Jack Finney is most known for his novel The Body Snatchers which has been filmed four times, the last two pretty bad versions. It’s a good tale, but I’ve always liked this one nearly as well.
It’s a leisurely story of an artist, Simon Morley, that takes part in a government project on time travel. The idea is that, with self hypnosis, one can convince oneself that he is in the past and actually carry himself there. Morley is immersed in things antique, aiming for a period in New York City, 1882.
There’s a mystery his girl friend, Kate, wants investigated. A fragment of a letter with that date, partially burned, mentions the destruction of the world by fire. The project sets up in an apartment in The Dakota(here Finney “adjusts” history a bit as it wasn’t built until 1884).The apartment is decorated for the period and Morley dresses in clothes of the era, his pockets filled with all things old, like money, a watch, and wakes up, after the hypnosis, in 1882.
A second trip, he takes Kate, and they watch the letter being mailed, following the man back to a boarding house. On a third trip, Simon takes a room at the house and begins investigating exactly what’s going on. Blackmail is involved.
The book is lavishly illustrated with actual photographs and drawings from that era, Finney tying them into the narrative. One photo really struck me: A photo of the Statue Of Liberty’s arm and torch sitting on the streets of New York.
Richard Matheson had a similarly themed novel, Somewhere In Time(Bid Time Return), that was made into a film starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
This book will be worth the effort to read. As I said, it’s not a slam bang, action filled novel. But Finney skillfully uses those drawings as Simon’s own(he is an artist) and the photographs are integral to the story as well.
There was a sequel published after his death, From Time To Time, though I didn’t like it nearly as well. It was open ended for a third book, but if Finney ever wrote it, it hasn’t seen the light.