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Monday, June 18, 2012

In the Heat of the Night by John Ball


After seeing the movie I was expecting much more

First published in 1965.

If you've seen Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger tear into one another in the movie version of this book you may be expecting a few more fireworks than this book delivers. Heck, even if all you know of the story is the TV show with Carrol O'Connor and Howard Rollins than you have already seen more fireworks than this book delivers. And why is that? Because in the book, Virgil Tibbs is a proud man but he often fails to show the fire that both Poitier and Rollins brought to the character.

John Ball (1911-1988)
Throw in a near-total lack of action (there are two small fight scenes, but they are almost incidental to the plot) with about 50 pages worth of driving around a small Southern town in the middle of the night and you can quickly figure out why the movie version remains popular, with more than 50 reviews on Amazon.com at the time of this writing, while the book has just a handful.

What this book most reminded me of was an Agatha Christie mystery. Sure, there's a lot of racial tension, but the book version of Virgil Tibbs is willing to take whole lot more of the racial runaround than the Sidney Poitier version, so that just becomes more of a nuisance than anything else. Similarities to an Agatha Christie novel include: rich guy gets killed, visiting detective gets on the case, a big "wrap-it-all-up" scene in the living room of one of the characters in which the visiting detective explains everything to everyone.

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: In the Heat of the Night by John Ball.

Reviewed on November 19, 2006.

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