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Topper (Topper #1)

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  622 ratings  ·  83 reviews
"[Thorne Smith] created the modern American ghost. A ghost with style and wit. A ghost that haunts us still."
--The New York Times

Thorne Smith is a master of urbane wit and sophisticated repartee. Topper, his best-known work, is the hilarious, ribald comedy on which the hit television show and movie (starring Cary Grant) were based.

It all begins when Cosmo Topper, a law-ab
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 2nd 1999 by Modern Library (first published 1926)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,667)
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Hmm. Better than "Night Life of the Gods" but it leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable. I think it's because I feel a slight edge of desperation in all the consumption of alcohol (the book is set during Prohibition). I suspect this was because apparently the author was a heavy drinker, and he certainly died far too young.

In my distant youth I certainly had too much to drink a few times, and I enjoy an occasional glass of wine with my dinner, to say nothing of a G&T before dinner. But the sor
Henry Avila
Cosmo Topper a staid and dull banker with an nagging wife ,who has perpetual indigestion. (She needs Pepto - Bismol)A drastic change happens in his boring life, after buying an old sports car.The auto was previously owned by an irresponsible rich young couple ,who died in it . While driving in the country , he starts seeing things and maybe going a little insane!Yes George and Marion Kerby the young dead pair, have come back as ghosts to haunt Topper and the fun begins.Marion wants to drive and ...more
Mar 21, 2008 Kimley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of old screwball comedies
Recommended to Kimley by: Tosh, who rocks because he tells me about stuff like this
Seize the day! Grab life by the cojones! And if you can get a pair of alcohol-fueled, mischievous and conveniently randy ghosts to help you on your "swift descent from the dead crater of suburban virtue", all the better.

A touch of British farce but ultimately all-American screwball comedy is what is at hand here. This is the basis for the old Cary Grant film of the same name. And this very same writer is also responsible for the source material for the wonderful Bewitched TV show. Clearly he's i
It is, by this time, a cliche: boring business dude meets a manic pixie dreamgirl who shakes up his days, keeps him up all night, teaches him about love, and then passes into the great beyond. What makes this book still feel marvelously fresh is that the MPDG isn't all that wacky, she's married, and she's already dead at the start of the book. Other than drinking mind-bending Prohibition-era quantities of booze, the adventures themselves are amazingly simple. Topper and his ghost companions enjo ...more
Jonathan Palfrey
I first read the Topper books as a child, and was rather startled to come across them again in new editions in the 1980s, the ghosts of past years slyly rematerialised.

Both books do in fact deal with ghosts—this one was originally titled The Jovial Ghosts. Smith's ghosts are quite untraditional: he used the idea of ghostliness to supply him with a set of cheerfully immoral characters, who, being dead, have the convenient ability to dematerialise at will. Convenient for them, that is: rarely so f
Thorne Smith's pixilated novels go down like a glass of bubbly champagne. Remember those heady 40's films like Bringing Up Baby and The Thin Man, full of snappy dialogue and women in slinky designer gowns? Take that sort of witty, cocktail-fueled repartee, add even more improbable plot elements (usually involving some sort of supernatural happening), and you have a Thorne Smith book.

In this case a car is haunted two irrepressible, high-living (er, dying?) ghosts who met their untimely end by dr
Feb 13, 2011 Tosh rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who love screwball comedies and Cary Grant
Thorne Smith is a brilliant writer of the 30's. Imagine Dorothy Parker and F. Scott out in the town during thier worst drinking period - and somewhere in that taxt home is Thorne Smith.

As F. Scott is under a blanket of gloom, Thorne is very much happy with his life. In fact he's carefree in a world that is totally insane.

Most of his stories has to deal with the afterlife (ghosts) witches (Bewitched is based on one of his novels) and it's MADCAP with a revenage. The fact that he's now out of prin
If I had to pick one 20th century author who has been mostly forgotten and long overdue for a revival, it would be Thorne Smith. He was a master at the satiric, both criticizing and adoring the staunch American upper class. I would say he is the closest thing to an American Oscar Wilde. In fact, when I first read this book years ago, I thought Mr. Smith was British! Those of us old enough to remember the TV series with Leo G. Carrol or the Gary Grant film may have some idea of the humor and fun ...more
Jenn Lessmann
I liked this. It reminds me a lot of 50s and 60s sitcoms.. which makes sense (even though it was written in the 20s) because Bewitched was apparently based on one of Smith's books.

