Synopsis of The Outside Man
In Manhattan in 1975, thirty-three year old Henry Taver, who originally studied to be a concert pianist, is selling advertising space in Bartleston’s Marketing Monthly, run by his Uncle Jack. Jack hired his nephew at the insistence of his younger sister, Henry’s formidable mother. Henry seethes under his boss, Steve Kelly, who knows that his uncle couldn’t care less about his nephew’s fate at the company. Yet Henry is doing surprisingly well at Bartleston’s, having just sold Caroline Maule Advertising a huge ad schedule for its client Technical Week. Kelly can’t understand how Henry pulled it off, since by his lights Taver is only an ineffectual “pretty boy” to be be kept out of sight in the back office—not the “outside man” he should be, a front-line warrior. Kelly couldn’t guess that Henry has been bedding Caroline Maule virtually every night for the last six months, in the process falling into obsessive love with her. Yet Caroline’s sexual demands are becoming a strain on Henry…
The strain has caused Henry to begin having hallucinations about a traffic cop who says he wants to help him take charge of his life and his place in the world. The cop wants Henry to agree to a binding “deal” before helping him, but Henry doesn’t trust him. Instead he begins seeing a psychoanalyst to try to get to the bottom of his dreams—and his susceptibility to women. It gradually becomes clear that the cop is a stand-in for a member of a murderous family in a horror movie Henry saw. In the movie the cop is the innocent-seeming “outside man” who funnels victims back to the family’s house to be butchered and eaten. Meanwhile, Henry learns that the executives who manage Bartleston’s for Henry’s Uncle Jack are conspiring with shady financial interests to take over the company in a management buyout. Should Henry take action? What does he owe his family, anyway? Are they in fact the originals for the murderous family in his dreams ? Can he trust the cop of his dream world—and his psychoanalyst—to steer him straight? When Henry falls for Sandra, Technical Week’s Marketing Director, he finds himself caught between two women jealous of each other’s power, and his sanity is taxed to a point where the bizarre becomes normal and his place in the company takes a strange turn.
Synopsis of A Death in Florence
We follow retired Professor Anders Croft through the streets of Florence on the last day of the 74 year-old Dante scholar’s life. Weeks earlier, Croft’s stepdaughter Anna, had shown up at his Arizona casita, where he had retired to spend his last days sipping whiskey. She is there to demand an explanation for his behavior over the years, including his part in the death of her mother decades earlier. His refuge upended, he flees her to Florence, a city of many memories. The Hotel Lilia’s concierge, an old acquaintance, offers to accompany him through the city. The concierge promises to introduce Anders to an extraordinary woman. He remembers the old professor’s weakness for women, which hasn’t changed with time. But the concierge has an agenda, wronged as he was by Croft many years ago. As day fades into night, he gradually induces Croft to recall events he would prefer to forget, including the circumstances of the death of his wife, Kate, killed on the Autostrada del Sole with Anders at the wheel. The professor had been in the midst of a torrid affair with a young Italian girl named Diana when his Kate died in the terrible accident. It is to a Florentine Contessa that the concierge eventually introduces Anders, a woman with a long memory and a fierce agenda of her own. She has a staggering surprise for the professor, and it is at that point that the old scholar’s world begins to fall apart, the past becoming more real to him than the present ever could.
Synopsis of Desert Electra
As a little girl living for a time in Italy, Anna overhears during a fight between her parents that her father is not her real father. From that moment she vows to find her biological father. Years later in Ohio, she leaves her philandering husband and two small children (and her psychoanalytic practice). Armed with the name of the man she suspects may be her father, she tracks him to Northern New Mexico. There she rents a guesthouse north of Santa Fe only to find that her landlord is meth-addicted and obnoxiously bent on getting her into bed. Fending him off until she can move, she reconnoiters the Santa Fe gallery that exhibits the paintings of her father. She learns early on that David Kunstler was a Holocaust survivor, only later learning the appalling details of her father’s survival. At a poetry reading at the gallery Kunstler spots Anna and is struck by her resemblance to Kate, his long lost beloved, not realizing that he is looking at his own daughter. Concerned at the dark, forbidding quality of his art as well as her misgivings about the character of the owner of his gallery, Anna delays revealing who she is. After all, she has two children she will soon reclaim, and she must be careful about the character of a man they may soon embrace as their grandfather. Over weeks she finds ways—including in conversation when she agrees to pose for him as a model—to learn what sort of person David is and how he could have known her mother. Eventually Anna discovers the story of their frustrated love, and why they could not marry. She also discovers a secret her father’s gallery owner wanted kept quiet—and a surprising link to her landlord. She survives the ensuing violence, but will she survive the psychic scars, especially having met a promising young doctor who seems bent on pursuing her.