Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Forrest Evers does MONZA. The Overture

the view from Castello di Pianoro
(The plot of  Monza, my third book is lifted from Robert Browning's long poem, The Ring and the Book.

        Henry James complained that Browning's poem "ruined the best novel never written."  No doubt Monza will finish off the job.  But then Monza is not really a novel either.  It's much closer to one of those grand old Italian thrillers with music; it's really  an opera. Author's note from Monza)

                Pianoro is a village of small vineyards and fruit farms patching the hillsides and valleys behind Bologna.  At the end of summer the air is clear and fragrant with peaches and apples and fat purple grapes in the vineyards.  Piano like soft.  Oro like gold.  

            The heat that had seemed so strong in London paled in the blaze of light at Bologna’s Aeroporto di Borgo Panigale.  As we stepped down the jet's ramp in the dazzling light, a silver Lancia waited ten yards away.  A syrup of heat waves rising off the tarmac made the car look transparent and floating. The tar was soft and sticky and warmed my feet through my soft Italian loafers.  The driver, a man with a beautifully tailored white suit and a perfect silver haircut knew the way and the air conditioning worked.  We settled back in the soft gray leather seats.   

                We began to climb out of the suburbs of Bologna and up into the hills, the early evening light warming the sides of the old burnt yellow and umber houses, turning them gold.  Ken, the long legs of his six foot seven frame sprawled like a go-kart driver had been silent since the airport.  No doubt rehearsing just how he should phrase it.  “I wish,” he said, turning to me, “you’d try harder.”

               It was a conversation we’d had before.  “He is not an easy man to like,” I said.

              “No,” Ken said, looking out at the scenery again, “he is not an easy man to like.  But Guido does bring quite a bit to the team.”

                Indeed he did.  To Team Arundel, Guido di Santo brought Italian tire, wine, computer and fashion sponsors with their serious budgets and marketing plans.  He bought half a million new fans, members of the Guido di Santo Fan Club formed by his manager and a PR firm when Guido won the Formula 3000 championship the year before.  The press said he brought “a much needed breath of fresh air,” to the team.  He gave us “a new lease on life”; he brought “panache” “daring” and “the kind of commitment we haven’t seen since the young Ayrton Senna showed up on Toleman’s doorstep.”  None of the above endeared him to me.

            But I would try.  For Ken and for the team.  Besides this was Guido’s day.  And as luck would have it , what was going to be a pleasant reception was now going to be a full-bore celebration of Guido’s victory at Spa.  Champagne followed by dinner.  At Guido’s fifteenth-century Castello di Pianoro.  For Guido’s sponsors it would be a chance for their management and sales force and their most important customers to meet the Formula One team that swallowed so much of their cash and gave them so much time and space in the media around the world.  To shake hands with Guido and, uh, whatsisname, the other driver.

            Up into the hills in the summer evening. Where the air was cooler and the colors even more golden.  We rounded a corner, turned left, and drove through the immense and rusting wrought iron gates, the fat tires of the Lancia crunching freshly spread stone in the driveway, the car’s shadow flicking in and out of the tall cedars that lined both sides of the drive.  We pulled up by the front door and got out in the warm evening air, the castello rising behind a flotilla of the big corporate Alfas, and Lancias, with a scattering of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Jaguars for the high rollers.  The yellow stone castle had the slightly run-down, been-in-the-family-forever look so loved by the Italians and the British.  And I had to admit, it was beautiful.
the north side of the castle
  The castle stood out on a promontory, commanding the valley.  In the honeyed light, its tower and Gothic windows were half hiding behind thick dark cedars. 
 Surrounded by orchards and vineyards wit the valley below and the mountains behind, the castello looked like the kind of family ediface that is either handed to you in a will along with the responsibility of being the duke, or you sacrifice a lifetime building an empire in frozen foods or petroleum to achieve.  At twenty-eight, Guido appeared to be doing well.  Even for a Formula One driver.

Castello di Pianoro from the south
            He was standing with his back to us, talking to a group of me dressed in the baby pastels of designer resort wear.  Without looking up, Guido waved us over. 

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