John Walsh: Want to know the truth about the British? Let Alfred Hitchcock be your guide

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The Independent Online

Hitchcock and the Olympics! What could be a more perfect fit? Though it's hard to make an immediate visual correlation between the portly film director and the world of athletic endeavour, Hitchcock's considerable shadow will loom over the Olympics as part of the cultural hors d'oeuvre. Digital versions of his early silent films, with new orchestral scores, will be premiered as the grand finale of the Cultural Olympiad in the run-up to the Games.

The organisers claim that the Master of Suspense makes a perfect choice because he came from Leytonstone in east London, a murderer's scuttle from the Olympic Park. But surely he's also the perfect choice to give visitors some insights into British behaviour and attitudes? I suggest they screen his other British films, to familiarise foreigners with some of the attractions of the Big Smoke.

Blackmail. See our heroine stab a would-be rapist to death with a breadknife and get blackmailed by a local petty thief. While you're in town, why not visit the Reading Room of the British Museum, through whose domed glass roof the blackmailer falls to his death at the end of the film?

The 39 Steps. You've heard about our traditional music-hall, where song, comedy and bawdy fun welcome the stranger? Watch this film and you'll discover it was a place where gunshots routinely broke out, where mysterious women invited you home before being murdered, and chaps in the audience could demand information about secret spy organisations from a hapless performer on stage.

Foreign Correspondent. Enjoy the spectacle of Joel McCrae as the visiting American reporter in London being assigned a bodyguard – a Cockney geezer in a bowler hat – who repeatedly tries to kill him. Take a memorial trip to Westminster Cathedral and ride up the tower to the viewing platform where the bodyguard makes a final lunge and falls to his death!

Sabotage. Nervous tourists will be startled to discover that, even back in 1937, a small boy could be sent by a terrorist leader to deliver a bomb, concealed inside a film canister, in Piccadilly Circus Underground station (but the bomb goes off in a bus and kills him). Don't have nightmares when you're riding on the 147!

The Man Who Knew Too Much. Planning a visit to the Royal Albert Hall? Maybe you should see this movie first. It might put you off going to a concert at all. But remember, the assassin's bullet won't be fired until the big cymbals are crashed together in the orchestra pit.

Frenzy. Visit London's trendy Covent Garden, where you can sit in the sun, enjoy a cappuccino and wonder if the handsome gentleman in the marketplace over there has just raped and strangled another victim with his tie. Welcome to London!

Play me a chapter

Have you, Mr Early Adopter, come across Booktrack yet? No? Dear dear dear. It's all the rage in New York (100,000 downloads in the first 10 weeks). It was the talk of this week's London Book Fair. Some of us checked it out last night when it was launched at the Authors' Club in Soho.

What it does is create synchronised soundtracks for e-books – not just attaching some beeps, but matching music, sound effects and ambient sound to your reading speed.

Can you imagine that? The composer works with the author, and they share the profits with publishers and Booktrack. At the launch, Sir Andrew Motion read from his new book, Silver: Return to Treasure Island while suitably maritime noises washed around the room. It was damned clever, but for an anti-Kindle Luddite like me, the main interest is in seeing what they can do with more difficult books: how, for instance, do you soundtrack Martin Amis's new novel, Lionel Asbo, about a yobbish lottery winner who courts a Katie Price-alike? Strings? Woodwinds? Kazoo?

j.walsh@independent.co.uk

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