Thursday, April 4, 2019. Beautiful day, yesterday in New York with temperatures reaching up to the low 60s.
Last night I was the guest of Sharon and John Loeb for a performance of “The Lehman Trilogy” at the Park Avenue Armory. I’d heard a lot about this show, which was adapted from the Italian playwright and author Stefano Massini for the English version by Ben Power, playwright and film writer and also Deputy Artistic Director of the National Theatre, and directed by Sam Mendes who also directed “The Ferryman” (which is now playing on Broadway). The play, in three acts (with two short intermissions), was first performed in London starring Simon Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles. The three play several parts seamlessly and brilliantly with nary a costume change. The performances are riveting and awesome. The actual script – I learned when I met the actors after the show – is 270 pages! Astounding!
It opened here at the Park Avenue Armory on March 22nd and will run through April 20th when it returns to London. I’ve been hearing about it since its first London performance from Americans who’d seen it over there where it was a big hit. It has the makings of biographical piece of the famous financial family who started Lehman Brothers on Wall Street in the last quarter of the 19th century. The family’s involvement ended in the 1970s although the name disappeared in the 2008 stock market crash.
I was anxious to see it only because I was curious how a story about a financial family could be so powerful to the general audience. In reality the Lehmans, who emigrated to this country in the 1840s and were a powerful presence on Wall Street for almost a century, are an allegorical instrument depicting the American experience – from immigrant to highly successful financial power over four generations.
I’m not drawn to three hour plays but last night, with my feelings about time and length very much on my mind, I never lost interest for so much as one second! It is the story of America and its developing culture from then until today. It is the story of every American’s family history. It is not within my power to convey the immense greatness, the profound impression that it makes on the viewer.
Other writers, other stories. Our friend Linda Fairstein is, right now as I writing, traveling around the nation the promoting her latest (and her 20th!!) Alex Cooper detective novel, “Blood Oath.” I have several friends who are major readers of “mysteries” almost religiously devoted to the genre. Several years ago, I learned of one who is a long time regular reader of the NYSD named Susan Purdue who lives outside Asheville, North Carolina. Susan is a devotee of Linda Fairstein’s novels and has read every one of them.
So when “Blood Oath” was published this past week, I sent her a copy and asked her to tell us about her experience reading Linda and her character Alexandra Cooper. Here is what she wrote to me:
As a card carrying member of what Cindy Adams so fondly refers to as “the hoi polloi,” imagine my delight when I was gifted with the latest novel by Linda Fairstein, “Blood Oath.” Living less than a mile from the top of the Blue Ridge escarpment, it will be quite a while yet before this book finds its way to our tiny local library, but I’m sure that when it finally does, the waiting list for it will stretch well into 2020.
When “Terminal City” (my favorite LF novel so far) was published, I was on the library’s “Hold List” for nearly a year before I could check it out and by the time I did, I devoured it in a day and then re-read it a second time just because I could. It’s like being a kid with a candy bar or a pack of gum – you just want to stuff the whole thing in your mouth all at once because it’s so damn good.
One of the best things about a Linda Fairstein novel is the consistency of her main characters – Mike, Mercer and Alex (or “Coop” to those of you who follow her work.) You know there will be at least one or two “Final Jeopardy” wagers made, a little romance, a heinous crime, a dinner for two at Primola or Patroon, and an exciting ending that will keep you up well-past your bedtime, just so that you can finally learn if the “bad guy” was who you thought it would be. (Sadly, in the case of “Blood Oath” I guessed incorrectly.)
But the very best thing about reading a Linda Fairstein novel is that she is able to weave so much obscure New York City history into her books. Combined with the map of Manhattan that is usually included at the front of the book, it really draws the reader in and I find myself referring back to the map often as I “travel around” Manhattan chasing clues with Coop.
There isn’t a single book of hers that hasn’t taught me something I didn’t know before and in the case of “Blood Oath” I even learned a new word I had never heard before – “husting.” (Try working that one into a conversation!) Additionally, having worked many years for attorneys myself, I find that her descriptions of Coop’s interactions with the courts, her colleagues and her staff ring true and are quite typical of how the legal system works.
Sadly, now begins the long wait for her next novel. I can’t wait to see what historical New York City landmark will be featured as part of her next crime setting and I wonder if Ms. Fairstein will ever find something historical to share about Martha’s Vineyard, where Coop has a vacation home. Will Coop and Mike ever tie the knot? And will Coop decide she wants to be the new Manhattan DA? As we say in the South, “the queen bee doesn’t make the honey”, so I suspect that Coop will prefer to continue in her current position making the honey, rather than spend the remainder of her career being a high-level bureaucrat.
Until then, I’ll be swannin’ around town with my copy of “Blood Oath” (dust jacket prominently displayed) enjoying the envious stares of my fellow Linda Fairstein fans, who are already filling up the library waiting list, waiting to devour it in its entirety, just like that sweet pack of Juicy Fruit you loved as a kid.