J. Thorne Smith (1892-1934) was the author of “Topper / The Jovial Ghosts,” “Topper Takes a Trip,” “The Night Life of the Gods,” “The Stray Lamb,” “Turnabout,” “The Glorious Pool,” etc.
“Turnabout” was published 1931.
Public Domain in countries where copyright is Life+70.
Thorne Smith pits two thoroughly modern married people in a classic battle of the sexes. After listening to the nearly endless bickering and childish jealousy of a young man and wife (Tim and Sally Willows), an ancient Egyptian idol decides to play a trick on the two by causing them to switch bodies. Like Thorne Smith, Tim works in an advertising agency, and several scenes are set there, drawing on the author's experience. After the wife forcefully impregnates her husband, things take a decided turn for the worse as they separately try to deal with the object of the former wife's affections — a deplorably predictable square-jawed philanderer by the name of Carl Bently. The scene in which Tim, trapped in his wife's body, exacts an icy revenge on the unfortunate interloper is one of the unforgettable moments of Thorne Smith's peculiar humor.
Both a film (1940) and a short lived 1979 television sitcom starring Sharon Gless and John Schuck (cancelled after six episodes) were based on “Turnabout.” So was the last broadcast episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, 'Turnabout Intruder'. This novel is included with “The Stray Lamb” and “Rain in the Doorway” in “The Thorne Smith 3-Decker.”
An excerpt from Chapter 1 "Mr. Willows Removes His Socks":
[Mr. and Mrs. Willows have been bickering ...]
From his point of vantage on a nearby bookcase Mr. Ram, in his turn, considered both husband and wife.
Mr. Ram was a small Egyptian statue. Old, ages old. The wisdom of the powdered centuries lay behind his eyes. He was a colorful little figure and quite authentic. Mr. Ram through the sheer charm of his persuasive personality had established himself as a household deity from the first days of the Willowses’ joint experiment. He had moved with them from house to house, travelled with them over land and sea and shared in the ebb and flow of their never opulent fortunes. During those five years he had observed much and thought more. Whatever detractors might say about Mr. Ram they could not accuse him of having failed to take seriously his responsibilities to Tim and Sally.
Tim was more fortunate than he realized in possessing the casual affection of a globe-drinking uncle beside whom the blackest of sheep would have appeared pallid. Dick Willows, so far as the family had ever been able to ascertain, had only two aims in life: to keep bartenders on the alert and to ward off the pangs of solitude from as many lonely ladies as time and nature would permit. Upon the occasion of his nephew’s wedding this amorous philanthropist had from some corner of Egypt dispatched Mr. Ram to the young couple, together with an indelicate note in which he suggested that the little man be appointed chamberlain of the ceremonies of the nuptial couch, adding that Mr. Ram was that sort of little man and that his presence would banish the last shred of decency as was only right and proper at such a time.
From the first Tim and Sally had been drawn to Mr. Ram. He, on his part, was attached to them both, although of late their constant bickerings had worn a trifle on his fine Egyptian nerves. He was beginning to suspect that perhaps a little something should be done about it.
Tonight as he considered the pair there was something inscrutable in his beady, black little eyes. Although time meant absolutely nothing to Mr. Ram he could not figure out for the life of him why Tim was consuming so much of it in the removal of his socks. They were not such remarkable socks. Just the opposite. They were the most infamous-looking socks, an unsightly hole disgracing each crumpled toe. And as he watched and waited on the bookcase a suggestion of gathering purpose touched the usually benign features of the colorful little idol. Most assuredly, something should be done.
[... more bickering ...]
There was a pained expression in Mr. Ram’s eyes as he watched Tim Willows leave the room. High time that steps were taken to show these two mere mortals the error of their ways.
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