First published in 1907 Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal is perhaps best known as the inspiration for the classic Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets, which was voted the seventh greatest British film of all time by readers of Total Film magazine in 2004.
It has often been suggested that Israel Rank is an anti-Semitic novel but this is untrue. What Horniman does is to use his characters and the novel's plot as a vehicle to explore and parody the anti-Semitism that was rife in Edwardian England.
While part of the success of the novel is due to the film's cult status Israel Rank remains a classic comedic novel that explores the antithesis of conventional morality - in short it is a comedy about a serial killer.
'There is an old saying, "Murder will out." I am really unable to see why this should be so. I am convinced that many a delightful member of society has found it necessary at some time or other to remove a human obstacle ...' Israel Rank
'Horniman's novel is light, witty, and entertaining, written in an aphoristic sub-Wildean style.' Philip KempVom Verlag:
'There is an old saying, 'Murder will out.' I am really unable to see why this should be so...'
Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal (1907) inspired the classic Ealing film Kind Hearts and Coronets. But though both works are comedies about a serial murderer, they are different creatures. The eponymous narrator of Roy Horniman's novel, son of a Jewish commercial traveller, offers his memoirs from the condemned cell , having murdered six people who stood between him and an earldom he hoped to inherit. Through Israel's story Horniman explores and parodies the anti-Semitic attitudes of Edwardian England.
'A superb thriller, but also a disturbing study in human nature. The narrative pace never slackens, thanks to the spareness and elegance of Horniman's prose... it is a book of its time, quite faithful to it, and (despite its 400 pages) over all too quickly.'
Simon Heffer, in his Preface
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