From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
--Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll., Davidson, N.C.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Mark Helprin is the acclaimed author of Winter's Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Freddy and Fredericka, The Pacific, Ellis Island, Memoir from Antproof Case, and numerous other works. His novels are read around the world, translated into over 20 languages.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Looks like the gang's all here."
Stevie Light, all five feet two inches of her honing in like a heat-guided missile, managed to jostle her way to the front of the crowd, cameraman in tow, to where the director of the extended care facility, a stout, officious-looking gray-haired woman caught in the glare of a dozen on-board lights was announcing, above the cacophony of shouting voices, "We have no comment at this time, except to say that Miss Rose is doing fine! Her doctors will be briefing you at the press conference later today."
The story had come off the wires no more than an hour ago, and already the place was teeming with news crews and reporters, their vans double-parked along the curb. On the lawn out front, Kimberly Stevens, from KBLJ, was doing her live shot, kittenish blond hair fluttering in the breeze. A short distance away, Mark Esposito, from Live at Five, was powdering his nose while peering into a handheld mirror as he awaited his cue. Paparazzi were out in force as well, long-range lenses aimed like snipers' rifles at the third floor: the room where Lauren Rose lay newly risen from the coma she'd been in for the past twelve years.
An event nothing short of a miracle. What were the odds? Stevie wondered. Less than those of my ever finding my father.
She turned to her cameraman, but Matt was already heading off to scout for a location for her stand-up. With his scraggly hair and two-day-old beard, torn jeans and tattoos, Matt O'Brien might have been mistaken for a vaguely disreputable onlooker if not for the Betacam propped on one scrawny shoulder, but he was one of the best in the business.
Minutes later, freckled cheeks powdered and lips freshly glossed, she stood before the Betacam's lens as her cue came from the noon anchor, Charlie Karr, and she launched into her intro: "The stunning news came yesterday when doctors caring for Lauren Rose here at the Oak Hills long-term care facility, in Westwood, reported that their patient had emerged from the coma she'd been in for more than a decade. It was back in 1994 that Ms. Rose was a guest at the home of veteran rocker Grant Tobin, when the LAPD got a 911 call in the early hours of the morning saying a woman had been shot in the head. While paramedics labored to save Ms. Rose's life, Tobin was questioned but never charged in connection with the incident he called an accidental shooting, the exact cause of which was never officially determined. Tobin, best known for his chart-topping hits in the seventies with the group Astral Plane, has remained in seclusion ever since. More details on Ms. Rose's condition will become available when her doctors speak at a news conference set for later today...."
Stevie remembered well the day of the shooting. It was her first week on the job at KNLA, fresh from KESQ in Palm Springs and still wet enough behind the ears to believe she'd be doing some real reporting, as opposed to covering water-main breaks and shopping-center openings. The media had gone wall to wall with coverage, news crews camping out in front of Grant Tobin's Holmby Hills estate for weeks on end, the tabloids trumpeting rumors of a lovers' quarrel gone awry and showing photos of Lauren, at the time a beautiful and promising young actress, in various cleavage-baring poses. But the publicity eventually died down when, after a lengthy investigation, no charges were filed.
Now this. It was unclear yet the extent to which Lauren could communicate, if at all. Only one thing was for sure: She was the only one besides Grant who knew what had happened that night. If she were to refute his version of the events, it could land him behind bars.
In her twelve years on the beat, Stevie had covered her share of celebrity trials. And this promised to be as sensational as Michael Jackson's. Just in time for the station's recent slide to second place in the ratings, behind Channel 5, which had KNLA's news director, Jerry Fine, on a tear and those up for contract renewals sweating bullets.
Her live stand-up wrapped and the news conference still hours away, Stevie and Matt headed back to the newsroom. It was in full-tilt mode when they arrived: computer and TV monitors glowing in every pod and those not at their desks dashing about at warp speed. The night-side producer, Liv Henry, was firing questions at April Chu, on the phone relaying breaking news overseas. In its glass-enclosed hub, the assignment desk was busy gathering info from police and fire scanners as well as other media outlets, while in the remote-field room, the live trucks making their way on city streets and freeways were being tracked via microwave uplink.
