Chasing Cezanne

( 7 )


Hanky-panky on the international art scene is the source of the hilarity and fizz in Peter Mayle's new novel. He flies us back to the south of France (a region some readers of his irresistible best-sellers believe him to have invented), on a wild chase through galleries, homes of prominent collectors, and wickedly delectable restaurants. There are stopovers in the Bahamas and England, and in New York, where that glossiest of magazines, Decorating Quarterly, reflects the cutting-edge trendiness of its editor, ...

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Chasing Cezanne: A Novel

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Hanky-panky on the international art scene is the source of the hilarity and fizz in Peter Mayle's new novel. He flies us back to the south of France (a region some readers of his irresistible best-sellers believe him to have invented), on a wild chase through galleries, homes of prominent collectors, and wickedly delectable restaurants. There are stopovers in the Bahamas and England, and in New York, where that glossiest of magazines, Decorating Quarterly, reflects the cutting-edge trendiness of its editor, Camilla Jameson Porter. (Camilla has recently broken new ground in the world of power lunches by booking two tables on the same day, and shuttling between them, at the city's trendiest restaurant.)

It is Camilla who has sent our hero, Andre Kelly, to Cap Ferrat to take glamorous photo-graphs of the houses and treasures of the rich, famous, and fatuous. He happens to have his camera at the ready when he spots a Cézanne being loaded onto a plumber's truck near the home of an absent collector. Odd, thinks Andre. And in no time he's on the trail of a state-of-the-art art scam, chasing Cézanne.

It's a joy to follow him and the crowds intent on speeding or foiling his quest—including a beautiful agent; a super-savvy art dealer attracted to the finer things in life, especially if they promise the payoff of a lifetime; an awesome Dutch forger; some outstandingly greedy New York sophisticates; and, invisible in the background, the parade of remarkable chefs whose mouthwatering culinary masterpieces periodically soothe the hero and tantalize the reader of Chasing Cézanne.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

Notably missing from this latest diet-wrecking literary canap is Mayle's ("Anything Considered") fixation on the truffle. In another conspicuous break with form, Mayle opens the action in New York rather than his beloved Provence. But readers hungry for French atmosphere should not lose heart. By the end of the first chapter, Paris-born, New York-based photographer Andr Kelly is winging his way to the Riviera on assignment for Camilla Jameson Porter, the sexy and ruthless editor of Decorating Quarterly magazine. In France, the young hero witnesses the trusted majordomo of a wealthy Frenchman loading what appears to be a priceless Czanne into a tradesman's van. After a suspicious meeting with the painting's owner, Andr consults Cyrus Pine, an aging expert in rare art (and the pleasures of board and bedroom) who also smells a rat. The two are joined by Lucy, Andr's sensual, Barbados-born agent, and the sybaritic crusaders dash from the Bahamas back to France in search of an enigmatic forger who may be able to unravel the mystery. Up against a sinister plot to flood the world with bogus masterpieces, the trio gourmandize their way across the South of France, staying just one jump ahead of an assassin. Blending rare art, treachery and steamy romance with ambiance and haute cuisine, Mayle serves up even warmed-over plot and character as blithely as if they were chefs d'oeuvre. (June)

Library Journal
Photographer Andr Kelly is on assignment in the South of France when he decides to spend his free day in Cap Ferrat visiting some former clients, the Denoyers. As he arrives, he witnesses Claude, the Denoyers' hired man, loading a precious Czanne into the back of a beat-up plumber's van. Deciding that something is amiss, Andr photographs the event and thus becomes involved in a wild escapade to track down the painting. When he explains the situation to Lucy, his agent and soon-to-be love interest, they decide that they need some expert help and call in Cyrus, a wealthy art dealer, who smells a scam. Add in a scoundrelly art dealer and his daffy lover, an art forger, and a former French Legionnaire, and the trail to the lost Czanne becomes a comedy of errors. Along the way, there are vibrant descriptions of Paris, Provence, Cap Ferrat, and of course mouth-watering French meals and wine. Part travelog and part art mystery caper, this new tale from Mayle, the author who put Provence on the map, is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the international art world. Recommended for all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/97.]Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., Ohio
Kirkus Reviews

The theft and black-market sale of million-dollar Impressionist artworks fails to animate this slapdash and unrewarding fourth novel from Provence-meister Mayle ("Anything Considered," 1996, etc.)

