear Window” stars James Stewart as a wheelchair-bound photographer who becomes convinced that his neighbor across the courtyard has committed murder. The film is a masterclass in suspense, with Hitchcock ratcheting up the tension as the story unfolds.
One of the most impressive aspects of “Rear Window” is its set design. Hitchcock had an entire courtyard built on the Paramount lot, complete with functioning apartments and a view of a fake New York City skyline. This allowed him to shoot the entire film on a single set, giving the movie a sense of claustrophobia and confinement that adds to the tension.
The film also features a standout performance from Grace Kelly, who plays Stewart’s girlfriend. Kelly’s character is a fashion designer, and her stunning wardrobe was designed by legendary costumer Edith Head.
“Vertigo” stars James Stewart once again, this time as a retired detective who becomes obsessed with a woman he’s been hired to follow. The film is famous for its use of color and its dreamlike, surreal atmosphere.
One of the most striking elements of “Vertigo” is its use of color. Hitchcock worked with cinematographer Robert Burks to create a distinctive look for the film, using a process called “color isolation” to saturate certain colors while muting others. The result is a film that feels both hyper-real and otherworldly.
The film also features a memorable score by Bernard Herrmann, who used a technique called “electronic tonalities” to create an eerie, otherworldly sound.
North by Northwest (1959)
“North by Northwest” tells the story of Roger Thornhill, a man who becomes embroiled in a case of mistaken identity and ends up on the run from both the police and a group of spies. The film is filled with iconic scenes, including the famous chase across Mount Rushmore.
The Mount Rushmore sequence is one of the most memorable in the film, as Thornhill and his love interest, played by Eva Marie Saint, climb across the faces of the monument while being pursued by the villains. Hitchcock used a combination of rear projection and on-location shots to create the illusion of the characters being on the monument.
The film also features a standout performance from Cary Grant, who plays Thornhill. Grant was known for his suave, sophisticated persona, and his performance in “North by Northwest” is no exception.
The Birds (1963)
“The Birds” tells the story of a small coastal town that is suddenly under attack by hundreds of birds. The film is a masterful exercise in suspense, with Hitchcock expertly building and releasing tension throughout.
One of the most impressive aspects of “The Birds” is its use of special effects. Hitchcock used a combination of real birds, mechanical birds, and matte paintings to create the illusion of the birds attacking the town. The result is a film that feels both realistic and fantastical.
The film also features a standout performance from Tippi Hedren, who plays the lead character, Melanie Daniels. Hedren’s character is a wealthy socialite who becomes trapped in the town during the bird attacks, and her transformation from a spoiled, entitled woman to a resourceful survivor is one of the film’s most compelling arcs.
The Best Alfred Hitchcock Books
In addition to his work in film, Hitchcock was also a prolific writer. His books are just as thrilling and suspenseful as his movies. Here are some of his best books:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me (1967)
This collection of short stories features some of Hitchcock’s most chilling works, including “The Big Switch” and “The Perfect Crime.” The stories are perfect for a dark and stormy night, and will leave you on the edge of your seat.
One of the standout stories in this collection is “The Creaking Door,” which tells the tale of a man who inherits a mansion with a mysterious past. As he begins to explore the house, he hears a creaking sound that seems to be coming from the door. He soon realizes that the door is not just creaking, but is actually opening on its own. What lies beyond the door is a mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery (1962)
This collection features some of Hitchcock’s favorite ghost stories, including works by Edgar Allan Poe and Ambrose Bierce. The stories in this collection are not just scary, but also thought-provoking. They explore themes of life and death, and the thin line that separates the living from the dead.
One of the standout stories in this collection is “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. This classic story tells the tale of a man who is visited by a raven that seems to be a harbinger of death. The man becomes increasingly obsessed with the raven, and begins to lose his grip on reality. The story is a masterpiece of suspense and horror, and is a must-read for any fan of the genre.
You can find this book here.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine Presents Fifty Years of Crime and Suspense (2006)
This anthology celebrates 50 years of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, one of the most prestigious publishers of mystery and suspense fiction in the world. The stories in this collection are written by some of the best writers in the genre, and cover a wide range of themes and styles.
One of the standout stories in this collection is “The Locked Room” by Edward D. Hoch. This clever mystery tells the tale of a man who is found dead in a locked room, with no apparent cause of death. The detective on the case must use all of his wits and ingenuity to solve the mystery, and the solution is both surprising and satisfying.
The Three Investigators Series (1964-1987)
Although this series was not written by Hitchcock himself, he did serve as the series’ official “patron.” The books feature a trio of boy detectives who solve a variety of mysteries and crimes. The books are perfect for young readers who are just discovering the joys of mystery and suspense.
One of the standout books in this series is “The Mystery of the Talking Skull.” In this book, the three investigators are hired to solve the mystery of a talking skull that seems to be haunted by a vengeful spirit. The book is full of twists and turns, and will keep young readers on the edge of their seats.
Hitchcock’s Influence on Modern Thrillers
So, what is it about Hitchcock’s works that continue to captivate audiences to this day? Perhaps it’s his masterful use of suspense, his ability to keep audiences on the edge of their seats even after repeated viewings. Or maybe it’s his innovation and daring, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in filmmaking and storytelling.
The Legacy of Hitchcock’s Storytelling Techniques
In any case, it’s clear that Hitchcock’s influence is still felt in popular culture today. Many contemporary authors and filmmakers continue to draw inspiration from his works, and his techniques for building suspense and tension are still studied in film schools around the world.
Contemporary Authors Inspired by Hitchcock
Some contemporary writers who have been influenced by Hitchcock’s work include Gillian Flynn, who penned the best-selling thriller “Gone Girl,” and Tana French, author of the critically acclaimed mystery “In the Woods.”
If you’re looking to experience the thrill of Hitchcock’s works in book form, look no further than the titles listed above. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or just discovering his work for the first time, these books are sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.