Tuesday, April 23, 2019. Rainy and chilly, yesterday in New York, with temps last night in the mid- to low-50s. But the weatherman’s forecast mid-70s today. Let’s hope so.
Books and books. I had lunch yesterday at Sette Mezzo with Jane Stanton Hitchcock who is in town to publicize her new novel “Bluff” which I wrote about on these pages last September she sent me the galleys.
It’s classified as a crime novel, or mystery novel. I call it a novel about real life. So real in fact, that you could even think maybe it’s true story. I could almost believe that except the main character murders somebody and I know Jane has never done that.
We met for lunch at Sette Mezzo where she told me she used to lunch with Jackie Onassis. It was Jackie’s favorite neighborhood restaurant. So we talked a bit about Jackie whom Jane loved and admired. And on to others in that circle.
Then she told me that she and Linda Fairstein are going to be discussing Bluff and Linda’s newest Blood Oath tonight (Tuesday) at 7 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble bookstore on East 86th Street.
If you’re in the neighborhood, GO because those girls will keep you interested. If I were you though, I’d buy the book immediately. Buy it as a gift for people on vacation or traveling and want to be just “taken on a trip.” It’s a book that will make anybody and everybody happy. And yes, the main character is a murderer. Revenge can do that to people, we’ve heard; especially if they’ve had it up to here.
This was the “review” I wrote back in September, in case you missed it. I just re-read and it’s solid.
Jane and I have known each other for a long time. She grew up in 10 Gracie around the corner from me, and went to Brearley around the other corner. She was a girl who had a privileged upbringing. Jane was brought up “steppin’ in society” in New York. Her father was a tycoon, her mother was an actress who knew “everybody” and entertained them all wall to wall. Which is quite an education for a witty, curious girl.
I’m not much of a novel reader, although I do occasionally if it’s related to something that arouses my curiosity. So when the galleys arrived, I put it just to the right of me at my desk – the priority pile. Although in truth that doesn’t mean it would get priority, or even attention — because I am a procrastinator by birth.
On that particular Saturday night I had gone out to dinner with old friends and got home about 10:30. I gave the dogs their late night snack and took them out for a quick “walkies” to the corner and back. Then I returned to my desk and glancing at the cover of “Bluff” I picked it up out of what you could call polite curiosity, since I had absolutely no intention of reading a word of it at that hour. I needed the sleep.
I opened it to the first page, as if acknowledging the accomplishment of my friend by “looking” it over. (But not reading; it was already 11:30 PM.) The publisher is Poisoned Pen Press in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I turned to the next page, titled “Praise for Jane Stanton Hitchcock.” The first praiser is Susan Cheever (“New York Timesbest-selling author.” Susan is a friend of mine and Jane’s. Susan wrote: “Bluff is a vivid, compelling novel about deceit, seduction, and delicious revenge that will keep you spellbound and cheering as you turn the last page.”
Wow; no? Except book blurbs are meant to be gracious and praising, no? And a friend isn’t going to write “it’s “awful, horrible, waste of time!” Although Susan is always honest with her words,
Then came Linda Fairstein, the 21st Century American Agatha Christie with her Alexandra Cooper Series – the 20th published just a month ago.. She wrote: “Jane Hitchcock pulls off another stunning tour de force in her newest crime novel, “Bluff.” Nobody writes high society and its down-low denizens better than Hitchcock, and this book is her best yet …”
Linda’s a friend of mine too. Like Susan she’s smart and forthright. I know her assessments are not buttered and sugared; this is the way she really sees it. However, like I said: book blurbs?
Hmm, Then a woman I don’t know, Linda Kenny Baden (“an attorney, legal commentator, and author”) wrote: “Jane Stanton Hitchcock’s ‘Bluff’ is the royal flush of suspense novels! The queen of both writing and poker aces it again.”
That made me turn to the following page (although I’m still not going to get into it at this hour), written by Barbara Peters, CEO of Poisoned Pen Publishers and bookstores. In it she tells you all about Jane’s life and career and what prompted or inspired this new book. I skimmed it. Compulsive curiosity was overtaking me.
The next page is something you don’t see in the book you actually buy: it’s info for publicity, items, selling points, audience. The Sales Handle is for “Bluff” reads as follows:
“One-time socialite Maud Warner polishes up the rags of her once glittering existence and bluffs her way into a signature New York restaurant. When she shoots Sun Sunderland, the ‘Pope of Finance,’ as he lunches with “accountant to the stars” Burt Sklar – the man she’s accused for years of stealing her mother’s fortune and leaving her family in ruins – she deals the first card in her high-stakes plan for revenge.”
Maud sounds a little like Jane (minus the gun-totin’). Including the bit about her mother’s fortune.
Okay. It is now midnight (Sunday morning), and I turn the page again. I happen to know that Jane is also a major poker player. She took it up a number of years ago after finishing another of her novels. I was surprised at the time because you never think of women playing poker. My father played until he lost and had to run for his life which of course affected deeply the lives of everyone around him, so I also pretty much saw the game through cracked and jagged lens. Like: stay AWAY.
Nevertheless, Jane is very intelligent and quite self-reliantly sensible. I did tell her about my father when I first learned of her interest. It was really none of my business but I wanted to warn her about what could happen in that business. For it is a business. And as it turned out, she’s a prize winning player. Playing all over the country.
With all this in mind, including the hour and what the morning would have waiting for me in the way of deadlines, I read the first sentence:
“Death is colorful in the fall. The trees in Central Park bristle with red and gold leaves, like a beautiful dawn before the dark of winter.”
“On this crisp, sunny October day in New York, I’m all dressed up for a lunch to which I’m definitely not invited. I want to look my very best.”
Now if you know Jane, you know this is something you might hear her say if she’s about to tell you some incredible story about something that happened to her.
So I turned the page again. The first chapter was two pages. Easy; turn to the next. Only three. And then another two and three and four. And then the pages were turning faster. And faster!
By 2:30 I was on page 190 (book 247 pp) and as much as I felt compelled, I decided to leave the book open, turn off the light, and go to bed. I knew if I finished it, I wouldn’t go right to sleep. This book is a movie that you cannot stop watching even if you have to go to the bathroom badly. It’s that bad good!
I got up Sunday morning about 10:30 and went right back to my desk. I finished it at noon. It’s a tour de force. It really is an achievement. It’s about many things and of course New York is many things.
Yes it’s a page-turner. You can see it as a movie. There are three major women’s roles (if you’re a producer looking for a hot story), and it’s many other things about life among the rich, the chic and the shameless. And America today. Yes, that too. I’d love to tell you the whole story but Jane’s version is the only one you should hear/read.