Columns - 2013

CONNIE MARTINSON TALKS BOOKS

12/28/2013

Edward Humes has written what is sure to find him another Pulitzer Prize. His newest book is “A Man and His Mountain” (Public Affairs $26.99), the man is Jess Jackson, who put California Chardonnay on the map and in the Reagan White House as “Nancy’s wine” and eventually made Jess a billionaire. But that was not how he began.

Jess Jackson came from poverty. He worked his way through college and law school. He married Jane Kendall, his college sweetheart, they had two daughters, and he built his law career litigating high-stakes real estate cases in his specialy of inverse condemnations. In a need to getaway from the pressures of his law firm, Jess and Jane bought an old farm in Lakeport, CA. with a pear and walnut orchard on the northern edge of Wine Country. His determination to go into growing grapes, to learning about making wine, to becoming a full fledged vintner might be called his midlife crisis or addiction.

Before Jess, white wine was known as “White Burgundy” and not very popular. Jess always did two things, he read and researched every new thing and he hired people, who knew more than he did. With Paul Dolan, who had been a head man with Fetzer, Jess bought contracts in Santa Barbara and Monterey for the best Chardonnay grapes. As he traveled the state, Jess coveted what he saw. Nothing came easy in his growth as a vintner, including his marriage. Jane was against his mortgaging their home which happened anyway. She knew the marriage was over when she was at the winery and tossed into some old boxes was her wedding dress.

Jess knew that he had to sell his wine in New York City in order to make his wine’s success. He knocked on restaurant doors that turned him down. Only one said “Yes”, the Oyster Bar in Grand Central station. His manager back in California didn’t believe it when the phone rang and said it was the White House calling. Seems Nancy Reagan had tasted Kendall-Jackson wine at a party and wanted to serve California wine at a dinner party. That request put them on the map.

That was only the beginning for Jess, he bought more land, and more wineries. Jess even made a deal with the French which was unheard of before him. He bought the French barrel makers firm with the agreement that he would pay the funeral expenses for the French workers. He hired Barbara Banke, a real estate attorney, to take over some of the law responsibilities. With his divorce final, Jess was starting a new life. He married Barbara who was twenty years younger. They had three children. His two daughters from his first marriage were involved with working for Kendall-Jackson which kept growing with wines such as Cambria, Camelot, etc. The word “Billionaire” followed his name.

For any other man, that might have been enough, but Jess fell on love again – with horse breeding and racing. Before he learned his way around horse racing, he was taken by some sharpies, he sued and won his money back. By that point, he owned a horse farm in Kentucky and a horse named Rachel Alexandra, a three year old filly who went on to win the Preakness. Rachel Alexandra would be Jess’ “Rose Bud” if this had been a novel.

Ed Humes told me that he knew Jess the last few years of his life, Jess died April 2, 2011 at 81 years of age. Jackson did not hire Humes so this is not a book of puff praise. Ed told me he genuinely liked the man, but he does write of him “warts and all”. Jess did do some despicable things, he did rule his children’s lives and although he valued loyalty he himself was not always loyal.

The interview with Edward Humes can be seen on Youtube.ConnieMartinson’sChannell.


11/18/2013

Dana Gioia, poet extraordinaire, has given the reading public a gift with his latest book, “Pity The Beautiful”(Graywolf Press $15.00). The book is in five sections or acts, reflecting his emotions such as in “Reunion” with the first line “This is my past where no one knows me,” or “The Road”, “He sometimes felt that he had missed his life By being far to busy looking for it”. There is a wonderful poem that evokes our commercial world entitled “Shopping” that equates the Mall with a religious experience.

In section two, he has written the poem that I hesitated to ask him to read. It is called “Special Treatments Ward”. Dana and his wife, Mary, lost their first born son at age four months. Dana told me that this poem was started twenty years ago but he could not finish it till now, when he also wrote “Majority” about his son through the years and letting go. He did read “Special Treatments Ward” aloud which is something he doesn’t often do.@#$The poem begins: “So this is where the children come to die, hidden on the hospital’s highest floor.” The third stanza ends with: “There is a word that no one ever speaks.”+ He even writes how he had put this poem aside twelve years ago.

