Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Following the bliss.

Late morning smoke. 10:15 AM. Photo: Jeff Hirsch.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012. Seven-eleven. The Coca-Cola building on the east side of Fifth Avenue at 55th street used to be called the Columbia Pictures Building. The number of its address — 711 Fifth — was chosen by Harry Cohn, the Columbia Pictures mogul because he regarded it as a lucky number. The business about Mr. Cohn may be apocryphal but that’s Show Business, and he was a gambling man which all moguls were in those days.

Harry Cohn.
It was warm and sunny yesterday in New York with the temp in the 80s, falling to the 60s by nightfall.

Dogs in heat. On Monday we published a link to caring for our pets on these very hot days. Every year, thousands of dogs die from heatstroke. I see people walking and running their dogs (many while they cycle casually) on these hot days, either unaware or uncaring (maybe both) about their dog’s health. We received a lot of mail about the matter. Here are three:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your comments about stupid, moronic dog owners exercising with their dogs in this heat.  I cannot believe how clueless these people are.  The other day I saw a man riding a bike (quite fast) with his dog beside him on a leash.  I yelled at him, “you’re killing your dog”.  To which he just “flipped me the bird” and rode off.

I try to educate people about this whenever I can, but usually it’s after the dog has incurred heatstroke.

Thanks again,

Also: Thank you for calling attention to the risk of heat stroke for dogs. Our Cavalier King Charles died from heat stroke about a month ago when the bone-headed dogsitter let her out into the yard on a hot sunny afternoon for an hour and a half. We are telling everyone we know about the risk, so if it causes one dog to be saved by greater awareness, then our beloved dog’s death will count for something.

And one more: Thank You David for defending the dogs on these hot  brutal days! What are these people thinking when they take them out in the mid afternoon for a jog , stroll, etc. I live in Long Island and I stop the car and yell at the owners to stop! I get the same reply: “they don't mind it ...”

Lunatics ... Haven't they heard Noel Coward’s "only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun"?

DPC and Linda.
Following the bliss. After Nora Ephron’s memorial at Alice Tully Hall on Monday I went up to Swifty’s to lunch with Linda Fairstein. It was the day before the official pub date of her new crime novel Night Watch. So it would be a day about women writers.

I’ve known Linda for quite a few years. Like Nora, she is one of those remarkable New York women writers of accomplishment and achievement. They are multi-taskers – intellectually at least – with a full calendar which daily includes feeding the mind.

Having just left Ephron’s memorial, thinking about how her as a working writer, influenced by her father and mother and their profession, I was curious to know about Linda and the roots of her ambition to become a writer. It is looking for the thread.

This is what I learned: She grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, a nearby suburb Westchester suburb of Manhattan. Her father was a doctor and her mother was a nurse. She was well-parented – attended to, cared for, and in a stable household.

These are precious gifts to anyone, and rarer than most of us would like to believe.
It was a 1950s America childhood – recalled now as a quiet, almost innocent time. It wasn’t anything of the sort, but the world was a slower place than it is today, as was communication. There was a strong sense of relief about the end of both the Depression and the Second World War affected everyone directly or indirectly. Many Americans felt fortunate to be alive and fed, and with roofs over their heads. Children were raised with that sense. Everyone sat at the table together, at least at breakfast and at supper, as it was called in many houses.

Linda's mother, Alice Atwell Fairstein, also known as Bobbie.
That was where Linda lived – a world, incidentally, which regarded Hollywood and its people as weird, even though Hollywood affirmed that way of life. She was an only child, her parents were sensible and stable, and very nurturing by nature. Doctor’s children, in those days anyway, often heard about their parent’s work while sitting at the dinner table.

Linda loved her father. She recalled how hospitals, which fill a lot of us with fear and trepidation, always fascinated her because that was where her father worked and what he talked about.  Ether, for example was used widely in those days, and so when the doctor came home from the hospital and greeted his daughter, he smelled of ether, a redolence that took on a Proustian quality of fragrance for Linda.

There were no writers in her family, but she was a reader. When she was still a young girl she began keeping journals. Many of us start out down that path. When it came time for college, she wanted to go to Vassar because of its literary alumnae whom she admired, like Mary McCarthy (who wrote about the place in her novel The Group) and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

When she expressed her objective of becoming a writer, her father, the sensible, conscientious father, strongly counseled her to choose a profession she could rely on. The good sensible daughter chose law because she is a natural gatherer of information about people and behavior. Coincidentally, her father was an avid reader of mystery novels.
Linda with Janet Gray, professor of psychology, director of the Science, Technology and Society program at Vassar College.
After graduating from Vassar she moved on to the University of Virginia Law School. The law degree didn’t deter her ambitions but right out of law school she got a job in the Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan’s office. Hogan was a longtime DA, famous in America for his widely publicized investigations of corruption and racketeering. In the 50s he gained fame for investigating rigged television quiz shows and sports games. The D.A. for thirty years, he was a real hero of his age, perceived as honest and incorruptible. He also didn’t allow women lawyers in the courtroom.


Then Hogan was taken ill, and died at age 72. A few months later, he was succeeded by Robert Morgenthau. Among the changes Mr. Morgenthau delivered almost immediately was women lawyers in the courtroom. Then, and forever.

Linda at the Darien Library for a book signing. Click to order Night Watch.
Linda, the lawyer who loved researching and studying cases was soon moving up to prosecutor. By 1976 she was made head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan D.A. office. She was 29 years old.

In the years working in Hogan’s office, her days were rich in learning about all kinds of complex criminal cases. In 1993 Linda wrote her first book on the subject that her unit handled: Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape. This was a milestone for her. It gave her impetus.

A thoroughly modern Miss Marple. Lawyers in the prosecutor’s office, or anyone else, do not have the right to write about specific cases. That gave Linda the bright idea of a novel with stories “based” on what she had learned but entirely fictional. The center of the novel was a lawyer named Alexandra Cooper. In 1996, she published Final Jeopardy to great success. In the sixteen years since,  has published thirteen more Alexandra Cooper crime novels. Night Watch is number fourteen.

“Work” as Nora Ephron was advised at a young age as an aspiring writer. “Work, all work," you realize when you hear Linda talk about putting the story together. In Night Watch, the story opens with Alex Cooper in Mougin in the South of France, only fifteen minutes from Cannes and a little bit of heaven where Alex has been visiting a restaurateur with whom she had had an affair. The mystery presents itself there and the story is carried out in New York including at several important restaurants (including Michael’s) where Alex spots all kinds of people including a character named David Patrick Columbia wandering around somewhere.

Tonight at 6:30, Linda is doing a reading and booksigning at Murder By The Book on 2342 Bissenett Street in Houston, and tomorrow night (Thursday) at Poisoned Pen Event at the Biltmore Hotel on East Missouri Avenue in Phoenix ...

Contact DPC here.