Stevie banged out her copy, and when Liv had okayed it and the tape had been cut, she headed into hair and makeup for a quick touch-up before taking her place at the anchor desk beside Charlie and Carol. The two anchors had been at it since earlier in the day and looked it...until the cameras went up, then suddenly they appeared as fresh as if they'd just breezed in off the golf course -- one of the tricks that made them worth every cent of their hefty salaries. Stevie sailed through her report without a hitch, and tossed back to Charlie and Carol, who moved on to the breaking news of the hour: a shooting in Compton that had left one cop dead and two wounded. She hung around the newsroom for another couple of hours after that, tracking down leads and feeding teases for the five o'clock broadcast into the Flashcam, until it was time to leave for the news conference at Cedars-Sinai. Her shift had ended hours ago, but she was so pumped with adrenaline, she didn't feel the least bit tired.
This was what she loved and hated most about her job -- the high when she was crashing on a story that, when she came down from it, was like coming off a weekend-long bender. Yet she couldn't imagine any other kind of life. From the time she was a kid, conducting mock interviews using a pencil in place of a microphone, she'd known this was what she wanted. "Curious kids grow up to be reporters," she'd reply, when pressed for an explanation. And if she was more curious than most, was it any wonder? She'd grown up not knowing who her father was. An answer not even her mother could supply.
It was the era of free love, and Nancy was freer than most, moving like a nomad from one place to the next, changing bed partners with the same ease. Stevie would probably never know who, besides her mother, had been present at her conception. It was the one mystery that would never be solved, the one story she'd never break. And the one thing she wanted most in this world.
She and Matt arrived at the press conference early enough to secure places near the front. By the time Lauren's doctor, a beak-nosed neurologist with thinning brown hair, stepped up to the podium, there was barely elbow room to be had in the packed hospital conference room. Dr. Ragione informed them that Ms. Rose was responding to stimuli and showed signs of recovering her speech. She appeared to recognize family members, he said, and was able to communicate through simple hand and eye movements. When asked if there was any indication she could recall the shooting, he replied curtly that it was too early to say at this point.
Stevie did her stand-up on the lawn outside, which Matt fed from the live truck to the control room back at the station, along with footage of the news conference. It was close to seven before she finally packed it in, after twelve hours without a break and only a couple of protein bars gobbled on the run.
She headed for her car, in the parking lot behind the featureless glass cube of a building KNLA occupied on a side street off Wilshire Boulevard. The sight of her lovingly restored '67 Pontiac Firebird, cherry red with cream interior, never failed to boost her spirits at the end of a long day, and today was no exception. It was by far the biggest expenditure she'd ever made and one she was still paying off, but the joy it gave her outweighed her mother's frequent reminders that she could have put a down payment on a house with what it had cost her.
It wasn't until Stevie was tooling along the freeway with the top down, on her way to Ryan's, enjoying the feel of the wind in her hair and the envious looks she never failed to get from other drivers, that she remembered tonight was the night she was supposed to have dinner at her mother's. She groaned aloud. The only thing she was in the mood for was a stiff drink coupled with a foot rub, if her boyfriend was feeling especially generous.
She thought about begging off, but something kept her from reaching for her cell phone. Nancy was always understanding when she had to cancel at the last minute due to breaking news, but the image of her hobbling around in her cast -- she'd broken her left foot rock climbing a few weeks back -- added an extra helping of guilt. She phoned Ryan instead, letting him know not to expect her.
"Should I wait up for you?" he asked, in a low, throaty voice that had the desired effect of igniting a little trail of fire below her belly button.
She hesitated before replying, "No. I'll stay over at my place." It was closer to her mom's. Besides, she hadn't been home in over a week.
"All the more reason to move in with me," Ryan said, after she'd explained about needing to water her plants and collect her mail. He spoke lightly, but she caught a note of impatience. He'd been urging her to take this next step, reasoning that it was silly to pay rent on her own place when she was almost never there, but so far she'd resisted. Not that she wasn't crazy about him. She had been since the day they'd met, when she'd interviewed him following his Oscar nomination for best documentary. It was commitment itself that caused her to break out in a cold sweat.
Stevie sighed as she hung up. Her friends thought she was crazy, period. Franny, whose biological clock was ticking loudly enough for everyone within a mile's radius to hear, had stated with her usual bluntness that she'd be happy to take... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.