The book includes the four songs from “Tony Caruso’s Final Broadcast” which is an opera With all his outside work, I asked where he found the quiet time to write? There is a house in the country where the only sounds are the birds. Dana reads his work like a trained actor. He is mesmerizing. Currently at USC, Dana is the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture. From 2003 –2009 he Served as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The show we did can be seen onYouTube.Connie Martinson’s Channel.


11/08/2013

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey and you are waiting breathlessly for its return, Anthony Russell has the real story of that life in his book, “Outrageous Fortune : Growing Up at Leeds Castle” (St. Martin’s Press $26.99).

Anthony”s grandmothers, referred to as “Granny A” (Christabel, Lady Ampthill”) and then there was “Granny B”(The Hon. Olive Baillie) who owned a castle with a large moat and several thousand acres of park and farmland with 50 people on staff to keep it running. It didn’t hurt that Granny B was from the generation that intermarried with American wealth, that allowed them to buy and restore the estates of England. Anthony split his weeks in London where his family lived and his weekends at Leeds Castle.

Family in London consisted of his two older brothers, James and David, mother and father and Nanny with whom he spent every moment, until he began school at age five. He is quite touching when he writes of his mother, who never rose before ten, getting up early to dress and escort him to his first day at school.

Anthony claims to be a shy boy, but his memory of life in the castle is still in detail. The castle’s way was Granny B’s way, generous but inclined to imperiousness as to what one was doing every moment of the day. Behind her back it was called “her court”. Life began each New Year with a three month sojourn in the Bahamas, April throughJune was spent between London and and weekends at Leeds., summer was the South of France and London was the fall and Christmas. As Anthony told me when we taped, it all seemed so normal that when he went to Hill House school he just thought everyone lived this life.

There was a hierarchy under Granny B, David Margesson, or “Morg” as the family called him, who had won a Military Cross in WWI , elected to House of Commons, was secretary of state for war under Winston Churchill and created Viscount (Lord) Margesson of Rugby. He was very special to Anthony because he treated the little boy with respect. In contrast was Granny A (Lady Ampthill) whose son was the 4th Baron Ampthill. He was born Geoffrey Dennis Erskine Russell and Anthony goes into great detail about the law suits surrounding his birth and title.

Anthony’s writing allows the reader to experience not only the Castle weekends but his relationship with his mother. Like her son, she was shy and sensitive which made her a foil for her husband who would make cutting remarks. Eventually they divorced in 1971 and in 1972 she remarried Col. Teddy Remington-Hobbs with whom she led a happy life till his death. Anthony attended Stowe boarding school where he formed a pop group which they called “Source of Controversy”. Today, he still plays the guitar.

No one lives without death, but it is doubly cruel when it is your beloved brother, James, who is killed in a car crash. At 21 Anthony writes of walking away from two good careers because he could, thanks to Granny B’s trust fund and entre to the heads of music companies, although it was Mick Jagger who sneered that he wouldn’t make it due to growing up at Leeds Castle. Today, he has a home in the hills of Beverly, plays tennis and I hope will consider a sequel to this book.

Connie Martinson Talks Books is seen daily on www. lacityview.org ch 35 at 3 pm & 11:30pm.


10/09/2013

Memories can be sweet and bitter but being able to look back is the best revenge. Robert Clary wrote his book “From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes”(Taylor Trade $16.95) a while back, but the story of his relatives had not been told until now. His sister, Nicole’s story has been written by her daughter Brenda Hancock entitled “Nicole Holland One Of The Lucky Ones”(Hanover House $15.95)

Nicole was working for Dr. Albert, a Catholic, who warned her that the Nazis were rounding up Jews in Paris and that she shouldn’t go home that night. With her cousins she joined them to flee Paris and go to unoccupied France. She had the birth papers of a Catholic girl. They made sure there were no yellow stars on their clothes or “Juif” on their identification papers.

