Held Hostage By 'Hostage Taker'

"What are you guilty of?...I already know.

Your first instinct will be to call the police, don't: I don't 
...hurt those who do as I ask... I won't kill the undeserving. Obey my commands and I will protect what you hold precious."     

•THIS is partially the opening of thriller writer Stefanie Pintoff's new book Hostage Taker.  She has won the Edgar Award, the Washington Irving Book Award, nominations for the Anthony, Macavity and Agatha Awards. Her book, The Shadow of Gotham, was a big hit, but the Hostage Taker, coming out next week from Bantam, will keep you awake nights.  
     
This is a thriller of modern terrorism right at Fifth Avenue's great St. Patrick's Cathedral. Author Pintoff has studied modern day midtown Manhattan and the astounding St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50-51st Street -- the realities and myths of the place.  But you have never experienced the religious centerpiece held hostage as it is in this fiction.  In fact, the star of the novel is St. Patrick's at the time of the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, only a block away.  
   
Hostage takers, like blackmailers, are crazy and unpredictable. What makes the hostage taker of this book so threatening and super-crazy is that we don't know for quite a while if he is religiously motivated or not?

 The book boasts a dynamic heroine who is a specialist, a seasoned negotiator.  Eve Rossi, the stepdaughter of a CIA spook, was born into the business.  She has appealing flaws.  And the men she is directing, from other hostage negotiators, down to the street cops, alternately resent and respect her.

     But the Cathedral with its priceless bronze doors and hundreds of stained glass masterpiece windows and other sacred statuary is actually what the villain is concentrating on -- for his own mysterious uses.

   Al-Qaida, the Taliban or ISIS and all the independent misguided terrorists of the world can't bring New York to its knees like the villain in this book.  I don't want to tell more but you will never look at the beauties of the complicated structure that is St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, quite the same again.  It is both the heroine and the nemesis of this story. (The important figure of the Archbishop of St. Pat's doesn't figure in this story. He is abroad on church business.)
     
And I'd advise you to make a private reading list of the names of all the cops, FBI men, CIA spooks and criminal renegades that cram these pages.  I confess I had to go back again and again to figure out who was speaking, who they were and all their idiosyncrasies, from flirting with our heroine to attacking her. Fair warning -- there are good and bad priests in this one.  The plot reduces a great city to a total stand- still, with everything depending on Eve (Ms. Rossi) and the cowards and heroes she employs in solving an astonishing crime.

• THE new issue of Joan Jedell's Hampton Sheet magazine boasts cover girl Lizzy Caplan who plays Virginia Johnson in Showtime's Masters of Sex.

Lizzy says, "The sex scenes weren't the only thing I had to become accustomed to -- and did! I had to learn to sit up straight and say 'yes' instead of 'yeah.'"

The series has moved forward well into the 1960s when Masters and Johnson's first book, Human Sexual Response was published. So now Lizzy can relax her posture and diction. But there was quite a bit of criticism when Masters of Sex debuted, in the matter of anachronistic dialogue.

Fans of the show are almost as transfixed by her character's precise pronunciation and luscious mouth as they are by her familiar, beautiful breasts.

P.S. The great Allison Janney is back this season, along with Beau Bridges (so very good!) who plays her closeted hubby. Janney, who won an Emmy last year for her work on the Showtime series -- and won another for the sitcom, Mom -- is again nominated.

•I LIKE receiving a communication that reads "Chuck Anderson, who was the rope man at 21 for about 40 years lived in the Bronx and was proud of it." (I never heard the expression 'rope man' in all my time of going to 21 where the metal jockeys line the restaurant front.) I also enjoyed this observation from Mr. Anderson: "There are only three places in the world called 'the' -- The Hague which is an international port of justice... The Vatican in Rome... and The Bronx."

• IT'S Lily Tomlin's year it seems. Everything she touches turns to her golden talent. Lily's Sony Pictures Classic Grandma bows this Sunday with a party given for her in East Hampton by Candice Bergen, Katie Couric, Bob Balaban and Sandy Gallin. It couldn't happen to a nicer more deserving person.

•SOME of the talk of the town is about the Marlon Brando documentary being held over at the Film Forum at 209 West Houston Street. Listen to Me Marlon is described as "strange and beautiful." Surely this film will wind up eventually on cable or DVD for us poor saps who can't get to it in time.

•ALL that trouble, heartache and expense! Was it partly in vain? New York magazine asks "Has the Cait-bubble burst?" I Am Cait's audience dropped by more than half after the premiere!

I'm not surprised, but then this is a limited run series/documentary. Jenner's highly publicized transition is a kind of Catch 22 thing. While it has raised awareness of transgender issues, it has also raised the question of how effective the adventures of a famous, white, entitled, reality-show-star can truly affect more average transgender persons, whose lives are often hellish and not on television?

The Kardashian association is both a blessing and a curse. Caitlyn Jenner has to move beyond celebrity, and the E! channel to make her genuine mark. It won't be about ratings, it'll be about heart and advocacy.

P.S. If you care to watch a more down-to-earth take on transgender existence, try TLC's I Am Jazz. But even this, with super-supportive parents and siblings is not quite the norm for many.