Tatiana - In Bed With A FriendWednesday, January 15, 2014
|Nightwing, 1977, back cover - Photograph Emily A. Smith|
This was going to be about all the authors I have met through the years and how I photographed many of them. But it’s not. That will have to be for another day.
This will be about an author I have never met but one whose literary output (almost all of it) has at one time been at my bedside table.
I first “met” Martin Cruz Smith in 1979 in his 1977 book Nightwing. I was a fan by 1981 when I read his first Arkady Renko Gorky Park. In 1986 I was fascinated by his novelized account of the making of the atom bomb, Stallion Gate and the fact that it dovetailed perfectly with another favourite book of mine, the non fiction version, Richard Rhodes’s The Making of the Atom Bomb which appeared that same year.
I have had Cruz Smith in bed since. One novel of his that has special significance (one of wonder) is his 1996 Rose in which the protagonists and action all share a Victorian coal mining town called Wigan.
|Tatiana, 2013, author photograph Doug Menuez|
Here is the beginning of Chapter 4
The Cannel Room was the strangest dining room Blair had ever seen.
Bishop Hannay sat at the head of the table. Around it where his sister-in-law, Lady Rowland; Reverend Chubb; a union man named Fellowes; Lady Rowland’s daughter Lydia; Earnshaw, the member of Parliament from the train; Leveret Blair; and at the foot of the table and empty chair.
The Cannel Room’s ceiling, walls and wainscoting were paneled in polished black stone. Table and Queen Anne chairs were hand-turned work of the same material. Chandelier and candelabras seemed carved of ebony. Yet the walls showed no marble veins. The weight of the chairs was wrong. The temperature was wrong; marble always felt cooler than the air around it, but when Blair laid his hand on the table it was almost warm. Properly so, since cannel was jet, a form of exceedingly fine coal. He had seen sculptures in black cannel. The Cannel Room was the only room made entirely of coal, and it was famous. Its effect was heightened by contrasts: the luminous shimmer of silver and crystal on the black table, the deep purple of Lady Rowland’s gown, the camellia-white of Miss Rowland’s dress.
The men – except for Blair, of course – were all dressed for dinner in black, Hannay and Chubb in cassocks. The butler was assisted by four footmen in black satin livery. The floor was carpeted in black felt to silence the sound of their feet. The effect was as if they were dining in an elegant hall far below the surface of the earth. Blair ran his hand over the table and looked at his palm. Clean: not a speck of carbon dust, not an atom, not a mote.
Rose, Martin Cruz Smith 1996
In these pages I have often harped of the advantages (even after you calculate the expense) of a hard copy, daily delivered NY Times that crashes on my front door in the middle of the night 365 days of the year.
Consider this. On Tuesdays the NY Times has a section called Science Times. It was on November 12, 2013 that I read the incredible revelation that Martin Cruz Smith’s latest, Tatiana and the previous (and also Arkady Renko novel) Three Stations had both been dictated by Martin Cruz Smith to his wife because he is unable to type or write. He has Parkinson’s. Not even his publisher or his agent knew of this.
I wonder how many reading of this might have known or found the story imbedded somewhere in the digital version of the newspaper?
No, I have never even had a glimpse of the real man and yet as I look at all his author photographs he has aged like many of my favourite subjects that I come back year after year to take their portrait. I see Cruz Smith's portraits almost as my own.
Tatiana was a two nights-in-bed read and the first three paragraphs are killer takes on a young man who cycles on a very expensive bike. I called up two of my friends who are cyclists (big time). One is Andrew Taylor from Yorkshire who lives in Guadalajara the other is Vancouver photographer Hans Sipma. The latter once visited me riding on the most expensive bicycle I have ever seen. Sipma said, "I cannot afford the car I would want to have, a Ferrari, so this is the next best thing.”
I will not tell you more except for two things, one mentioned in the Science Times article. In the book one of the significant pieces of evidence is the cyclist/translator’s notebook that nobody can read. It is covered in symbols nobody can decipher. It seems that the NY Times reporter found this in parallel to Cruz Smith’s brain degeneration in which even taking notes is an impossible task. For me the other dovetailing fact, much more relevant vis à vis Parkinson’s is that we find out that in the previous novel, Three Stations, Arkady Renko has been shot by a very young chess master and the bullet has lodged in his brain. Renko survives but the bullet is irreparably in place and at any time (readers will never know until it happens) it will move just a smidgen to end Arkady’s long career.
The book read I felt a momentary depression. When is the next one? Will I be around for it? And then by the next morning all was forgotten when two new books by an old friend, J. Robert Janes, Bellringer and Tapestry arrived from Amazon.
You see, it does not make any difference with whom I warm my bed, as long as it is a friend.
And before I forget, there is no coal room in Tatiana but there is a strange and very big building in Kaliningrad painted blue so that it will blend with the sky and not be seen by a visiting Putin.
And just as sure that I know that the bullet will not ever budge in Arkady Renko's brain, I know that Martin Cruz Smith will be in my bed for years to come.