Nicole claimed she had lost her papers but had a birth certificate and she was given temporary papers. This allowed her to move to Marseille where she became a messenger for the Underground. From there she was assigned to Agen where she lived in a Catholic dormitory. There are photos of her and the girls who became her friends.

At the end of the war she returned to Paris, not expecting to see any of her family still alive. Robert Clary told me of his return to Paris from Buchenwald, when he heard a voice crying out “Robert” and it was Nicole. The book documents her meeting and marrying Bruce Holland, an American soldier from Texas. They returned to Texas where their daughters, Barbara and Brenda were born. Nicole is still living there and every Sunday she and her brother, Robert Clary, talk. When I asked Robert if he uses Skype, where he could see her he laughed and said he didn’t have a computer and he still preferred the telephone.

The book that really brings back memories is “Leonard Maltin”s 2014 Movie Guide : The Modern Era”(Plume $25.00). Each year the book gets bigger. This time it is 1644 pages. Lets face it, the first thing one looks for are the films a relative made. When I talked with Leonard last year on “2013 Movie Guide” he told me that the book was getting so large that he has divided some films into “Classic Movie Guide”. Over and above just listing and capsule reviews, the book has over 25,000 DVD and video listings and a list of mail order houses. Leonard writes and publishes an interview letter where one of his subjects was Leslie Martinson.

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David Schickler, who co-created “Banshee”, has written “The Dark Path: A Memoir”(Riverhead Books $27.95). It is a beautifully written book of a young boy in Rochester, NY who is torn between becoming a priest and lusting after girls. The Dark Path is the path he walks near the Country Club golf course where he feels the spirit of religion and he questions, ”Is that you Lord? Are you down here with me?”

He goes to Georgetown. He is turned on by the girls, especially Mara with whom he has relations. They are in Europe for their junior year abroad when David informs her that he is still thinking about becoming a priest and they can make love but not all the way. Mara goes along with this until she informs him that he has to start making love to her “all the way” or else. His close friends warn him that the Jesuits are recruiting him and he will be miserable. 

Back at college, he goes to a retreat that misses his feeling about God, the “dark of God and His followers and their conflict”. He graduates without committing to the priesthood. It didn’t help that Father Tillermacher grabbed his “right ass cheek” as they were saying good bye.

David goes to Tapwood Academy to teach high school English. He is no Mr. Chips, but it is an interesting time. When he leaves he finishes writing his first book “Kissing in Manhattan” which was a best seller. Ready now to face the world and all the beautiful girls, he is reading at a book store in Rochester when a young woman comes up to him and later tells him that a voice said to her, ”This is the man you will spend the rest of your life with” . They married, and have two children. It is of note that while David was wrestling with joining the priesthood, his father was also wrestling about becoming a Deacon in the church. Both stayed followers.

CONNIE MARTINSON TALKS BOOKS is seen on Lacityview-ch 35 at 3 pm & 11:30 pm and these shows are on Youtube.


09/13/2013

Noreen Nash has written “Agnes Sorel : The Lady of Beauty & First Official Mistress of France”. It began in a medieval castle in Loches, France with a white marble statue of a reclining young woman who wore a crown lying on top of a black marble tomb, that intrigued Noreen Nash to find out who Agnes Sorel was and the part she played in the history of France in 1450.

Agnes’ young cousin Antoinette, had come to live with her family after her father was killed. Agnes was a blonde beauty and Antoinette was an attractive dark brunette, who was jealous of Agnes from the time they met until the day Agnes died or was poisoned.

Agnes and Antoinette are invited to the court of the Duke and Duchess where Agnes falls in love with Pierre de Breze who impregnates her. She goes back to Froidmantel to give birth to her son. After three years she returns to the Duchess Isabelle”s court where she meets King Charles who falls in love with ther and brings her to the Royal Court to be Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen. King Charles tells her “You will be equal to a wife. You will be equal to a queen, for you are my one and only queen”.

