About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Final Dress by John Houseman

15. - 528.) Final Dress by John Houseman – After searching for approximately 15 years I found the third volume of Houseman’s autobiography in Russell’s Bookstore in Victoria on Easter Weekend. Having enjoyed Houseman’s careening journey through his first 50 years – an early career as an international grains salesman and then a leap into the theatre with Orson Welles after going bankrupt at the beginning of the Depression and then a successful movie maker – I had been anticipating the story of the next 20 years. I had expected a fair bit to be about how he became a very successful actor in his 70’s in the memorable role of Professor Kingsfield in the movie and then television series – The Paper Chase. Instead, the book details his life in the American theatre. No one in America from the 1930’s to the 1970’s was more involved in classical theatre. He was in charge of the American Stratford Festival for its 2nd to 4th seasons. He formed and led the Juilliard Acting School. (It was interesting to note that he was able to lead a degree granting institution without a degree I believe and with most of the instructors lacking formal university accreditation.) His greatest theatre fame is his fierce commitment to developing repertory theatre companies. For a man with such an impressive calm on the screen he was always turbulent inside and very insecure. It was a rare offer he turned down no matter how complicated his life became with theatre, movies, television, opera and administering a school. What was sad was the limited role family played in the frenetic pace of his life and how his compulsive impulsive decisions were so selfish. Several times he bought or sold a home without his wife’s involvement. He recognizes how detached he became from the lives of his sons. Having known everyone in the American theatre community Houseman does slow the narrative at times by recording every name and a note on them. Still he has a gift for narrative and convinces the reader there is no more exciting or better life than to be a part of the American theatre community. He is a strong illustration that grabbing life’s opportunities makes for a fascinating journey. Because director, Jim Bridges, thought he would be perfect for Kingsfield, and asked him to play the role Houseman achieved fame and an Oscar at 72. It is a special moment when an actor and a role perfectly mesh to create an unforgettable character. (Last Sunday Michael and I watched the Oscar winning performance of Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake in the movie Crazy Heart in the small Festival Theatre near our Vancouver hotel with about 10 other people.) No one has had a greater variety of experiences in the arts and written so well about their life than Houseman. I wish there had been a fourth volume. (Apr. 12/10)

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