As the child of a loveless marriage, Kate Lurie has always been skittish about emotional entanglements. Though she is married, her work—documentary filmmaking—keeps her safely detached from her subjects. This fragile means of self-preservation begins to dissolve, however, just as she and her husband, Mac, a former diplomat, are preparing to leave Washington for Turkey on a film project. Before his marriage, Mac had fallen in love with a vibrant Russian woman, Lida, while on assignment in Leningrad. Their affair lasted three weeks, and 15 years later, Lida calls. Now married and living in France, she wants to see Mac. The three meet in Brussels, where Kate is drawn into the undercurrent of Macs unfinished romantic business.
In this, her third novel, Benedict makes skillful use of similar events in her own life (see box). The story's possible love triangle forces Kate to resolve the fear of intimacy that is crippling her relationship with Mac. By threading vivid memories of an alienated childhood with Kates fantasies of Mac and Lida's torrid yet doomed affair in the decayed, romantic city of Leningrad, Benedict has fashioned a compelling story of a woman finding comfort by facing her demons. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $21)
by John R. Horner and Don Lessem
Dinosaurs may be extinct, but interest in them has never been livelier—just ask Barney. Now even Steven Spielberg has gotten into the act with his just opened, $56 million movie based on Michael Crichton's best-seller Jurassic Park. Those curious for a closer look at one of the film's dino-stars, the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex, are directed to this inviting work by paleontologist Horner, who worked as an adviser on the movie. Having sifted through the latest research, Horner (whose team unearthed the remains of a T. rex in eastern Montana's badlands in 1990) and science journalist Lessem all but de-fang long-held beliefs about the beady-eyed predator who stalked the earth some 65 million years ago. They argue, for example, that T. rex made its home in forests, not swamps; that its arms, while short, were not puny but powerful; that its body was less bulky than popularly thought and its tail was raised off the ground, enabling it to run—in bursts as fast as an Olympic sprinter. Horner's passion for his subject is infectious; his tone is never overly academic. At times, in fact, his accessible, chatty style is overly cute (one chapter is titled "Lifestyles of the Huge and Famous" and at another point he refers coyly to the study of "dinosaur poop"). Still, this volume—packed with illustrations and photographs, along with a resource guide and bibliography for both kids and adults—offers a mother lode of information for dinophiles. The Complete T. Rex lives up to its title. (Simon & Schuster, $25)
INSPIRED BY HER HUSBAND'S AFFAIR
IN 1989, ELIZABETH BENEDICT AND her husband of six years, actor-writer Richard Harrington, were living in Washington. One day Harrington received a phone call from a woman with whom he'd had a three-week affair in 1974, when he was single and acting American consul in Leningrad. Olga, once a television editor, was now married and living in Holland. "We all arranged to meet in Brussels a few months later," says Benedict, 38. "Of course I was a little nervous. I knew their affair had been passionate. But my husband was very reassuring about his commitment to me. When I met Olga—who was very beautiful, brassy, emotional—I realized I would write their story. And so I kept my eyes peeled, for the novel but also for myself as a woman. Because I felt her sizing Richard up."
Benedict didn't learn the full story of Olga's involvement with Harrington, now 52, until 1992, when Olga was on business in the U.S. and Benedict, two years into writing the novel, invited her over to talk. When the two women sat down in Benedict's kitchen, the author already knew that back in '74, after he'd left Leningrad, Harrington had been investigated by the State Department for his contact with Olga and subsequently barred from further Eastern Bloc posts. (He took early retirement in 1986.) "Olga admitted to me that the KGB had contacted her the day after she met Richard—something neither he nor I had known. Olga said, 'They told me to tell them everything he said. When I agreed, they said they were very happy. And I said I was happy too.' You see, had she not cooperated, she never would've seen Richard again. So she betrayed her lover for the sake of her own love."
- Joseph Olshan,
- Jill Rachlin.