Noreen Nash told me of her research in France. This was not her first book on French history, it was preceded “By Love Fulfilled” which took place in 1541 and 1572 again royalty and love, but also the researched medical history of Ambroise Pare, Jean Fernel, Andreas Vesalius and the Vianeo Brothers. When we talked I felt the book deserved to be a hard back, but having friends in high places is not always a favor. Noreen’s husband was the doctor to 20th Century Fox and his friend Swifty Lazar sent it to a publisher. It is many years later and Noreen is still a beauty living in her same Beverly Hills home but in the mother-in-laws cottage. I did suggest that in her years of “wife to the doctor” there are stories she could tell of the Hollywood studio courts not too different from the French love affairs. She only smiled.

The interviews with Noreen Nash on “By Love Fulfilled” can be seen at Claremont Digital Library and with Noreen Nash “Agnes Sorel” on YouTube/user/Connie Martinson’s Channel

On Sunday, Sept. 29th at the West Hollywood Book Fair heldc at the West Hollywood Library and Park I will be moderating the authors of “Hollywood Memoirs” at 4:15 pm. The panel consists of Geri Jewell, Mariette Hartley, Fred Stoller and Fred Weintruab.


08/02/2013

Serge Roetheli has written ‘The 25,000 Mile LOVE STORY: The Epic Story of The Couple Who Sacrificed Everything To Run The World”(Dunham $25.95). Serge and his wife, Nicole, decided to run a distance equal to the earth’s circumference, they spent two years planning what they thought was every detail. This had been preceded by their running the American Challenge from the bottom tip of Argentina up to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he met Dr. Ron Zamber, founder of International Vision Quest. Ron would play an important role in their lives in the middle of this adventure.

Serge was a Swiss mountain guide. He had climbed the highest mountains in the world. Previously he had been an amateur boxer who was set to fight in the 1976 Olympics representing Switzerland when the Swiss Team was disqualified due to the president of the boxing federation absconding with the team’s funds. It was a terrible blow to Serge, eventually he boxed for twelve years, fought eighty-four fights and won six championships.

He married, had two children, was divorced, and working as a mountain guide. Nicole was 21 working as a waitress when Serge, 34, met her. Their lives were never the same. Over ten years, from January of 1995 to 2005 this book documents their adventures. He was running while she rode the motorcycle towing the small trailer that contained their tent, two cooking pans and all their worldly goods that were needed for this adventure. It must have been love because it is not every woman who will stand naked in the middle of a field while her husband heats up the water and gets the coffee going.

They had written to companies for sponsorships but the results were minimal. Throughout the adventure Serge writes about the importance of coca-cola, I asked him when we taped if they had been sponsors? No, it was that coke was important for staying hydrated and enough sugar for strength. By the time they got to Rio, he was in touch with Ron Zamber who had invested in them when all the other investors had dried up.

The description of running through the Sahara Desert and accepting hospitality from the nomads is out of Lawrence of Arabia. It was not easy moving their motorcycle from one country to another, such as Mozambique to Madagascar. Malaria was a problem to Serge, and Nicole became deathly ill from mosquito bites. Nicole developed seizures that would come and go. They went to Australia where she ended up in the hospital. But the worst was in Nepal, a year later when they were in Katmandu and her constant seizures forced them to return to Switzerland. It was Nicole’s mother who urged them to return to their adventure.

They returned to cross the Sinai Desert. As part of his quest to help the poor, Serge visited a jail in Lebanon to talk to the incarcerated young boys. From there, he ran and she drove the bike with the trailer to India where Serge was hit by a truck that didn’t stop and people just stood and laughed. Being gone so long life back home did not stay the same, the call came from Serge’s brother that his Mother had died, which was devastating news to Serge. They returned for the funeral and then left to continue their “impossible dream.”

