by  Peter Cates

page9pict1A wonderful film.

Miss Potter: starring Renee Zellewgher, Evan McGregor, etc.; directed by Richard Maltby, Jr., Weinstein Films, 2006.

This film centers on the beginnings of Beatrix Potter’s career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. One family firm run by two brothers condescendingly accepts a manuscript to give a newly-hired younger brother, Norman, something to do. He then becomes so involved with the book that Potter grows to trust him fully and later to fall in love.

The book and subsequent volumes sell in the millions. Unfortunately, after the couple becomes engaged, Norman develops leukemia and dies. After a lengthy grieving period, she returns to her writing, buys a large farm in England’s lovely lake district and eventually gets married to her lawyer. The story, the acting and the on-location scenery, especially in the English Lakes Countryside, are first class.

A 1976 account of wealth, corruption and murder in Houston.

Blood and Money: by Thomas Thompson; Doubleday, 474 pages.

A Texas oil buccaneer, Ash Robinson, has one  most beautiful, multi-talented and poised  daughter, Joan, who will marry a very brilliant plastic surgeon, Dr. John Hill, one main reason being that he is the very nice man that she wants for a husband and is certain will please her most domineering, yet loving control freak of a father.page9pict2

They wed in 1957 but have a basically unhappy marriage, involving stress and desperation on the wife’s part and much adultery and deceit on the doctor’s. Finally she dies from a mysterious, all too poisonous illness in 1969; John Hill is indicted for murder but it doesn’t stick. He remarries, divorces number two and is enjoying his third marriage, all events within the space of three years before he is mysteriously murdered in 1972.

The book is one compelling tale of real people, places and events and the interconnecting patterns blessing, cursing and binding them all. The participants are all shades of gray between decency and nobility; and the nastiest levels of cold-blooded, depraved expediency. Having been one of Life Magazine’s top writers for 12 years, Thomas Thompson possessed consummate mastery of narrative and kept me enthralled for its duration.

Being a powerful force of nature more on the level of Thor than Lear, this quality of Ash Robinson is touched upon, as he observes his daughter’s wedding with his own unrevealed plans for the couple’s “happiness:”

“Ash Robinson was a most cheerful father of the bride. In later years he would say that he knew from the beginning that the marriage was ill fated. But on this afternoon so fraught with undercurrents, he was paterfamilias, courtly and benevolent. And why shouldn’t he have been? He well knew that after the honeymoon, for which he was paying, he would have his daughter living just upstairs with this latest son-in-law. He could keep an eye on them both. And he would always be there with money if they needed it, rather like a chain to keep errant pets in the yard, out of the street.”

This book sold in the millions 40 years ago; therefore it should be easy to find at local used book outlets, thrift stores, etc.


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