The New York Herald-Tribune


The New York Herald-Tribune
All the News You
Want to Read
The New York Herald-Tribune
VOL. LXXI… No. 25,876
Today: Sunny and warm.
Tomorrow: Sunny and warm,
clouds and humidity
increasing in the evening.
Prosecutors Determined to Convict Notorious Patent King
Daughters Defend Accused, Await Outcome
Love, Honor, High Society, and Lowbrow Secrets
Combine in a Delightful Tale
At last! It’s the day we’ve all been
waiting for, dear readers: the
opening of the latest and greatest
Trial of the Century. And now,
after all these months of fuss and
hysteria and delectable details—
the Patent King, his beautiful
heiress daughters, the downstairs
tenant, the kitchen maid-cumtearful Scarsdale housewife and
her munificent husband, the turret
window, the missing gardener, the
exact length and serration of the
blade used to murder the victim—
here we all are.
A number of well-known
society figures populate the
benches around me. Chief among
them is that perennial mainstay
of the social calendar—and this
column, naturally—the iridescent
Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth
Avenue and Southampton, Long
Island, as exquisitely dressed (and
as exquisitely fashioned) as ever.
Sitting by her side is a fine specimen
of manhood, Mr. Octavian Rofrano,
who will figure as one of the key
witnesses in the case. I don’t blame
Mrs. Marshall in the least for her
vigilant oversight of his person,
though I can’t help wondering what
poor old Mr. Marshall thinks of all
this protectiveness.
The first witness is Miss Julie Schuyler,
or simply JULIE as we like to call
her, in big bold typeface. She looks
ravishing—she’s gone and bobbed
her pretty blond hair—a bit of a
cliché at this point, but the style really
does suit her. Miss Schuyler believes
herself to be the first friend of Miss
Fortescue’s acquaintance, for Miss
Fortescue was kept under strict lock
and key for the first nineteen years of
her life, in the manner of Rapunzel.
He answered the attorney’s
questions with ready honesty, if
not exactly an excess of words. As
a friend of the lucky Mrs. Marshall,
he was asked by that lady to do a
little quiet investigation into the
nether branches of the Fortescue
tree, because not every girl, however
dazzlingly wealthy, makes a suitable
bride for a family so old and august
as the Ochsneres, who have led New
York Society since the Revolution.
As promised, the scrumptious Mr.
Octavian Rofrano climbed into
the witness box of the Trial of the
Century this morning, electric
and refreshing. Much to everyone’s
disappointment, he showed no sign
of the wounds he sustained early
last February, when the whole affair
came to the attention of the public
and the police department.
Mr. Rofrano is one of those
rare specimens, a very young man—
he was one of our greatest aces in
the late war, counting eleven enemy
planes to his credit. His eyes are
an arresting shade of aquamarine,
his hair is dark and glossy, his
complexion is somewhat swarthy,
and he exudes a great deal of energy
without moving an inch.
Adjournment was called until the
next morning. There was some
disappointment that we would not
have the opportunity to hear from
Mrs. Lumley, the Scarsdale housewife who once served as a humble
char, now raised to respectability
by a munificent husband, and on
whose testimony the prosecution’s
case is expected to hinge.
1. Your novels are set in various time
periods across the twentieth century,
for the teens to the 1960s. Why did
you choose 1920s New York as the
setting for A Certain Age?
the vast transformation that took
place, in ebbs and surges, across the
landscape of Western culture during
the extraordinary twentieth century,
as a result of both human events—
war, economic depression—and
human ingenuity. With every book,
I want to ask how we got here, how
we sailed this ship into these waters,
what have we gained and what have
we lost. And most importantly, what
has remained unchanged in all
this, and that’s human nature. Our
lives and attitudes have undergone
massive revision, but underneath
we still need what we need, we want
what we want. Your grandparents
knew the same sorrows and joys,
petty and great.
Scandal! Amour! Murder! Intimate
tête-à-têtes! A fabulous society
party that ends with a gunshot! The
Trial of the Century! A bittersweet
love triangle involving a dashing
young war hero, an exquisite society
matron, and a fetching ingénue
heiress. All this and more are packed
in the pages of Beatriz Williams’s A
Certain Age.
Read it from the comfort of
your own armchair, dear readers.
REPORTED With the Effervescent Mrs. Beatriz Williams, Author High Society Party Ends
in Shocking Gunshot
Engagement Celebration
Marred by Violent Fireworks
War Hero To Testify in
Trial of the Century
Spectators Pack Courtroom
to Hear His Story
I can’t remember exactly when or
why I had the idea to adapt Richard
Strauss’s wonderful opera Der
Rosenkavalier into a novel—I think
I’ve always been fascinated by the
character of the Marschallin, so
exquisitely drawn and so timeless—
but I knew I had to set my book
in 1920s New York. This story all
about the negotiation between old
and new, sometimes delicate and
sometimes fierce, on so many levels:
youth versus middle age, new money
versus old money, present versus
past, and that’s exactly where we—as
a civilization—found ourselves in
1920, in the wake of the First World
War and the profound changes
in science and art swept in with it.
And of course, New York in the Jazz
Age is so glamorous and gritty and
multifaceted, in the same way as
Vienna in the 18th century, which
was the opera’s original setting.
