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Topper (Topper #1)

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  736 Ratings  ·  96 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-
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 2nd 1999 by Modern Library (first published 1926)
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Oct 15, 2015 Eleanor rated it liked it
Shelves: humour, 2015-books
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
Jul 01, 2011 Henry Avila rated it really liked it
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
Oct 18, 2007 Kimley rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 01, 2007 Kay rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor-whimsy, fiction
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
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
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
Oct 17, 2007 Tosh rated it it was amazing
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
May 27, 2009 Marvin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
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
Mar 17, 2014 Karl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 02, 2017 TrumanCoyote rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I suppose the style might tend to come off a bit mealy-mouthed at times. But it was doubtless quite amusingly ribald for its era (with its lawless spirit presaging the 1960s), and the character of Marion Kirby is I think all the stronger now.
May 02, 2016 Colleen rated it it was ok
Shelves: old-movies, humor, fiction
I love the movie (especially the first one) and the concept is a good one. As for the claim at the start of the book how all friendly ghost books come from this, the Canterville Ghost predates this by a few decades. But if there was ever anyone willing to love a 20s comedy, I would have thought to be first in line. Though I didn't like this book--it has the zaniness of Benchley and Wodehouse and the sly wit of Parker and Coward but I found it appalling in many places. Far more alcohol is consume ...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
Kathleen Dixon
Mar 27, 2009 Kathleen Dixon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I like the premise (man has mid-life crisis, buys an inappropriate car, communes with the ghosts of the couple who died in the car in an accident), which is undoubtedly why I was happy put this on my to-read list some 7 years ago. I read about it here. I was thoroughly enjoying several of Dennis Danvers's novels and thought I'd have a look at a book or two he noted as highly influential on American fantasy writers.

Unfortunately, on finally getting to it I'm disappointed. The humour doesn't appea
Jenn Lessmann
Dec 28, 2012 Jenn Lessmann rated it really liked it
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
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
Lori Werhane
Sep 09, 2010 Lori Werhane rated it liked it
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 (Back to the Books)
The movies are great. I'd love to read the book.
Shekina Ejah
May 01, 2016 Shekina Ejah rated it it was amazing
Wow I love your book
Mar 20, 2017 Suzanne rated it liked it
Thorne Smith is one of my all-time favourite authors. I enjoyed this ghost story comedy but didn't love it. He definitely got funnier later in his career.
Coming of age or mid life crisis story about a middle aged man "Topper". Through drink his soul was reclaimed. I first came across the story as a kid watching Leo G. Carroll as Cosmo Topper in the TV series, then when I was a little older the movie with Cary Grant quickly became a favorite. An early example of urban fantasy with a humorous twist.
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
Whistlers Mom
Sep 14, 2016 Whistlers Mom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was only vaguely aware of this book, never having seen the popular Cary Grant movie that was based on it and knowing nothing about the author but that he was a friend and protege of James Thurber. In spite of the good writing, the start is so slow that I almost gave up several times. However, it's worth being patient (or doing some skimming) because it's a unique book and a wonderful mirror of American life in the 1920's.

Cosmo Topper is what a "New Yorker" editor once called "a Thurber husband
Alison C
Feb 20, 2015 Alison C rated it liked it
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
Sep 23, 2009 Joe rated it liked it
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
Jul 05, 2016 KennyO rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I'm old enough to recall reruns of a 1950s television series titled Topper (with Leo G. Carroll starring) and I know of, but never saw, a movie of that title starring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett. I don't know why I got a bug to read the book but I've now done so and I'm pleased I did. If you get the same bug to read Topper my advice is to become a little familiar with the 1920s when this was written and when it is set. e.g. I had no idea what "step-ins" are/were (an article of lingerie, in ...more
Sep 18, 2013 Ceejay rated it it was amazing
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."
The Knowledge Guy
Jul 13, 2011 The Knowledge Guy rated it it was amazing
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
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
Kevin Lanahan
Jun 16, 2014 Kevin Lanahan rated it really liked it
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
Jun 21, 2012 Sorcha rated it really liked it
Shelves: american, 2012
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
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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
More about Thorne Smith...

Other Books in the Series

Topper (2 books)
  • Topper Takes a Trip

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“Vanity and prejudice have as usual played havoc with the truth, and Mr. Topper's reputation has been tossed into a furnace of frantically wagging tongues. The” 2 likes
“For the first time Topper's established routine of living gave place to a disorderly desire to live.” 0 likes
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