Hitchcock, Jane Stanton 1946-
HITCHCOCK, Jane Stanton 1946-
PERSONAL: Born November 24, 1946, in New York, NY; daughter of Robert Tinkham Crowley and Joan (Stanton) Alexander; married William Mellon Hitchcock, October 10, 1975 (divorced, January, 1991); married Jim Hoagland (a journalist) July 14, 1995; stepchildren: Laura, Lee, Lily.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Talk Miramax Books, 77 West 66th St., New York, NY 10023.
CAREER: Author, playwright.
MEMBER: PEN, Dramatists' Guild, Writers' Guild.
AWARDS, HONORS: Edgar Award and Hammett Prize nominations, both for Trick of the Eye..
Trick of the Eye (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 1992.
The Witches' Hammer (novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 1994.
Social Crimes (novel), Talk Miramax Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Our Time (screenplay), 1974.
First Love (screenplay), 1976.
Grace (produced Off-Broadway), Samuel French (New York, NY), 1982.
Bhutan; or, Black Tie in the Himalayas, produced Off-Broadway, 1983.
The Custom of the Country (produced Off-Broadway, 1986), Applause (New York, NY), 1997.
Vanilla, produced Off-Broadway, 1990.
Producer of Stalking Immortality (documentary film), 1978.
SIDELIGHTS: Jane Stanton Hitchcock enjoyed several decades as a successful playwright before publishing her first novel, Trick of the Eye. Frances Stead Sellers, writing in Washington Post Book World, called it an "accomplished first novel, which derives elements both of method and subject matter from its author's considerable experience as a dramatist."
The narrator is Faith Cromwell, a trompe l'oeil artist who specializes in painting with faux finishes, and who at age thirty-nine leads a solitary life. As Michiko Kakutani noted in the New York Times, "none of the characters in this novel are capable of feeling. None of them have the ability to sustain an emotional relationship. Each of them has found unique ways of sublimating his or her passions." Faith lives alone with her cat. Her best friend, Harry Pitt, is an older art collector who, like Faith, has given up on finding "the one," and who has his dog.
Faith is hired by dowager Frances Griffin to paint the ballroom of her mansion, which was originally designed solely for the coming-out party of her murdered daughter, Cassandra. People writer Jean Reynolds said, "Richly nuanced, Trick is piercing in its depictions of the rich—it's obvious Hitchcock, whose friends include Jacqueline Onassis and her circle, knows whereof she writes." Faith accepts the job, which requires that she drop everything and spend six months on Long Island. She becomes increasingly uncomfortable as it becomes apparent that she and Cassandra have much in common and when she realizes that Frances is having her followed. Faith suspects that she is a character in some sort of play and feels that she must learn the identity of the killer. She and Harry locate Cassandra's former husband, ski instructor Roberto Madi, whom Faith suspects, but who offers her a warning of his own.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Trick of the Eye "a thoroughly satisfying thriller—simultaneously luscious and ladylike. . . . A truly wonderful twist near the end transforms this creation from lively entertainment to gasp-provoking, attention-grabbing imbroglio."
Library Journal reviewer Dean James felt that Hitchcock's The Witches' Hammer may well be "the epitome of the feminist thriller," a novel that "explores the misogyny of Western culture and particularly the Catholic Church." When her marriage to reporter-husband Stephen fails, Beatrice O'Connell moves back home with her book-collector father. The gentle doctor receives a fifteenth-century grimoire, or book of black magic, as a gift; as it happens, the volume was formerly owned by a Nazi spy. The book, which contains brutal illustrations, such as a female demon devouring a male, resurrects Beatrice's sexuality and her inner "wolf", and she seeks and finds sexual pleasure in Spanish Harlem with Luis Diaz. She is also adored by former priest and now occult book dealer Simon Lovelock.
When Beatrice comes home to find her father murdered and the book missing, she sets out to find his killer and the book. The trip takes her to the Vatican and to Switzerland. She discovers a group of right-wing religious fanatics, the Defensores Fidei, whose bible is the Malleus Maleficarum, which translated means The Witches' Hammer. This is a fifteenth-century volume that focuses on the elimination of witches, which essentially means the elimination of all independent women, in the name of male-dominated Christianity. In opposing such evil, Beatrice draws on her wolf, or dark side.
"Over the top, to say the least," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. "Yet Hitchcock's clear, straightforward prose and civilized, articulate protagonists manage to keep the pages turning." In Books, a reviewer commented that "Once you start reading, you'll be possessed to rapidly turn each page."
A Kirkus Reviews writer described Social Crimes as a tale "about an obsessed Manhattan woman who grows as evil as her nemesis." Jo Slater, a former waitress, is now enjoying her marriage to her millionaire husband Lucius, until she discovers that he is having an affair with young Monique de Passy. Jo interrupts them in the cabana, whereupon Lucius has a heart attack and dies. Jo soon learns that he has left everything to Monique, including the Fifth Avenue condo and the Southampton estate, but when she meets an escort who closely resembles Monique, she hatches a plan to reclaim her late husband's fortune. Social Crimes was called "a funny, lightweight tale" and the "quintessential beach book" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Library Journal reviewer Wilda Williams called it a
"deliciously dark and witty novel about social climbing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Back Stage, November 27, 1981, Maureen Clarke, review of Grace, p. 68; February 12, 1982, Judy Thrall, "Women Playwright Upsurge: Gain Stronghold on Stage," p. 39.
Booklist, August, 1992, Donna Seaman, review of Trick of the Eye, p. 1994; June 1, 2002, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Social Crimes, p. 1683
Books, January, 1995, review of The Witches' Hammer, p. 15.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1992, review of Trick of theEye, p. 739; August 1, 1994, review of The Witches' Hammer, p. 1011; April 15, 2002, review of Social Crimes, p. 516.
Library Journal, July, 1992, Sheila Riley, review of Trick of the Eye, p. 124; July, 1993, review of Trick of the Eye, p. 160; August, 1994, Dean James, review of The Witches' Hammer, p. 129; May 15, 2002, Wilda Williams, review of Social Crimes, p. 125.
New Yorker, November 2, 1981, Edith Oliver, review of Grace, p. 66; October 7, 1985, Edith Oliver, review of The Custom of the Country, p. 111.
New York Times, January 2, 1981, John J. O'Connor, review of Stalking Immortality, p. C23; December 1, 1983, Herbert Mitgang, review of Bhutan, p. C19; September 23, 1985, Frank Rich, review of The Custom of the Country, p. 20; September 29, 1985, Mel Gussow, review of The Custom of the Country, p. H3; September 11, 1992, Michiko Kakutani, review of Trick of the Eye, p. B4; June 6, 2002, William Norwich, "In the land of toile, murder most foul," p. D1.
New York Times Book Review, October 18, 1992, Bruce Allen, review of Trick of the Eye, p. 34; December 25, 1994, Amy Boaz, review of The Witches' Hammer, p. 14; July 28, 2002, Sarah Haight, review of Social Crimes, p. 17.
People, October 26, 1992, Jean Reynolds, review of Trick of the Eye, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, July 13, 1992, review of Trick of the Eye, p. 49; April 15, 2002, review of Social Crimes, p. 39.
Times Educational Supplement, May 25, 1990, John James, review of Vanilla, p. B19.
Times Literary Supplement, March 5, 1993, review of Trick of the Eye, p. 22; February 10, 1995, Clair Messud, review of The Witches' Hammer, p. 21.
Variety, October 28, 1981, review of Grace, p. 83.
Washington Post Book World, September 6, 1992, Frances Stead Sellers, review of Trick of the Eye, p. 4.*