The first ten pages arouse expectations of a delightful roman à clef with its portrait of a celebrity decorating editor who works for a Condé Nastish empire. Camilla is so sharply etched (imagine a combination of Anna Wintour and Tina Brown) that it's a letdown to realize that the main character is actually the photographer André Kelly, Camilla's favorite until he happens to take an incriminating snap of a Cézanne being mysteriously spirited out of a shuttered Cote d`Azur mansion. All too soon we know the score: After Camilla sets up status-hungry owners of masterpieces for photo shoots, her oily companion, the financier Rudolph Holtz, arranges to have the best painting from each collection stolen and replaced with a forgery; Holtz then sells the original to a reclusive Japanese or Middle Eastern collector. Echoing the words of amateur detectives from Nancy Drew to Tom Swift ("I know it's none of my business, but I can't seem to let it alone"), the not- too-smart André joins forces with Lulu, his café au lait photo rep and love interest, and Cyrus, a tweedy, refined, food-obsessed art dealer. The dilatory sleuths waddle from restaurant to restaurant spouting culinary digressions to an ever-fascinated Lulu. (Mayle also spends lots of time describing airports and airline meals in the tone of one who's just discovered something of grave importance.) As for plot, the introduction of a hired assassin sets the table for a big explosion and a final scramble around Cap Ferrat, with everything conducted at a geriatric pace—perhaps as befits those who've dined and drunk too well and too often.

It might make an entertaining cartoon (The Pink Panther in Provence?), but there's not much of Mayle's trademark wit, energy, or attention to detail in evidence here.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679781202
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 377,195
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Mayle

Peter Mayle is the author of A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence, as well as the novels Hotel Pastis, A Dog's Life, and Anything Considered. His books have been translated into twenty-two languages. He divides his time between the south of France and Long Island.

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Interviews & Essays

On Friday, August 8th, welcomed Peter Mayle to discuss CHASING CEZANNE.

Moderator: Welcome to the Live Events Auditorium! Peter Mayle is here to respond to your questions about his latest bestselling novel, CHASING CEZANNE. Welcome, Mr. Mayle, and thanks so much for joining us this Friday for our luncheon chat.

Peter Mayle: Good day to everyone! Have a lovely day and read something before you go to bed!

Steve from Chicago: The real world "art world" has some pretty interesting events as of late. Including theories on fake Picassos. Were you inspired by any real-world events in writing CHASING CEZANNE?

Peter Mayle: Well, yes. The thing that actually gave me the idea was an article in the Chicago Tribune -- a statistic I found very interesting. An estimate of the amount of stolen art adds up to $3 billion -- I began to wonder where it had all gone. When you have that kind of theft you usually have forgery as well, though no one usually admits it. So I put myself in those would you go about stealing a painting? And that was the starting point for the whole story. There's always some interesting scandal going on in the art world -- and for a writer that's always fertile ground.

Alicia from Englewood: What made you choose Cezanne?

Peter Mayle: Two things First, I like his work very much. He spent his career depicting scenes from my favorite part of the world: Provence. Second:He was born in Aix -- a place I very much enjoy going to to do research (which usually means I sit in a bar and wait for an idea to come to me).

Robert Greene from Cincinnati: Have you ever written anything set in England? How much effect do you think your environment has on your writing?

Peter Mayle: I've never written anything of any length set in England. I've never actually been pulled into writing about England -- because I think I prefer to be in other parts of the world. I have no ill will toward England, but I prefer to be in warmer places, and I have a great affection for the French. I find the French food delicious, the people wonderful -- and that's what I want to write about. I don't think I would write "A Year in Manchester." Yes, the climate has a tremendous effect on your writing.

Mike from Boston: Cezanne's show in Philadelphia last summer was a blockbuster. Do you think art is becoming more mainstream? Are more people learning to appreciate it?

Peter Mayle: I think it's certainly becoming more mainstream, because it's getting more publicity. Whether this increases the appreciation of art I'm not sure. It surely does increase the exposure, which may encourage some to develop interest. Art in the news is a result of dollar value -- whether the ends justify the means is not something I can decide.

Barbara Ann Sager from Big Bear Lake, CA: Oh, Peter! Thank you for writing about Provence! The only place better than Big Bear Lake is Provence, I'm sure. Is there another book forthcoming?!

