“The novelist is one on whom nothing is lost.”
Crescendo began its life as a tale told to me one evening by a man in his sixties or seventies, a friend of a friend. Urbane, sophisticated, well-traveled, he had the distinguished last name of a wealthy California family. His childhood was luxurious, but as a young man he had had to make his own way in the world after being disinherited. His grandfather had founded the family fortune in shipping, but after he was widowed, he remarried a scheming, shrewd grasping woman very much younger than he, and certain to outlive him. The second Mrs. ______ alienated the Founder from his children, and the rest of the family, and made sure they were disinherited. The person telling me the story remembered tremendous family rows with people being thrown out on the street.
Clearly, all this was promising grist for a complex family tale.
Crescendo originally had a different title tied to a place. But when time came to publish, the musical resonance fit perfectly. This was the first novel where I used music as a writing tool to help me create the central character, a classically trained pianist. As I worked on the book I played Beethoven’s Eleventh Piano Sonata, one of his lesser known piano works, over and over and over. Ambitiously, I set out to learn to play the Eleventh Sonata on the piano. This took longer than it took to write the novel.
Crescendo, like Beggars and Choosers, These Latter Days, Caveat and other fictions of mine, explores the power and peril of the past. My characters are always ambivalent about the past, haunted, many of them, often lonely, the more isolated since they live in California which recognizes few pasts and reveres none.