Friday, May 6, 2011

Win a Hardcover Mystery from Edgar winner

Today I welcome Stefanie Pintoff, author of historical mysteries. Last week I reviewed her debut mystery, which won a coveted Edgar award for Best First Novel. Today, she’s giving away signed copies of her latest mystery, Secret of the White Rose, to TWO lucky people who leave a comment.


I’ve asked her to give a brief summary about the statuary that appears on the cover of one of her books. Even if you live far from New York, as I do, I found the story fascinating. Here it is, in Stefanie’s own words.


Throughout my historical mystery series, which began with In the Shadow of Gotham, I regularly include several major New York City landmarks. While my early 1900s setting can sometimes feel far removed from 2011, these places can be strikingly familiar to readers – and help develop a sense of being connected with the past. But it’s important to realize that New Yorkers of a hundred years ago sometimes viewed these landmarks very differently than we do today.

One such landmark is the Angel of the Waters, who appears both on the cover of my first book and as well as in its chapters. In cover artist David Rotstein’s creation, she is a dark figure bathed in light, yet clothed in ice; reaching out, yet remaining aloof as cold snow swirls around her. The UK edition kept her as their cover figure, but accentuated her darkness as well as the heavy snow surrounding her.

In real life, she was one of the few sculptures commissioned specifically for Central Park. Her creator, the sculptor Emma Stebbins, was the first woman to be charged with creating a major work of art in New York City. Stebbins wanted to celebrate not only Central Park, but also the new Croton Aqueduct that fed the fountain and gave New York City its first dependable source of clean drinking water. So Stebbins’s Angel, who presides over Bethesda Terrace, carries a lily (the symbol of purity) in one hand and reaches out with the other to bless the water of the lake (which represents all New York’s fresh water supply). Stebbins may have been inspired, too, by a biblical passage about the healing powers of the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. As Sara Cedar Miller has suggested in Central Park, An American Masterpiece, this aspect of the Angel perhaps came from the sculptor’s personal life. Stebbins’ companion, the famous actress Charlotte Cushman, battled breast cancer until her death – and sometimes sought water treatments during her illness.

Yet the Angel of the Waters was reviled when she was first unveiled in Central Park on June 1, 1873. The New York Times stated: “All had expected something great, something of angelic power and beauty.” Instead, the crowd’s disappointment was palpable. According to the Times, the angel looked like nothing more than a “servant girl” from the rear, and a “girl jumping over stepping stones” from the front. Her head was judged to appear male, but the rest of her body was a mix of male and female parts. And her wings were “unconnected” to her body, put on like a “ballet costume.” In short, “the revulsion of feeling was painful.”

That’s a 19th-century sentiment I don’t share. Her area of Central Park is one of my favorite landmarks in all of New York City. It’s why I set one of my key chapters in the book around her.

And I'm not alone. Today, she’s one of the most photographed fountains in the world – a celebrity who has appeared in key scenes in Ransom, Bullets over Broadway, Angels in America, Enchanted, and countless others. Each testament to the fact that even landmarks, apparently, can be late-bloomers – especially as generations pass and artistic values change.

For more on Stefanie Pintoff, visit http://www.stefaniepintoff.com/

13 comments:

Maeve said...

Although I've never had the opportunity to see the statue in person, I've always found it beautiful. Intriguing post! Thank you for sharing it with us.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I live across the Hudson and will definitely visit the fountain. NYC is one of the greatest cities in the world. It is always vibrant, teeming with life, activity, beautiful architecture, and landmarks. How wonderful to write historical mysteries with a N.Y. background! Thank you, Joyce, for this excellent blog.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Beautiful book cover. It adds to the mystery of the story line.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Maeve: I've not seen it either, but certainly will make a point to next time I get up that way. Thanks for dropping by.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Jacqueline: Gee, you're really close to the statuary. Lucky you. I love statuary. There's a Polasek Galleries here in Winter Park (near Orlando).It's a beautiful, quiet setting, almost like another world. I love stopping by when I'm over that way. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Loretta: Thanks for stopping by, and good luck. BTW, congrats on the new contract.

Val Weston said...

It is such a luxury to have the entire background of the cover, from the history to the artist's rendition. Stephanie touched on a subject that has always intrigued me...why the UK market is so different from ours that different covers and even different book titles are needed. Fascinating! Thanks for hosting Stephanie on your blog, Joyce.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Thanks for sharing the history about the statue. Fascinating! I haven't seen the statue in person, but the photos are beautiful. It makes for a striking book cover, too. :) Perhaps Emma Stebbins was a woman before her time,seeing what the future would appreciate as a classic beauty.

Deborah said...

It is interesting that a statue reviled originally can become one of the most photographed in the world over the years. Thank you for sharing that story. The cover art is beautifully done.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Val:Yes, it's fascinating to learn the background of the cover image. Adds a little extra Pop to the book. Glad you stopped by.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Karen Michelle: Thanks for stopping by my blog. Love your little dog, and you have an interesting website.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Deborah: Glad you stopped by. I thought the same thing, that she was an artist ahead of her time.

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for introducing me to this statue. I cannot believe I did not see it when I was in NY in Central Park years ago. Obviously, my loss. Great covers for your books.