Friday, September 17, 2010

Search for Judge Crater extends to NYU's Ireland House

New York -- About 90 people were present for a reading of the latest mystery by novelist Peter Quinn (left) last night, when someone in the audience got a call. The title of Quinn’s novel, his third, and fourth published book, is “The Man Who Never Returned,” and is centered on a renewed search for a certain judge who went missing in 1930. The persistent rings of the mobile phone went unanswered. Finally, Quinn quipped, “That’s Judge Crater. He said he’d be here tonight.” The inference, of course, was that the judge was sending his regrets. It’s too bad, as the judge would have enjoyed the banter.

Or perhaps Quinn was somehow suggesting Judge Joseph Force Crater, who’d be 121 these days, was still hanging around. Quinn slyly noted that Crater once lived on nearby 11th Street, that in fact Quinn visited the building. Bottom line: The author noted several times that we’d have to read the book to learn what he confidently believes was the fate of the judge. We did enjoy the reproduction of the poster (below, right) of Crater issued by the NYPD four months after Crater went missing, after a dinner in Manhattan with friends. Quinn’s publisher, Overlook Press, printed the poster on one side of a large postcard and promoted Quinn’s new book, and his oeuvre with Overlook Press, on the other.

Quinn, never at a loss for words, talked colorfully and candidly about his work, his writing process, and the judge’s disappearance, more than he actually read. Quinn suggested, perhaps seriously, that readings such as his were archaic. They certainly do provide a vehicle for engaging with an auteur and his work, and the evening provided that in spades.

The Man Who Never Returned” took shape, Quinn said, during a conversation he had a few years back with Paul Browne, deputy commissioner of public information for the NYPD and a fellow Manhattan College alum. Quinn added later that his writing was driven by character, not plot, and his characters emerge from conversations he has and those he readily imagines. This process emerges for him, in part, because, he said, “you are always writing about yourself,” even in historical novels, which, he suggested, draw on the author’s experience and personal history. He is famously in love with the historical research his books require, but said to be averse to the writing part. Novel writing is not only autobiographical, he wryly noted, “but psychotic.”

Ireland House Director Joe Lee spoke after Quinn, welcoming the guests, thanking Quinn for his work on behalf of Ireland House, and acknowledging Quinn as a historian of the first rank, a title Quinn is loathe to assume. Quinn serves as a vice president of Ireland House’s advisory board.

Those in attendance included Loretta Brennan Glucksman, who, along with her late husband, Lew, were the chief benefactors of Ireland House. She serves today as co-chair of Ireland House’s advisory board. Also present were Irish Echo CEO and Publisher Martin O Muilleoir; Black 47 founder and front man Larry Kirwan and his wife, June Anderson; Michael Burke, spearheading an effort at Green-Wood Cemetery to honor Irish revolutionary and U.S. Brigadier Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher with a monument at his wife’s grave; Overlook Press founder and owner Paul Mayer; John Casey, a longstanding board member of The W. B. Yeats Society of New York; Bill Cobert, a former executive director of The American Irish Historical Society; and Mayo-born Maura Mulligan, a teacher for many years at Manhattan’s Irish Arts Center and instructor today at her own school of Irish dancing and language. By the way, the judge never did show up. -- PJS, Ger

No comments: