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THE PORTRAIT by Charles Atkins


by Charles Atkins

Pub Date: June 17th, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18652-5
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

New York’s art scene spins even more madly than usual when a rising painter, struggling with bipolar disorder, is suspected of murder. Good news, bad news, which is a phrase manic-depressives probably hear a lot. The good news is that Chad Greene’s gallery showing has blown his prices through the roof: Soon after a stranger waved a wad of cash at his agent and left with Chad’s portrait of his psychiatrist, Dr. Philip Sturges, a feeding frenzy carried off every other painting in the house, leaving Chad $300,000 richer. The bad news is that he’ll probably need every cent for veterinary and legal bills. Someone’s broken into his Soho studio, stolen all his old paintings, prints, and sketches, and shot Ching, his beloved dog. And someone’s made sure that Dr. Sturges’s last appointment with Chad really was his last; he’s been shot, too, and the cops assigned to the case--including comely Det. Susan Bryant, who’s obligingly available for coffee or lunch whenever it suits Chad--can’t help suspecting his unbalanced patient. Newcomer Atkins not only captures Chad’s poignant euphoria when he goes off his lithium so that he can paint, and his black depression over a violent episode that drove his pregnant wife away long ago, but the feverish effervescence of the contemporary art world, in which a moderately successful painter can dream of being rich and famous before bedtime, and the constant spin of journalists and agents and buyers is enough to make anybody manic. But Chad’s high-velocity dreams of professional success and a personal truce with his demons are more interesting, and more convincing, than the climactic portrait of the bogeyman who’s determined to ruin his life--even if it means ruining a harrowing portrait of the artist as a young madman into the bargain. Forget the canned ending, and enjoy the promise of Atkins’s recklessly entertaining debut.