In the time since I last wrote about the vandalized Astoria piano, much has changed.
I was laid off from my “day job” in legal marketing.
My primary and immediate response to this has been to focus almost all of my energy on revising my novel, Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me. The novel takes place in Bermuda during the spring of 1941. During my revision process, I have kept my leisure reading “in period” in order to keep the voice of the novel “yar.”
Among the nonfiction: a collection of essays by George Orwell (always a pleasure), Facing Unpleasant Facts, John Steinbeck’s so under-crowed-about dispatches from the European theater, in a collection called Once There Was a War, transcriptions of Edward R. Murrow’s broadcasts from the London Blitz called (of course)This is London, and a heart-rending accounting of Murrow, Harriman and Gil Wynant by Lynne Olson, entitled Citizens of London.
In addition to the John Lawton “Inspector Troy” series of novels (particularly Second Violin, Blackout and Riptide), I have read and can happily recommend several contemporary novels which are set in the period. A Fine Radiance by Lauren Belfer, The Postmistressby Sarah Blake and The Information Officer by Mark Mills. A Fierce Radiance follows the story of Life magazine photographer Claire Shipley and her involvement with a doctor on a medical team racing to perfect the formula for pencillin with the hope of saving the lives of millions of soldiers (since so many of the wounded died from the infection to their wounds when they might have survived the wound itself). It’s a terrific evocation of the New York City of that period, particularly of my old neighborhood on the west side of Greenwich Village.
The Postmistress weaves together the story of three women, two of them residents of a small New England coastal town and the third a radio reporter and Murrow colleague with the wonderfully Dickensian name of Frankie Bard. Her reports from the London Blitz are both frank and bardic, and they reach into the lives of the two stateside characters with poignant and tragic consequences.
The Information Officer details another blitz — that of the island of Malta. With its fast-paced and (almost unbearably) suspenseful plot and its witty, sexy characters, I wish British television would just hurry up and produce it already. It contains the best exchange of dialogue I have read recently. I can reproduce it here without spoilers since I’m not saying who, to whom, when or in what context:
“You threw him out of a plane?”
“You make it sound easier than it was. He fought me like a tiger all the way.”
Originally published Wednesday, November 10, 2010