1. How does Mayle use humor, exaggeration, and physical
descriptions to define Danny Roth's personality? To what extent is
Roth a caricature of an arrogant, egotistical businessman? Does he
have any redeeming characteristics-i.e. qualities that humanize him
or with which you can identify?
2. Compare Mayle's description of Hollywood [p. 15, p. 33] to
impressions you have formed from in other books, films, television
programs, or through your own experience. What
particular references or images help to create a telling,
recognizable snapshot? How would you characterize Mayle's portrayal
of the city and its inhabitants? Does he find charm and appeal
behind the glitz and trendiness?
3. The Vintage Caper presents a host of insider
information, historical tidbits, and sightseeing suggestions for
visitors to Paris, and, especially, Marseille. Do Levitt's
meanderings in Paris present new ways of looking at the city and
all it has to offer? The detective's expectations are based on the
film The French Connection and "one or two breathless
articles by travel writers" and Sophie, who visited the city once,
remembers it as " a scruffy, crowded labyrinth, teeming with
raucous, often rather sinister-looking men and women" [p. 92-3]. Do
media representations and personal biases often distort the
expectations of travelers and tourists? What do the taxi
driver [p. 93], Phillipe, and Reboul reveal about the factors that
influence how locals regard the city? Discuss how Mayle brings to
life the charms of the city, as well as showing Marseille's
4. Phillipe and Florian Vial play crucial roles in the plan to
recover the wine. How does Mayle create a sense of these secondary
characters as individuals with their own quirks, vanities, and
5. What is the significance of Levitt's relationship with Elena
Morales? Does it add to your understanding of the kind of man he
is? Were you interested in learning more about their past-and
about the romantic possibilities that might lie in the future?
6. Compare and contrast Danny Roth and Francis Reboul.
What are their similarities? To what extent do they represent the
conduct and mind-set of real-life wealthy and prominent men?
What character traits make Reboul an attractive and appealing
7. Levitt's passion for food and wine is an essential part of
his character. What effects do the frequent descriptions of his
meals and the restaurants in which he eats have on the reader? Do
they distract from the main story or are they integral to the
atmosphere and flow of the novel?
8. In what ways is The Vintage Caper a commentary on
the differences between Americans and the French? Consider
the description of Levitt's flight to Bordeaux [p. 65]; his
reactions to Sophie [p. 66, p. 71]; the background material he
reads about Reboul [p. 129-30]; and his observations on the
clothing and mannerisms of people he encounters even briefly. Does
Mayle apply the same moral and aesthetic standards in describing
the behavior and attitudes of each nationality? What cultural
stereotypes does he draw? Why are they effective within the scheme
of the novel?
9. Mayle has written several bestselling memoirs about his life
in Provence, as well as popular guides to the region. How do
Mayle's skills and interests as a nonfiction writer influence the
style of The Vintage Caper?
10. In what ways is The Vintage Caper both an homage to
and a satire of the hardboiled detective novels by Dashiell Hammett
and Raymond Chandler? Discuss the scenes, dialogue, and comments
(particularly about women) that reflect this classic tradition.
11. How does The Vintage Caper compare to books and
movies like To Catch a Thief, the Pink Panther series, and
Ocean's Eleven that feature clever capers, heists or cons?
What characteristics does Levitt share with the heroes (or lead
characters) in the genre? Is there a good balance of
suspense, risk, and comic elements? Is the climax satisfying?
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