Tony & Susan
If you were not already aware, Tom Ford’s upcoming film Nocturnal Animals is based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. If you have never heard of Austin Wright but know something of the taste harbinger that is Ford, then like me you will be curious enough to read Wright’s novel in anticipation. Knowing Ford’s superb adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, it’s hard to imagine him selecting a literary dud for his long-awaited follow-up. So, as book recommendations go: if it’s good enough for Tom Ford, it’s good enough for me.
I won’t call Tony and Susan a taut psychological thriller (even though that’s what it is). ‘Taut psychological thriller’ is now a consumer warning of yet another girl on a dragon with a train tattoo. This is a thriller in the grander tradition, but with all the unsettling horror of contemporary crime. So why the drab title of Tony and Susan? Susan is the unnerved reader of her ex-husband’s disturbing manuscript for his novel Nocturnal Animals. Tony is the protagonist of said manuscript. To explain the plot is to muddy the water of what is a neatly laid-out novel within a novel. Ford understandably went with the catchier title of the manuscript.
Tony is not a hero. He is a professor of maths and a pacifist who, I was very pleased to learn, cannot fire a gun, thus firearms do not litter the pages. The story is disturbing without being graphic, you find yourself gripped by your own dark curiosity. Its focus is on the varying nature of personal revenge and doesn’t shy from the political questions that underpin it, such as the morality of capital punishment. If only all thrillers were half as good as this one.