On May 7,2005 they returned to their finish line in Saillon, Switzerland having completed 25,422 miles. What do you do for an encore? Both Serge and Nicole have written about their experiences. It was Serge whom I interviewed so I know his point of view. Unfortunately for all they endured and shared the marriage didn’t make it. They both claim the other as a friend but I wonder? Serge is an attractive man who might do well in films here or in Europe. There is a documentary about this adventure which is excellent and already has won awards. I asked him if there was a camera person with them. No, only Nicole’s camera and asking strangers if they would mind taking a picture of them, which is why the photos in this book are so colorful and human. It is quite a love story.

The show with Serge Roethel is on Youtube and on www.lacityview.org ch 35 and Santa Monica Citytv ch 16.


07/19/2013

Robert K. Tanenbaum has written “Echoes of my Soul”(Kensington Publishing $25.00). It is a non-fiction book and one that he told me is the most important book he has written.

The facts of the story begin on the East Side of New York City on August 28, 1963. Two young women, Janice Wylie and Emily Hoffert were raped and murdered in their apartment on East 88 th St. Their third room mate returned, sensing something was wrong , she called Janice’s parents who lived two blocks away. Janice’s father, Max Wylie, was the first to see this horrific sight of the two girls murdered like animals.

Eight months later in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn Officer Micelli saw an attack in action. He stopped it but the attacker escaped and the victim, Alma Estrada, was left in hysterics. The next morning Micelli was covering his beat, he saw a young African-American man sitting in a Laundromat. He went in and the young man told him he was waiting for his brother and his name was George Whitman Jr..As Micelli went to leave, Whitman said that he knew why he was asking him questions he had seen the fellow go into a tenement on Sutter St.

Two detectives, Louie Ayala and Joe DiPrima, in 1964 were trying to find the killer of Mrs. Minnie Edwards, also in the same area of Alma Estrada. They are convinced that Whitmore is the killer and attacker. They have Whitmore brought to the seventy-third Precinct station at the corner of Bristol St. and New York Avenue. Robert Tanenbaum explained that Manhattan and Brooklyn have separate police officials. There is competition and resentment on the part of Brooklyn as the “poor relative”.

Whitmore is kept in the interrogating room for over thirteen hours, without food or water and without connection to a lawyer. He tells the detectives what they want to hear. Later it turns out that Whitmore has an IQ of under 70%. In looking through his wallet, the detectives find a picture of a blonde girl sitting on the back of a car with an inscription on the back “To George from Louise”. The detectives jump to the conclusion that this is Janice Wylie.

The Brooklyn detectives jump the gun and announce they have the killer of the two women. And this is where the book really begins. Enter a young Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Mel Glass. As he researched the Whitmore case, he saw that Whitmore had been beaten down to agree to whatever the detectives wanted. He also investigated the picture of the girl in Whitmore’s wallet. It is this story that years later when he was a Judge he asked Tanenbaum to write. ADA Glass called District Attorney Frank Hogan for an appointment.

Frank Hogan is Robert K. Tanenbaum’s hero-mentor. Hogan lived by the correctness of the law even when his office might look bad. Hogan insisted that Manhattan remove their attack on Whitmore and he wanted Brooklyn to do the same. They not only would not they kept the charges on Whitmore of the woman attacked and the murder, so that Whitmore went to jail. Both Hogan and Glass felt that it was a travesty of justice for Whitmore to be in jail. The only process was to convict the man who did kill the girls, Richard Robles, a drug addict. That did not help Whitmore in Brooklyn, what did was the 1966 case of Miranda v. State of Arizona and the “monumental Fifth Amendment due process” under Chief Justice Earl Warren.

Tanenbaum has written this important case of American Justice that keeps the reader holding their breath for the ending that will give this young innocent boy justice and freedom.

Connie Martinson Talks Books is seen on www.LACityview.org ch 35 3:00 pm & 11:30 pm. This show can be seen on YouTube/user/ConnieMartinson”sChannel


05/17/2013

Mike Rose is a professor at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. He has written “Back To School : Why Everyone Deserves a Second Chance at Education” (The New Press $21.95). The subtitle of the book is “An Argument For Democratizing Knowledge In America”.