2. Why do you like to write about the
past? What about these time periods
draw you?
I’m simply passionate about history.
I’m passionate, in particular, about
You won’t be able to tear yourself
away. Trust your devoted correspondent. A Certain Age will beguile you
with its powerful charms. You won’t
want to put it down for all the tea
in China!
Having first come upon the
literary scene so late in her career,
Mrs. Beatriz Williams, née Miss
Beatriz Chantrill, seems determined
to atone for her tardy arrival with as
much dispatch as a lady of letters is
capable. Since 2012, she has authored
six novels by her own single pen, and
one novel in collaboration with two
other distinguished authoresses,
Mrs. Lauren Willig and Mrs. Karen
White. She has also favored the
(cont. page 2)
reading public with a contribution
to a collection of stories concerning
the day of Armistice which ended
the late War in Europe. Her books
have found acclaim among critics
and readers alike, with such works
as A Hundred Summers, The Secret
Life of Violet Grant, and Along the
Infinite Sea to her credit, as well as
The Forgotten Room, the triptych
effort described above.
But Mrs. Williams’s path
to literary fame was by no means
assured. Though, as a child, she
hardly left her pen aside for a
moment, she abandoned this early
promise to pursue a Bachelor of Arts
degree at Leland Stanford Junior
University in Palo Alto, California,
from which she duly graduated with
Honors in Humanities in 1994. Not
satisfied with this consummation,
she went on to study Finance at
Columbia University in New York
City, which institution awarded her a
Masters of Business Administration
degree in 1999. Mrs. Williams then
put her education to useful effect,
spending several years in New
York and London as a business
strategy consultant, producing
endless balance sheets and income
tables, in addition to advice of a
peculiarly repetitive nature, all the
while disguising her early attempts
at fiction when, we fear, she ought
to have been performing the duties
for which she was, at the time, being
compensated by her employers.
Thankfully, marriage and
the arrival of four little miracles
rescued Mrs. Williams from this
fraudulent first career, although the
resultant daily round of household
performed, left her in want of
more imaginative occupation. She
turned at last to the vocation of
which she had always dreamed,
that of writing novels, and after
much effort and encouragement,
found her manuscript Overseas
accepted for publication. Her hands
and heart now full, Mrs. Williams
resides happily on the shores of the
Connecticut River, in the beloved
company of her husband and
children, in addition to a faithful
hound of dubious pedigree, and two
supercilious cats.
It must be conceded,
however, that both children
and animals (and, on occasion,
husband) might perhaps be found
to benefit from a greater degree of
maternal supervision.
and independence. Octavian,
meanwhile, is a nice aristocratic
lad in Strauss’s rendition, while my
Octavian has just returned from the
First World War and has a whole
(cont. )
host of sorrows tormenting him. I
3. What kind of research do you do think he’s the most changed from
the original. And as for Theresa…
for your novels?
well, she’s by far the most interesting
I read books, first of all, and not character in the opera, and I hope
just history books. A novel written I’ve done her justice here.
during that period will give you a
wonderful idea of just how people 5. Might we ever hear from Theresa
lived and thought. And I’m lucky to again?
be writing about a period for which
there’s such an extensive visual Oh, I think her story isn’t yet
record, in the form of photographs finished! She’s certainly going to
and films, which add so much turn up again; she’s the kind of
texture in terms of dialogue and character who transforms every
voice and accent and personal room she enters, and she’s so much
habits. Finally, when I’m off writing fun to write.
the book, I turn to Google for all
those little details and fact-checks. 6. At the beginning of each chapter in
It’s amazing what you find when A Certain Age, you have snippets of
you look up, say, “first class dinner “advice” from Helen Rowland. Can
menu RMS Majestic 1922 images”! you talk about who she is and why
you chose to include her in the book?
With the Effervescent
Mrs. Beatriz Williams, Author
4. Who were your models for Theresa,
Octavian, and Sophie?
I started, of course, with the roles
in Der Rosenkavalier, and I kept
their original names. (Theresa, of
course, becomes Mrs. Marshall
instead of the Marschallin.) But
naturally, everyone took on a
character of his or her own. For
example, in the opera, Sophie
is a complete ingénue, which
played well a hundred years ago,
but most modern audiences find
ingénues insipid! So I tried to keep
her innocence while giving her
Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Sylvester Marshall of Fifth Avenue and
Southhampton, Long Island, announce the engagement of Edmund Jay
Ochsner of New York City to Miss Sophie Fortescue, daughter of inventor
Mr. Fortescue. Nuptials to be held on the 14 February 1923.
I came across Helen Rowland
while looking for clever quotes for
another novel, and she offered so
many, I knew she needed a whole
book to herself! Helen would have
been almost a household name in
the first two decades of the twentieth
century. She wrote a column called
“Reflections of a Bachelor Girl” for
the old New York World, and her
pieces became so popular, they
appeared in book form. She’s just so
witty and perceptive, and so many
of her observations—not all of
them exactly politically correct!—
remain trenchant today. I thought
she would represent this book
perfectly, not just because the novel
deals in the timeless intricacies of
love and marriage, but because
I think she and Theresa share so
much in common.
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A Certain Age
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