The Hills are Talking by S. Howard Stockwell
(Montecito Trilogy) (Volume 2)

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The Hills Are Talking is a roller coaster ride: You will learn a little Italian by reading her books, experience a lot of tender emotion, recoil from some acts of genuine horror, be dismayed over treachery, get excited by love, feel reassured by fidelity, gain an insight into art, and even perhaps build up an appetite for fine cooking.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

Book two in the "Montecito Trilogy", "The Hills are Talking", is the continuation of a big, sweeping family saga. The characters and the world they inhabit are rich and vibrant. It is an intelligent, fleshy, 20th Century tale. Beginning in the late twenties, it follows the story's protagonist Paco, born into a family of noted Italian stonemasons and artisans brought to Santa Barbara, California to build grand estates. With the help of a notable art collector, an heir to three fortunes, Paco composed a portfolio of paintings, and after submission, was accepted at the legendary Academy in Florence. He made a decision to leave all he had ever loved behind in the United States to fulfill his dream to become an artist. Paco created a studio and found love, but the great war began and we follow his harrowing return home to Montecito where the main story unfolds. Filled with unforgettable, richly crafted characters and settings, the story reveals explosive, deadly and sensuous, secrets that lay bare a fascinating stratified society in this rare California enclave. Prologue: At 6:00am each morning Paco always stocked a fine highly polished black truck displaying the famous Diehl’s trademark in gold script on the side. The world's best fresh food and culinary delicacies were fulfilled, following the orders of a wild, eccentric and often hilarious assortment of Chefs and cooks. He led an unbridled lifestyle among the rich and famous of Montecito. Soon, stumbling into a plot aboard the notorious gambling ship, The Portafortuna, he met his father, Captain Oakley, the powerful head of a syndicate that supplied the wine and liquor to every city and town west of the Mississippi making multimillions during prohibition. Paco’s true linage, although still unclear, was thought by all to be directly descended from a notorious Italian patriot, the old Don, Signore Telchide Fazinatos, who fled to America as a young man for political reasons and founded the Aroncioni, selling alcohol throughout the western states. With Captain Oakley, Paco’s father, and the Don, who he called Grandfather, in place as his newfound family, he along with his Mother, Madonna, were all reunited. At first on the uncounted acres of “Mio Cuore”, a grand estate with vineyards and secretly the supply center for the Aroncioni syndicate and the illicit liquor business, then on the impressive “Quien Sabe Ranch” in Montecito. Legends were made of extraordinary tales of passionate Chefs as they competed in the Medallion d’oro, crowning the greatest cuisinier in America. Chef De Vielmond, called Velly, won this honor and his reward was to attend the world culinary completion held in Paris. Paco also participated as the assistant to Chef Prentiss and a third on the team, Penny Lavigne, winning the copper medal. All along Paco was uncovering his artistic talents preparing to enter the Academia del Arte of Florence as a young man, and following a path to solve the puzzle of his mysterious first love Lillian, who was shockingly kidnapped drugged and repeatedly raped to the point where she lost sanity and reverted to an adolescent, seldom able to communicate. Paco believed this to be largely his fault because he knew she was very drunk in the Seville Club speakeasy on the night she was abducted, and he could have taken her home safely. It would come back to haunt both of them in his future. With the crash of 1929 tumultuous times unraveled, as Diehl’s market was forced to close and many of the great Montecito estates, with their hapless staffs, were all but abandoned. With the help of notable art collector Wright Ludington, an heir to three fortunes, Paco composed a portfolio of work and after submission was accepted at the Academy in Florence and in 1931 made the decision to leave all he had ever loved behind in the United States to fulfill his dream to become an artist.
 

About S. Howard Stockwell

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Published September 25, 2016 252 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by William Tomicki on Nov 28 2016

The Hills Are Talking is a roller coaster ride: You will learn a little Italian by reading her books, experience a lot of tender emotion, recoil from some acts of genuine horror, be dismayed over treachery, get excited by love, feel reassured by fidelity, gain an insight into art, and even perhaps build up an appetite for fine cooking.

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