In this book Mike examines the important role of Adult Education in our society and the threat of decision makers to eliminate it. He told me about a man called “Henry” who was now in a wheel chair after being injured by gangs and in prison, who now had a second chance at an education. He went back to his local community college and is currently tutoring other new students.

Mike takes to task those who would look to the dropout rate at Community colleges. He notes the young man who , after finishing one year was accepted into the US Navy that would pay him while he was being taught. Or the single mother raising a family who was able to get a better paying job with this extra education. ESL students feel shamed by their low skills and he comments on the teaching which is not often by highly trained people. Students will often leave before completing a certificate or degree, they are considered a negative for the program, but Rose says they now have significant skills to get a job.

There is great emphasis on the word “transfer” to a four year college. For most of these students, mathematics was non-existent in their schooling and is too difficult for them to start to learn. Rose asks the question “Who benefits the most from college?” Going back to his high school days where the two roads diverged between academics to college and the other of vocational studies, which implied “blue collar” future .

Mike Rose discusses the importance of math in those choosing to learn welding or fashion design that both require knowledge of numbers. As for welding, the ideal would be to havea math teacher demonstration the division of decimal fractions and calculation of volume, and explaining the why of what the class is doing, the mathematical principles involved.

He also puts import on the area not covered. How to study. How to take notes. How to ask for help. And how to use their minds when there is a test. And schools often make it difficult to even register for a class. He tells his own story of not being able to find a certain professor. There were no names on a board at the elevator, the young person at the entrance didn’t know where to look. Or as Mike Rose writes that if it was difficult for him, how much more for the person who had never been inside a college before.

There are many questions without answers that he poses as to what type of society do we want our country to be. Our society does not provide a range of options after high school for young people to have a robust system of occupational apprenticeships or a comprehensive national service program.

Connie Martinson Talks Books is seen and streamed daily at 3 pm & 11:30 pm on lacityview-ch 35. This show can be seen on Youtube.com/user/Connie Martinson’s channel Join the 828,000 who visit it.


04/13/2013

Stephen Maitland Lewis’ “Ambition” (Glyd-Evans Press $27.95) opens with George Tazoli sitting in a bank cubicle waiting for the bank official to okay his transfer of seven million dollars to his account in Zurich. Where and how did he accumulate this cash account? This is not the Forest-Vignes bank where George Tazoli works so why is George sweating and looking over his shoulder?

Thanks to the Bank’s annual Xmas party George had met Sam, the only daughter of the Bank’s president, Peter Donovan and only grand child of Charles Donovan, the Bank’s Chairman of the Board. By the time the generations had learned of their love affair, they were already planning to live together. George was acceptable to work in the trading department but not to be part of the family. Sam’s mother Blair commands, “Get rid of him”.

George is exiled to their New York City branch in a separate area and with no contact to the other workers. His charge is to get rid of the bad loans on the Bank’s real estate debit. In New York, George stays at Sam’s family apartment which Peter uses for his R & R with hookers. He also uses a camera to record his exploits, when George comes across the DVD’s he realizes that he has protection if Peter ever tries to fire him. No one in Sam’s family is happy when she announces that she is marrying George and, incidentally she is pregnant.

In New York George has made a deal with his sleazy cousin, Draeger, who convinces George to let him trade the real estate for the lowest amount and he will then sell it for a higher figure. This works fine and George now has his banker in Zurich. His account keeps growing and he has hired Draeger’s beautiful sister-in-law, Xhana, to assist him in the office and after hours.

Maitland-Lewis has used his experience in International banking in his prior two novels, but “Ambition” gets into the dirty areas of merging banks and competitions for power. There are no secrets when Peter is angling for a post as an ambassador and the FBI does an investigation. Meanwhile Peter has ordered a hit on George. Fortunately George has an Uncle Frank, who knows where the bodies are buried and who did them in. Uncle Frank is a wonderful character that Maitland-Lewis should use in another book.

