Books by Philippe Tapon

THE MISTRESS by Philippe Tapon
Released: Jan. 4, 1999

A nest-of-vipers melodrama set in German-occupied France near the end of WWII, from the young author of last year's debut novel A Parisian from Kansas. The story begins in 1944 in Paris, where "stomach doctor" Emile Bastien, assisted by his beautiful secretary-nurse (and mistress) Simone Givry, maintains a thriving practice during the lean Occupation years by numbering Nazi officers among his patients. Emile is separated from his wife Marie, from whom he has hidden a fortune in gold ingots—presumably somewhere on the family's country vineyard currently occupied by the embittered Marie. An extended flashback to 1942 explicitly links the Bastiens' willful daughter Paulette and resentful son Rene to their parents' past and present machinations—though it interrupts, and somewhat diffuses the main plot, which develops from Emile's vengeful surgical mistreatment of ulcer patient Heinrich Schrodinger, an SS major who has smilingly threatened, while describing his symptoms, to appropriate the stoical Simone. As Paris is liberated, Tapon pours it on: the melodrama rises to—well, risible levels. Emile is arrested by French authorities for having "aided Nazis." Simone, desperate to retrieve the "dowry" she knows he's hidden, contrives to visit Emile in prison by seducing a brainless guard ("She had never felt stronger, had never so dominated a man"). A confrontation during the reading of Emile's will puts Simone and Marie into collusion against the defiant Paulette; a discovery is made in the Bastien country house's cellar; and there's a savage sudden twist at the end. If all this sounds a bit overloaded, be assured that it is: Tapon seems to have intended to marry an ironic study of wartime mentality and morality to a sleek, sexy "Diabolique"-like suspense tale. Tapon can do better but very possibly didn't want to this time around. The Mistress reads like a screenplay, and the movie version can't be far behind. Read full book review >
Released: March 17, 1997

A clever and almost consistently amusing debut, part Nabokov and part John Irving, about the writing of ``a self-referent novel about life and death.'' The life is that of Darren Swenson, a native midwesterner who grows up gay and disillusioned with his corn-fed all-American ancestry and milieu (Immaculatum, Kansas), strikes out for Manhattan and brief fulfillment working as a call boy (for ``Star Studs''), and makes his way to the City of Light, where, HIV- positive and ebullient to the last, he plans to spend his remaining days surrounded by sympathetic lovers and friends. The story of that life is presented to us as it is written, reconstructed, and imagined by the narrator, an American-born Frenchman named Philippe Tapon (hence both author and character), who, like everyone else outside of Kansas, falls victim to Darren's considerable charm and agrees to write a novel based on the dying American's life. Philippe's version includes his own stops and starts and second thoughts as he's getting material about his subject, many deliberate misdirections (such as scenes we assume really occurred, until the narrator confesses he has invented them), distorted chronology and alternative versions of episodes and conversations and fantasy sequences (for example, a phone call Philippe imagines receiving from Darren after he imagines Darren has died). There are even appearances by editor-publisher ``Billy'' Abrahams and by an urbane gay novelist (Edward Gray) who's obviously a stand-in for Edmund White. It all sounds suffocatingly coy, but it's actually quite lively—even if Darren's unquenchable joie de vivre makes him sound a bit like a rustic Auntie Mame. Tapon even gets good mileage out of a tissue of allusions to and steals from ``Philippe's'' favorite literary works (The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, and ``The Wasteland,'' among others). An assured and entertaining debut that will make readers curious to see what its talented author will turn his hand to next. Read full book review >