In researching her biography, Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch (Random House), Sally Bedell Smith told rapt listeners that there was “Something unexpected around every corner.”
Smith was in East Hampton to discuss her best-selling biography of Queen Elizabeth this past Saturday at BookHampton.
“I wanted to part the curtain and tell what she's really like as a wife, a mother, a friend, as well as a world leader.” Smith also wanted to focus on the Queen's relationship with America, something British biographies have not explored in-depth.
Queen Elizabeth, the longest-serving leader in the world, celebrated her diamond jubilee in February of this year. If she serves through 2015, she will exceed her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria's reign.
Smith was emphatic that Queen Elizabeth is more than just a figurehead in British government. “She fully exercises her right to be consulted, to encourage and to warn,” noted Smith, referring to Queen Elizabeth's long-running weekly meetings with her 12 total Prime Ministers – beginning with Winston Churchill himself, who was impressed by the young Queen's “remarkable attentiveness.”
Smith spent much time traveling with and observing the Queen, in official, social and intimate conditions. The biography relies on her own observations and extensive interviews with the Queen's friends, family and staff. Smith especially loved seeing Queen Elizabeth in relaxed familial environments, where her “Gaiety of spirit, dry wit, animated gestures and sparkling blue eyes” charmed all present.
Smith's hour-long discussion of the biography was only a taste of the book's content. Exhaustive and remarkable, Elizabeth the Queen is a masterwork by one of the foremost biographers of our day. Signed copies are available.
On Sunday, award-winning journalist Lynn Sherr interviewed author and actor Michael Tucker, whose novel After Annie (Overlook Press) has been called “Darkly comic” by Booklist. The discussion ranged across Tucker's writing, cooking, acting and love of Italy.
Tucker, best known for his role on LA Law, was inspired to write his first novel while his wife, the actress Jill Eikenberry, was dealing with a recurrence of breast cancer. “I had gotten used to the word 'cancer,'” explained Tucker to Sherr, describing a scene that kept looping through his mind: leaving Eikenberry's hospital room to go to a bar, but never arriving at the bar, instead just wandering the streets around New York City's Mt. Sinai Hospital. Removing himself further from his own situation, Tucker created the novel's character Herbie – perhaps inspired by Tucker's good friend actor Sam Levine – to deal with losing a wife to cancer.
By having Herbie deal with his wife Annie's death, Tucker was able to come to terms with Eikenberry's illness. However, Tucker said, “None of the characters or plot are autobiographical.”
In response, Eikenberry told the audience: “I'm going to show up at every book signing to show that I'm still alive!”