Wednesday, January 5, 2022

A Little Less Than Kind

“A Little More Than Kin and Less Than Kind” are the first words uttered by Hamlet in what is perhaps Shakespeare’s best-known play. In a masterful bit of literary understatement Hamlet is referring to Claudius who is “More Than Kin” (he is both his uncle and his stepfather) and “Less Than Kind” (he murdered his father). Charlotte Armstrong was a true Shakespeare scholar even to the point of researching whether William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon actually wrote all of the works attributed to him.

The wonderful thing about A Little Less Than Kind is that it can be read at two completely different levels. For those unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s works it reads as one more of Charlotte’s excellent suspense stories set in 20th Century Southern California.

Devotees of Hamlet will recognize the following characters:

Ladd Cunningham                 Hamlet
Hob Cunningham                  Hamlet’s father
David Crown                         Claudius
Abby Cunningham-Crown    Gertrude
Aaron Silver                          Polonius
Gary Fenwick                        Horatio
Felicia Lorimer                      Ophelia
Justin Lorimer                       Laertes 

The book ends up deviating substantially from Hamlet with a very different ending however the reader will pick up on scenes reminiscent of, for example,  "The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King" and the struggle of the relationship between Ladd (Hamlet) and Felicia (Ophelia). In lieu of the duel that takes place in the last act of Hamlet, there is a struggle on a staircase resulting in serious injuries 

On a personal note, this is the only book for which my mother asked me for some input. She described Ladd Cunningham and asked me what kind of car he would be driving. I quickly said I thought it would be a Corvette. Imagine my delight when the book came out and there it was, a 1961 blue Corvette convertible.