Peter Mayle: Barbara, there is...I'm doing research right now. I'm writing a nonfiction book about Provence, about the places I've not had a chance to explore.

Funman from Hoboken: What other artists, besides Cezanne, obviously, do you enjoy?

Peter Mayle: The Impressionists, generally. I love that effect, and one day I might be able to afford one of those examples...Degas. But I also like Picasso in the early ages. Turner I think is wonderful. There are several, but on the whole I would like the Impressionists lining my walls.

John N. from Chicago, IL: Where are you living at this time?

Peter Mayle: I am living in Long Island, just outside Amagansett. We're overlooking the water -- which we can't do in Provence. These long beaches you can't find outside America. We'll be here until December, when we'll return to France.

Ryan Foggerty from Manhattan: Do you think you will ever write any more children's books?

Peter Mayle: It's always a possibility. It's harder, I've always thought, to write for children than for adults. They have much shorter attention spans, and fewer syllables. My first book was a children's book: WHERE DID I COME FROM? Perhaps if I find the right child, or the right inspiration, then I might write one again. It's a much tougher field.

Patterson from Newark: Did you speak French before you traveled to and settled in Provence? Or did you acquire the language along the way?

Peter Mayle: I spoke a bit...schoolboy French. It was not at all adequate. So when we decided to move, we enrolled in classes and played all the tapes -- we thought we had a good program. But when we got there we had to start all over again. We wandered around for the first few months with dictionaries in our hands. When we began to build our house, the stone masons and workmen were patient, and we had to learn to understand their Provence French, which required an adjustment of the ear, but they were very patient. After a year and a half, we picked it up from our daily life.

Alexa from the office: Did you ever study art history/fine arts, or did you absorb a lot of your knowledge of the field and its greats while living in the south of France?

Peter Mayle: I never had any official formal studies in art -- I just like beautiful paintings. Most of the information I used in the book I read in other books, or picked up from looking at art. I'd like to take some classes on the subject now.

Pico from New Haven: How has the French reception of your books differed from the American enthusiasm?

Peter Mayle: The French have been very kind about it. I'm published there later than here. The French publishers were not interested in the beginning, so nothing happened for three years after the first came out. But they have all been bestsellers there -- the French do have a sense of humor -- and they like the image I depicted of their people. The sales have been incredible, and I've been delighted by that -- it was really a complete surprise!

Larry W. from NYC: Who of your contemporaries do you read? Who do you consider the best?

Peter Mayle: I read practically everything. Biography, nonfiction. I loved John Berendt's book. In terms of fiction I like the American thriller writers, like James Lee Burke and Walter Mosely. In the last five years I've enjoyed Patrick O'Brian the most; his novels are of wonderfully drawn characters, he writes so well that I've read all 18 of his books. He stands out above all, and I recommend them to all.

Matt Stayner from Los Angeles: Do you still have a residence in the south of France? And how has the new socialist government affected the economy of France?

Peter Mayle: We sold our other house because it became difficult to get anything done with so many people coming up the drive -- we're looking for another place. As for the socialist government, I'll be eager to see what happens, I think everyone is very apprehensive right now. The fellow got elected without saying exactly what he'll do except for the pie in the sky stuff about the three million new jobs. The economy is good right now, so it may not get much better immediately. The French bureaucracy is huge, to think that it might get bigger is terrifying -- it will all have to be paid for. But, life in Provence is more driven by agriculture than by what the people in Paris hopes it will continue in that way.

James from Boston: Peter, first off let me say that I am so glad you left advertising to pursue writing! I have enjoyed your books immensely, especially your nonfiction. I just gave A YEAR IN PROVENCE to my father to teach him how to wind down for his retirement. Anyway, I am curious as to how you chose the Hamptons for a second home. Any similarities to Provence? Second, do you have any favorite restaurants in Paris? A good place to go for a low-key, well-priced, great dinner au Provencal

Peter Mayle: The Hamptons we chose for two reasons: One, the ocean was a complete change from what we are used to -- the ocean. Second, it is a great place for writers, there are so many here we can be anonymous. As for a place in Paris, try Chez Georges. It's a lovely traditional restaurant on rue du Mail, just off Place des Victoires. I love to go because nothing ever's just like coming home.

Dalia from Bangor: What is your most favorite Provencal dish?! I spent quite a few years there, and be it the air or the soil, I have never been able to emulate the taste or aroma of the fabulous food prepared down south!

