We have heard this week about the anniversary of the beginning of a dictatorship. It's better to hear about one's ending. That ending--rather the ending of the dictator himself--is the background of A.E. Hotchner's novel Treasure, from 1970. Treasure is set in Italy twenty years after the war has ended. The protagonist it turns out is something of an autobiographical character. Treasure is a sort of hybrid--part caper novel, part murder mystery, part thriller, and part serious novel. It even approaches weird fiction or pulp fiction in its conclusion. The novel came at the end of a decade when men's magazines were king and near the end of what I have heard called "The Golden Age of Heterosexuality." It fits in with both.
A.E. Hotchner was born on June 28, 1920, in St. Louis, Missouri. He chronicled his youth in an autobiographical novel called King of the Hill (1973). That book was adapted to a very enjoyable movie by Steven Soderbergh in 1993. Mr. Hotchner is still with us and even has a book published this year. He has written plays, biographies, novels, and memoirs. Mr. Hotchner was also friends with Ernest Hemingway (the subject of Papa Hemingway, a book by Hotchner from 1966) and Paul Newman (the subject of Paul and Me: 53 Years of Adventures and Misadventures with My Pal Paul Newman, from 2010). Hotchner's friendship with Paul Newman brings up a very strange coincidence for my posting today. In my research, I came upon this image from 1970:
That's Paul Newman clowning around after having caught a marlin somewhere in the Caribbean. This image evokes nothing so much as that of Mussolini and his lover, Claretta Petacci, strung up by their heels in Milano at the end of war--the background of the book Treasure.
The cover of Treasure is classic 1970s design: a wraparound photo cover missing only the figure of a woman. The designer is uncredited. The photograph of Mr. Hotchner on the inside of the back cover is by Jack Mitchell.
Text copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley