I had an unexpected surprise last week when one of my all-time favorite novels landed on my doorstep. Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley’s Game arrived complete with a wonderfully evocative cover. It came shrink-wrapped with a copy of Fydor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. I was confused why these two books came wrapped together. So I did a little research.

It seems that Vintage Classics is a division of Random House [UK] who are releasing two classic books for the price of one: The first double pack is this limited edition gift pack which consists of beautifully designed separate volumes of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Patricia Highsmith’s stunning novel Ripley’s Game. Which is interesting considering what Highsmith wrote in her classic 1966 volume Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction:

But the beauty of the suspense genre is that a writer can write profound thoughts and have some sections without physical action if he wishes to, because the framework is an essentially lively story. Crime and Punishment is a splendid example of this. In fact, I think most of Dostoyevsky’s books would be called suspense books, were they being published today for the first time. But he would be asked to cut, because of production costs.

I have loved Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels as, for me, they are a precusor to the amoral villains and heroes that pepper contemporary crime fiction such as Thomas Harris’ Dr Hannibal Lecter. Tom Ripley was first introduced in The Talented Mr. Ripley [1955]. Highsmith wrote five Ripley novels with Ripley’s Game [1974] being the third to feature this charming sociopath. For my money, apart from the debut novel, Ripley’s Game is the best in the series. It features Ripley living a life of luxury in France, until an American gangster asks him to commit a double murder, but instead of carrying out the murders himself, he sets up a poor British picture-framer to carry out the killings. Soon Ripley and the British man are on the run, and a strange bond forms between them; a bond that leads to death, and reveals the title phrase: Ripley’s Game.

The novel was firstly filmed in a loose 1977 adaptation by Wim Wenders starring Dennis Hopper and entitled The American Friend. The novel was more faithfully adaptated for the screen in 2002 in a film that starred John Malkovich as Ripley.

The cover for the new Vintage edition is striking and I have asked the publishers for a print of the artwork for my dinning room.

I discovered that the Highsmith/Dostoevsky double-pack is just one of ten Vintage Classic Twins for collectors. Each twin consists of two books: a specially designed limited edition of one modern classic title and one established classic work. The books in each pair have been carefully selected to provide a thought-provoking combination. And that is the beauty and importance of books: to provoke thought, to challenge the way we look at life and in so doing, challenge our preconceptions.

It seems that the Vintage team is entering the out-of-copyright-classics market for the first time with these illustrious names being joined by the greatest writers from previous centuries, such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll and Henry James. This move is in keeping with the ambition of Vintage as a whole to bring the best writers of yesterday, today and tomorrow to as wide a readership as possible.

Apart from crime, Vintage has developed series of twin-packs for other genres, emotions and human conditions:

VINTAGE FANTASY: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

VINTAGE FEAR: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and The Complete Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm

VINTAGE LIES: Atonement by Ian McEwan and What Maisie Knew by Henry James

VINTAGE LOVE: Possession by A.S. Byatt and Middlemarch by George Eliot

VINTAGE LUST: The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis and Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

VINTAGE MONSTERS: Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

VINTAGE SATIRE: Atomised by Michel Houellebecq and Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

VINTAGE SIN: Inferno by Dante Alighieri and Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth

VINTAGE YOUTH: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

To read more about the classic books Vintage figures changed the world click here and, look here for our take on The Guardian’s recent survey of novels that defined our era.

And — perhaps most delicious of all — if you can’t get enough of the amoral world of Patricia Highsmith, check here for some rare interviews archived by the BBC.

News Reporter

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