In California, the directors of the bank have ordered an audit of George’s transactions which now involves Mike Roman, the U.S. Attorney. Before he can order search warrants, George and Draeger have left for Brazil with Stella and Xhana who is pregnant by George. Brazil will not extradite the parent of a Brazilian child, meanwhile with their Zurich money George and Draeger become richer than they ever thought possible. Stephen Maitland-Lewis has written a novel which can be called “a page-turner” with interesting characters and a lot of information about international banking and financial scams. Now the question is, whom did he base his characters on?

Connie Martinson Talks Books is aired and streamed on www.lacityview.org ch 35 at 3 pm & 11:30 pm daily and on Youtube.com/user/ConnieMartinson’s Channel.


01/04/2013

A book that I consider one of the finest this year is Tom Reiss’ “The Black Count : Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo” (Crown $27.00). Reiss combines in this non-fiction history of Alex Dumas, who was born to an impoverished French nobleman and a Black slave on the French sugar island, Saint-Domingue and the history of France during the French Revolution. His father pawned the boy in order to buy a ticket back to France, after claiming his title, he returned to Saint-Domingue to bring Alex back to France with him.

Dumas was educated in Paris as the son of wealth. He became known for his skill as a swordsman and a handsome playboy, but his father’s new wife resented the money Alex was given. In anger he joins the Queen’s Dragoon in 1786 as a common soldier. An extraordinary soldier, as a Corporal he captured thirteen enemy soldiers, he led a corps of black and mixed race volunteers called the Legion Noire to guard the borders against the Germans. He rises to be a General in the French army and a hero in the French Revolution. Why does his name and face not appear in history and in paintings? He made an enemy of a little Corsican named Napoleon, who had Alex Dumas painted out of any portrayal of army victories.

Tom Reiss is an artist with words. I told him that he writes history with the ability of a fiction writer. He told me that he spent seven years researching and writing this book. After it was accepted by the publisher, he took the book back and rewrote every page again. It isn’t just the writing, it is the historical facts that he writes, including the French conflict about slavery which they were against in France but not in the colonies. Men of color were respected until Napoleon reinstituted laws prohibiting them from living in Paris or going to schools. Napoleon with his brother forced the Senate to grant him the powers of an Emperor. Alex Dumas was not even paid his back army salary. I did tell Reiss that Napoleon was setting a standard that Hitler would emulate.

Dumas went to Egypt with Napoleon. On the return to France General Dumas was captured by Italian terrorists and put in the dungeon that his son, Alexander Dumas would fictionalize into “The Count of Monte Cristo” and his adventures with the Queen’s Dragoons in “The Three Musketeers” . Alexander was born when his father returned a broken man from his two years in the dungeon, but the next four years belonged to the father and son. A devotion that Alexander kept, or as Tom Reiss has written, “To remember a person is the most important thing in the novels of Alexander Dumas. The worst sin anyone can commit it to forget”.

Apart from the history of France and the life of Alex Dumas, the story of Tom Reiss foraging for letters and legal documents that involve having a dead librarian’s safe blown up is a book in itself.

This show can be seen on Youtube/user/ConnieMartinson;sChannel also on www.lacityview.org at 3pm & 11:30pm.


03/15/2013

On a cold and rainy night, what better than to get into bed with a good cook book. Candace Walsh’s “Licking Spoon, A Memoir of Food, Family and Identity”(Seal Press $16.00) is a hit on all three counts. She recounts her youth when her parents divorced and although there were now two kitchens in her life. She also had to go to market with her mother with welfare and food stamps handed to the clerk who was always someone from school.

After college she came to New York and with her first check discovered Zabars. Along with food, she discovered the single, dating life and the Australian men, who like great wine travel well. Her stories are “Sex and the City with Food”, at the end of the book are really great recipes, some from her Greek grandmother and others that just stand alone like 2 cups sugar and 3 cups water and now you have Caramel !