I definitely need to see the Cary Grant movie. I was thrown when I started reading because I knew Grant was in the movie, but I couldn't picture him as the title character. Further research shows Grant plays George Kerby, which makes so much more sense.

Anyway. Smith was a contemporary of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the b
Alison C
In Topper, or, The Jovial Ghosts , by Thorne Smith, we meet Cosmo Topper, a bland banker in 1920s New England; his life is dull, and his wife Mary wants to keep it that way. Indeed, Cosmo's only real connection is to his cat, Scollops - until, that is, he takes a notion to buy a refurbished car, an automobile that was damaged in an accident that took the lives of its previous owners, George and Marion Kerby. No sooner does he get behind the wheel, however, than Cosmo realizes that while dead ...more
Ketan Shah
If PG Wodehouse had written Beetlejuice,the result might be something like this novel.A buttoned down henpecked banker finds that his new car is haunted by the free spirited (pun intended) ghosts of it's previous owners. They proceed to have many adventures while overcoming the problems associated with finding alcohol during Prohibition.Witty with endearing characters If you enjoyed this you might enjoy the works of PG Wodehouse,James Thurber,and especially The Lunatic at large by Clouston, J. S ...more
What a joy to read. Cosmo Topper what a guy. The book has quite little to do with the movies, though both are enjoyable in their own ways. The American title of the book is "Topper: An Improbable Adventure" I am not sure why they re-titled the book for a UK release.

Topper is overweight, approaching forty, with a solid job in banking and a stale, ten-years-old marriage to a selfish woman who cultivates indigestion as a cherished excuse for always having her own way.
Larry Piper
My spouse got hold of a set of 100 more-or-less mystery movies from the 1930s and 1940s. One of them was called Topper Returns. It was hilariously funny. Then I had a vague recollection that the Topper TV show that ran back during the Eisenhower administration was amusing as well. But who can really remember much from the days when Republicans still believed in facts and thought there was some merit in having a competently run government, you know, simple stuff like paved roads, functioning sewe ...more
A bestseller in the late '20s, and very much a book of its time, a time when Prohibition held a quite tenuous sway over the land.

George and Marion Kerby, a bon vivant couple who recently died in a car wreck, come back to inject some rabblerousery and dissipation into the life of a stodgy, frustrated banker who rejoices in the name Cosmo Topper.

The book is quite different in many ways from the Cary Grant movie. For one, Grant's character, George, is gone for most of the book. For two, there is a
Kevin Lanahan
This is an old classic, made into the 1937 movie with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett. If you are familiar with the screwball movie, which about the recently-deceased Kerbys, the book is decidedly about Cosmo Topper, a staid banker stuck in a rut in Prohibition.

Topper is bored with his life, married to a dyspeptic wife, childless, dissatisfied. When he sees the local mechanic fixing up the Kerby's wrecked car, he decides to buy it and learn to drive. As it turns out, the car is haunted by the
Kirk Hanley
I'd never read the original novel, but like most people I've seen the movies and TV series. There isn't a whole lot more to the story than what you might already know. Topper, a middle-aged banker, is visited by the ghosts of George and Marion Kerby, a couple who partied hard and died young in a car crash. Topper buys their car, and then takes a week's vacation, drinking himself across the countryside, mostly with just Marion. There really isn't much plot beyond that. More a series of vignettes ...more
Lori Werhane
What an odd, drunken tale... I enjoyed much of the language, but found some of the humor a tad old fashioned.
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja)
The movies are great. I'd love to read the book.
The Knowledge Guy
Thorn Smith’s Topper is a wonderful satirical romp set in the nineteen twenties. Like most period pieces being familiar with the era can aid in receiving full enjoyment from the tale. The story hilariously lampoons the newly emerging affluent class in American along with their hypocrisy and pretentiousness. The main characters are over-the-top stereo types who exhibit the polarity of their moral compasses in the most exaggerated ways. Topper , also, splendidly takes full advantage of the time ...more
This 1926 novel is a must read book! I've seen the three Topper movies, and I have memories of the Topper TV show, but as always, Hollywood failed to capture yet another great novel. Early on in the book Topper has a conversation with Marion (the female ghost in this story).