Peter Mayle: My favorite dish would depend on the time of year. It is a very seasonal thing -- unlike in America, when they go out of season you can't get it. You have to eat what is growing in that particular time. In the summer you have a great variety of fruit and vegetables, and the heat makes you want to eat light. My wife makes a wonderful open-faced tart with tomatoes and a cheese called cantal -- I've never tasted anything better anywhere. In the winter you have truffles -- in season from the first frost to the last frost. Truffles with potatoes is one of the greatest gastronomical treats.

T. Kane from Madison Ave: Was there any one incident that finally prompted you to leave the corporate grind and your position at BBDO Advertising?

Peter Mayle: No one incident, just an accumulation of meetings -- I had had it with meetings! I only wanted to write, and I was in a situation where I was spending more time in meetings than in front of the typewriter. So though I enjoyed my time in advertising, I wanted to write -- so I took the plunge, and I turned to books, and I was very lucky!

Jacknann from Chicago: Have you written any books on food?

Peter Mayle: No. I don't consider myself to be a food writer. Though I write about meals, and what it's like to eat at a restaurant. I don't know what goes into the food I eat, but I know how to describe what I like to eat, what tastes good, the aromas.

Christophe from Miami: Are you treated as a celebrity in Provence? How do the French react to you? Are they scornful at all?

Peter Mayle: I wouldn't say I'm treated as a celebrity, though I'm no longer anonymous. This is a difficult thing for a writer because we need to sit in a corner and observe, which you can't do when people are pointing at you. The French are not scornful, but there are some there who do not like the books, but there are some everywhere -- and they are entitled to their opinion, and I don't worry about it too much.

Dean from Chicago: Do you use a PC to write or paper and pen? Thanks.

Peter Mayle: I use a little PowerBook, Macintosh -- and that's what I use to get the first draft done. I print out what I do everyday and hack it out on the paper. This is a wonderful way of storing up your writing.

Bill from CT: If you sold your house because your book brought on such a flood of tourism to the area, aren't you then directly responsible for having spoiled the paradise you admired? And haven't you capitalized on that exploitation? What good did you think you would bring to the area in the first place by writing all about it?

Peter Mayle: I didn't think I would bring any good to the area -- it was a book I wanted to write. It did bring a lot of good to the area. I get this question a lot. The French attitude toward my book is contained in the fact that I was given a gold medal by the Minister of Tourism -- that's been the official response. The area is anxious to promote tourism. It's always been agricultural, and it is getting more and more difficult for farmers to support themselves in this way. If you were to go to Provence now, you would be pleasantly surprised that it remains unspoiled. It is infinitely less crowded than say Long Island. Whether or not tourism is a good thing is a long and difficult argument. We are all tourists, so if this is a bad thing -- maybe we should all stay at home.

Phil Hass from Hinsdale, IL: Will you ever write about a different region -- perhaps somewhere in Italy -- or have you found your niche, geographically and literarily?

Peter Mayle: I can't imagine writing about anywhere else, it's a place I really love. It has an infinite supply of material both in the character of the landscape and in the character of the people. I'm sure there are places equally as beautiful, Italy included, but I'm too old to learn another language.

Robert from Grano: I am in awe of your writing ability and talent. What is your background in the area of writing? What advice would you give to an aspiring author? From where do you derive your inspiration? How do you "start" writing?

Peter Mayle: My background was advertising. I was a copywriter, which taught me to write short sentences, to the point. So that was a good experience, but it was all my formal training. As far as any help I can give...write every day. One day you might come across an idea that you can sell. But in any case, just write. Start off by trying to sell short pieces before tackling a novel. It's not an easy occupation, so start slowly!

Moderator: Mr. Mayle, many members of our audience are asking what you'll be writing next. Would you mind reiterating what you have planned?

Peter Mayle: I'm writing another nonfiction book about Provence, about areas and people and events that I've not had a chance to write about yet. I've been doing the research, and shall fit a little writing in between lunch and dinner!

Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Mayle, for joining us this afternoon. It has been a pleasure to have you with us. Best of luck on your new work, and we hope you will join us again once it has hit the shelves!

Peter Mayle: It's been nice. This is a novel experience for me, and when the next book is out I'll be back. Thank you for having me!

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2007

    A reviewer

    I love all of Mayle's fiction - this one is the best!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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