Masquerade

As I wrote previously, sometimes I find an author and then I become obsessed with his or her books and have to read everything they’ve ever written. Then I start on the biographies about the author if he or she is famous. If I’m not already sick of reading so much about a person, I’ve discovered that sometimes works of fiction even have these famous people as characters.

Such was the case with my obsession with Hemingway. After reading his short stories that I had never read or had revisited, then reading some of his books published posthumously, I started reading the major biographies of him, books by or about his four wives, books by two of his sons, books about him by friends, and I still had not had my fill. So I was at the library one day and put in Hemingway as the subject for a catalog search and methodically flipped through the pages and pages of entries. Most of the entries were his books or ones I was already familiar with about him until I came to one called Hemingway’s Suitcase by MacDonald Harris. Then I started seeing more and more novels with Hemingway as a character. I am posting a list of the ones I have recently read. After reading a couple and enjoying them, I picked up one I had checked out called Masquerade by Walter Satterthwait. When I saw that title it reminded me of the movie with Rob Lowe from 1988.

Masquerade, the book by Walter Satterthwait, was published in 1999. Satterthwait’s portrayal of Hemingway in the 1920’s in Paris is very humorous. He portrays Ernest as a big goofy guy wandering around the cafes talking to people and knocking over chairs and drinks, besides being his usually characterized obnoxious self. Think Chevy Chase at the Closerie de Lilas. Anyway, aside from Hemingway’s characterization, this book had a lot of other aspects I enjoyed: Paris, a murder, other characters from the Lost Generation, and two Pinkerton detectives who solve the crime.

Masquerade happens to be the second book of three with Phil Beaumont and Jane Turner, the Pinkertons, that Satterthwait has written. One aspect of the book that is unique is that Jane Turner’s point of view is revealed only in letters to a friend, while Phil Beaumont’s point of view is from him as narrator.

A murder/suicide of a rich publisher and woman not his wife is the case to be solved by Phil and Jane. With Paris as the setting and characters such as Hemingway and Gertrude Stein floating in and out of the detectives investigation, how can a reader not enjoy this one? Part of the fun of reading Satterthwait’s historical fiction is trying to figure out the characters from history as opposed to his own. Names of some of the historical characters are changed due to their role in the story. Even if you aren’t aware of some of these, the story itself keeps you interested in finding out the murderer.

I must confess that Masquerade was the first of nine novels of Mr. Satterthwait’s that I have now read. I haven’t read his first couple of books that are out of print and I haven’t read his two short stories collections. Currently, I am halfway through one of his most recent books released in 2006. More on that one and some of the others later.