Marion asks Topper:"What makes your eyes so sad?"
Topper replies: "I didn't know they were sad. Perhaps they've looked too long on desk tops and plumbing and legs of lamb. Perhaps they've looked on loveliness too late."
Jean-Pierre Vidrine
The "ribaldry" of Thorne Smith's classic is probably small potatoes compared to what so many stories get away with today, but there are moments than can still cause naughty chuckles. Even when the laughs aren't so naughty, the Wodehousian observations of the titular character's boring day-to-day life versus the excesses he enjoys are sure to make us giggle at ourselves. The author's treatment of ghosts and his ideas about the nature of the spirit world are likely to have influenced sitcom treatm ...more
Joe Alexander
Nov 04, 2009 Joe Alexander rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Joe by: Otis Chandler
I really liked the language and style of writing in this book. This isn't the oldest book I've read - being an English major I'd read quite a few period novels - but I found the language and behaviors of the characters intriguing. The book was published in 1926, which was a very transitionary time for the country and Thorne Smith, from what I've read, was on the leading edge of a lot of the rebeliousness - drinking, lasciviousness, lewd music (relative, obviously) - that marked the 20's, and I w ...more
Very enjoyable story. Of course, I envisioned all the characters as they were played in the movie - which I love. Endorse the theme that you need to get out and enjoy life and the world, but felt that it was a bit hypocritical that the characters could only achieve this wonderful drunken lifestyle through Mr. Toppers wallet - filled with funds from his stodgy bank job. And, with the level of alcohol consumption, good thing that most of the characters were already dead.
Cosmo, a banker stuck in a rut, buys a car on a whim, despite being the car in which a young couple died in a few months before after crashing into a tree.

Little does he know, but the car is haunted by the dead couple, and soon the three are having a whale of a time. Topper escapes from his humdrum life (and wife), spends most of his time excessively drunk, getting into trouble and hanging around with a lot of dead people - and Oscar the dog.

I do vaguely remember the film with Cary Grant and I c
Lee Lacy
The first 30 pages of this were as funny as anything I'd ever read. After that, I found it sloggy, but it was still worth the time.

Another one of those I'd probably never have read if I hadn't found it free online.

If you like Roland Young and free things, you might try downloading the film His Double Life at -- very enjoyable film.
Thorne Smith had me in stitches from the first few sentences. What a gift of fresh air! As the New York Times said, 'A ghost with style and wit.' Lightness, tenderness and delightful repartee. How refreshing after the negativity of violence and crude sex today. Thorough enjoyment. The movie didn't do the book justice.
Jodi Arrowood
Very enjoyable. I'm a huge fan of the 1920's and 1930's. I enjoy movies and books from this era. Thorne smith was so advanced in his writtings. I felt that his descriptions could happen today. I hope to read all of what he has written. I highly recommended this book.
Sherry (sethurner)
I recently experimented with reading a book on my iPod Touch, and I started with a free one, Topper. I can't just barely remember the series on TV featuring Leo G. Carroll, and that was the face that was in my imagination reading this charming little piece of 1930s fluff. Cosmo Topper lives a boring and predictable life until he buys a car. Not just any car, a car haunted by the ghosts of a party-hard couple named George and Marion Kerby. Together they make Topper's life anything but boring and ...more
Helene Slowik
fun loving but mischievous ghosts change the life of a mild-mannered bank manager. The ghosts love to party and make everything a spontaneous party even though not appropriate. Preposterous, one might say. But had to keep reading to find out what's next.
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James Thorne Smith, Jr. was an American writer of humorous supernatural fantasy fiction under the byline Thorne Smith. He is best known today for the two Topper novels, comic fantasy fiction involving sex, much drinking and supernatural transformations. With racy illustrations, these sold millions of copies in the 1930s and were equally popular in paperbacks of the 1950s.

Smith was born in Annapoli
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Other Books in the Series

Topper (2 books)
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“For the first time Topper's established routine of living gave place to a disorderly desire to live.” 0 likes
“We must just keep on and on until the mountains themselves crumble from nausea or we learn to scale them and cool our hands in the sky.” 0 likes
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