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The Cloud Sketcher


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About the Author

Richard Rayner was born in Bradford and now lives in Los Angeles. His previous books include the memoir The Blue Suit, and the novel L.A. without a Map - made into a movie starring David Tennant, Vinessa Shaw, Julie Delpy and Vincent Gallo in 1998 - and the literary mystery Murder Book. In addition, he writes for the New York Times, Granta, Harper's Bazaar and other publications.


Taking the iconic images of the 1920s and 1930sDgangsters, Prohibition, the DepressionDand further enlivening the text with architects, rebels, and a beautiful woman, Rayner has written a sort of Fountainhead for Everyman. It's a glorious adventure story about a young Finn whose early contact with an elevator convinces him to construct buildings so high that they tickle the clouds. Surviving Finland's early brush with the Bolsheviks, he begins his architectural career, but soon the re-emergence of his first sweetheart drives him to New York City, where he meets other architects, gangsters, capitalists, and her. Anyone who enjoys the historical re-creations of writers such as E.L. Doctorow will swoon over the love story, sway to the girders' dance, and sob over the cruel fate of these passionate people. Rayner, whose earlier Murder Book and The Blue Suit received critical attention, has done a lot of research and evokes with lavish grace the era and its events. A sure bet for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/00.]DBarbara Conaty, Library of Congress Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

`No one who opens The Cloud Sketcher will find it easy to stop reading before the last vertiginous page...Passionate and well-researched... remarkable [for] its visceral feeling for architecture... Rayner's eye is excellent.' Chicago Tribune

`Irresistible. It delivers surprise after surprise, all the way up to the last page...a complex and absorbing story.' Time Out New York

`Breathtaking...a passionate book that threads architecture, war and history through the story of two lovers.' USA Today

Taking early skyscrapers' unlikely assault on the heavens as its central metaphor, this transatlantic Great Expectations of the jazz-age '20s spins a captivating, if somewhat improbable, tale of a disfigured Finnish boy's life quest for fame as an architect and his elusive true love. In 1901, three events shape 11-year-old Esko's future. He is burned and blinded in one eye in a fire. News reaches Esko's remote Finnish village of the country's first elevatorÄan invention that immediately captures the boy's imagination. Then months later at the village fair, he meets and falls in love with a beautiful Russian girl, Katerina Malysheva, the unattainable daughter of the czar-appointed provincial governor. The years find Esko pursuing his dream as a draftsman in Helsinki, and Katerina engaged to Esko's best friend and colleague, Klaus. Surviving the Bolshevik revolution and Finland's own bloody civil war, Esko emigrates in 1922 to New York, where he works as a riveter on skyscrapers and saves the life of Paul Mantilini, who later becomes a powerful bootlegger. Esko gains an entr‚e into New York's architectural world through a newspaper design contest and learns that Katerina is gaining fame in that city as a photographer. When he finally finds Katerina again, Esko has achieved a measure of professional success, but she is engaged to Manhattan blueblood Andrew MacCormick, who offers to finance the building of Esko's skyscraper. After he is arrested for MacCormick's murder, Esko seeks help from his gangster friend. Ultimately, Esko must put a price on his dreams, personal loyalties, honor and life. While the broad strokes of the story have often been seen before, Rayner (whose memoir, The Blue Suit, was widely praised) vividly captures details of Finnish culture, history and landscape and the developing architectural aesthetic of the age. This is an old-fashioned novel in the best sense: full of incident and passion, presenting a slice of history and relating a gripping story. (Feb. 11) Forecast: The generally unfamiliar territory of this novel should be an enticement to readers searching for a new fictional landscape. In addition, Rayner may flash on readers' radar screens as the author of Los Angeles Without a Map, which was made into a movie with Johnny Depp, and Murder Book, soon to be filmed by John Malkovich. Its confidence in this book's breakthrough potentialÄbacked by a 6-city author tourÄhas inspired HarperCollins to sign Rayner to write a sequel. Foreign rights have been sold in France, Germany and Finland. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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