As Time Goes By: A Novel of Casablanca is ex-Time magazine music critic Michael Walsh’s second novel. As such, it serves as both prequel and sequel to one of the most popular movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Unlike Scarlett, Alexandra Ripley’s sequel to Margaret Mitchell‘s Gone With the Wind, As Time Goes By was neither widely praised nor reviled when it was published in 1998. Perhaps this was because there was not as much media scrutiny for Walsh’s exploration of the lives of Ilsa, Rick, Victor Laszlo, Louis Renault, Sam, and all “the usual suspects” as there was for Ripley’s Southern fried sequel.
Walsh was no fool when he undertook this project. Indeed, in his afterword, he says. “Everyone knows Casablanca. Everyone loves Casablanca. Therein lies both the challenge and the danger of writing a novel of Casablanca.”
Walsh’s approach is to treat the 1942 movie as a centerpiece sandwiched between the two timelines depicted in the 38 chapters of his novel. His prose is crisp and fast moving, echoing the tone of the Epstein Twins’ screenplay while expanding the story both backward to Rick Blaine’s past in New York’s seedy underworld and forward in time to a perilous mission in Victor Laszlo’s Nazi-occupied homeland, Czechoslovakia.
The Lisbon plane soared away from the dense, swirling fog of Casablanca, up and into the night. Below, the airport was plunged deep into the North African darkness, its only illumination the revolving beacon that perched atop the conning tower. The sirens of the French colonial police cars had faded into the night. Everything was quiet but the wind.
Almost lost in the mist, two men were walking together, away from the airport, away from the city, and into an uncertain future.
“. . . of a beautiful friendship,” said Richard Blaine, tugging on a cigarette as he walked. His hat was pulled down low on his forehead, and his trench coat was cinched tightly against the damp. Rick felt calmer than he had in years. In fact, he tried to remember when he had felt this certain of what he had done, and what he was about to do.
The shorter man walking beside him nodded. “Well, my friend, Victor Laszlo and Ilsa Lund are on their way to Lisbon,” said Louis Renault. “I might have known you’d mix your newfound patriotism with a little larceny.” He fished in his pocket and came up with ten thousand francs.
“That must have been very difficult for you, Ricky,” he said. “Miss Lund is an extremely beautiful woman. I don’t know that I should have been so gallant, even with money at stake.”
“I guess that’s the difference between you and me, Louie,” Rick replied.
Purists may say the movie was fine without a sequel (forgetting or ignoring the two failed TV series based on Casablanca). However, As Time Goes By is a pleasure to read. Particularly worth noting is how Walsh blends Casablanca’s fictional characters and historical reality. At the heart of As Time Goes By is Victor Laszlo’s involvement in Operation Hangman, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi “Protector of Moravia and Bohemia” and architect of Hitler’s “final solution.” Although the inclusion of the Casablanca cast is fiction, most of the details of the operation and of its tragic aftermath are historically accurate.
Another bonus is Walsh’s literary talent. His narrative captures the pace of its source perfectly, and his ear for the characters’ voices is almost uncanny. Readers who allow themselves to fall under this novel’s spell will hear the voices of Claude Rains, Paul Heinreid, Ingrid Bergman, and especially Humphrey Bogart in the exchanges between characters. There are also many “inside gags” for knowing Casablanca fans within the pages of this wonderful novel, such as the inclusion of “As Time Goes By” composer Herman Hupfeld, into the storyline. Like the classic movie it plays homage to, As Time Goes By is romantic, witty, and dramatic.
- Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (August 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0446607452
- ISBN-13: 978-0446607452