Think of Fanny Farmer when you read “The Busy Mom’s Cookbook : 100 Delicious, Home-cooked Meals” by Antonia Lofaso (Avery $26.00) Antonia’s heritage is “Spago”, “foxtail” and now “Black Market Liquor Bar in Los Angeles, and she was afinalist on “Top Chef All Stars”. Last minute supper dish I recommend Croque Monsieur and Madame. I just learned the difference. Madame has sunny side egg on top of the ham and cheese sandwich. On page 98 she has her grandmother’s recipe for cooking brisket. Braise the brisket and only add catsup and onions, not so fast for Antonia who also adds red wine, carrots, tomato paste and herbs. I also add the ever present garlic. For curry lovers, there is Madras curry chicken with turmeric Basmati Rice.

Trip planning in Europe can be worrysome with strikes and the price of Euro’s, so what about seeing the USA? And it helps if you know where to eat. Let me recommend “Food Lovers’ Guide to Memphis : The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings” by Pamela Denney (Globe Pequot Press $14.95). Yes, there is a plethora of international restaurants, more than just barbeque and ribs- not that there is anything wrong with that. There is fine dining with Vegan restaurants, Memphis has the fresh food that goes to the table. Did I mention that Memphis has Beale Street Blues to accompany a top quality restaurant. But no matter the age, Memphis is Elvis and Graceland. On page 60 and 61 are a list of places to eat that are in the vicinity and who knows, you may be sitting where Elvis sat. The book is beautifully laid out with cute illustrations and, yes, there are recipes too. Thai-style Beef Salad with Chipolte Honey Vinaigrette (pg 268). Despite the name “Frogmore Stew”(pg 278) is really a fabulous shrimp , sausage and corn dish. I can’t write about Memphis without mentioning the recipe of Braised Pork Cheeks and Sweet Potato Puree. As for Barbecue Ribs, you are on your own, as they also have Food Trucks for every taste buds.

Pamela Denney is a Journalism Professor at University of Memphis and the Food Editor for “Memphis Magazine”.

CONNIE MARTINSON TALKS BOOKS is aired and streamed at www.lacityview.edu -ch 35 at 3:00pm & 11:30 pm daily.

Richard Kramer has written his first novel, “These Things Happen” (Unbridled Books $25.95). Using first person point of view the reader meets Wesley, a fifteen year old , who attends a private school in New York City. Theo, Wesley’s best friend and like a brother since they were born, has been elected president of their junior class. In his acceptance speech he proudly announces “I am gay”. Wesley is stunned as is the class, but especially Wesley who feels guilt by association plus his own family situation.

Wesley is living with his father, Kenny, a lawyer, and his lover, George, a former actor who is now running “Ecco” the restaurant on the first floor of their building. Wesley’s mother, Lola, is a successful editor at a New York publishing house, who has remarried Ben, a wonderful compassionate man, who lost a son to AIDS,

It is Wesley’s question “When did you know you were gay?” that brings out Kenny and George’s memories. Even in private schools violence against those who are different can explode. Theo is beaten and stomped on, as is Wesley, for being “fags”. They end up in the hospital.

Lola who urged Wesley to live for a time with his father is suddenly hysterical at the thought her son may have been seduced by George. George has been the compassionate friend to Wesley, not the seducer. Kramer has taken what is not an unusual situation today and made it a personal story for the reader.

Richard Kramer told me when we taped that when he was still at Yale he sold his first story to “The New Yorker” and it was the last one they bought. So what does a writer do, he came to Los Angeles where he wrote for “Thirtysomething”,”My so-called Life”, “Tales of the City” etc. and listened to friends who kept telling him he should write a book. He has and it is excellent. Richard Kramer will be one of my authors on April 14 at the Brentwood Kauffman Friends of the Library Authors afternoon at 2:00 pm. Meanwhile you can see the interview on YouTube.com/user/ConnieMartinson’sChannel.


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