Long Island’s Brenda Janowitz Talks About Her Glitzy ‘Liz Taylor Ring’
Sunday would have been Elizabeth Taylor’s 90th birthday, and if she was still around, she’d be getting a sweet present – a fictional tribute to her hot romance with Richard Burton, and the main jewels that came with it. This is “The Liz Taylor Ring” (Graydon House, $16.99), a family drama set on Long Island, the seventh novel by Muttontown’s Brenda Janowitz.
As with Janowitz’s previous book, “The Grace Kelly Dress,” the plot revolves around a family legacy associated with an iconic movie star. The Liz Taylor ring is – or was – an “Asscher-cut, 11-carat D-color diamond” given by Ritchie Schneider to his wife, Lizzie, when they got back together after a nine-month separation.
Their three children, Addy, Nathan and Courtney, all agree the ring is long gone, but they disagree on what became of it – was it stolen from a safe? hotel? Played by their father? Dropped into her coffin by their mother, not long for this world herself?
“None of these stories are true. All of these stories are true. More than one thing can be true at a time,” the knowledgeable narrator informs us. Meanwhile, the ring has appeared in a safe in the Cayman Islands, and each of the siblings is ready to snatch it for their own.
As the Schneider family drama unfolds, the Taylor tribute weaves its way into the plot. Not only do Lizzie and Ritchie share their first names with the famous couple, but their last name, Schneider, is German for tailor.
We caught up with Janowitz on Zoom to find out more.
Your seventh novel, like many of its predecessors, is set on the south shore of Long Island where you grew up. But you seem a little too young to have lived the high life of Lizzie and Ritchie in the 70s.
I interviewed friends and family about their life on Long Island during this time and got some terrific responses. I tried to capture the atmosphere of the time, the nightlife, the clubs. As my editor, Melanie Fried, who’s also from here, calls it — Long Island glamour.
On one of their first dates, Lizzie and Ritchie leave a house party and go out to eat — I imagined AJ’s in Atlantic Beach, a long-gone place on the bay side. As a girl from the South Shore, Lizzie is confused for a moment when she can’t figure out where the ocean is, but she looks at the water.
Gambling is important in both generations of the Schneider family, and many twists and turns are caused by their wins and losses. Is there anything autobiographical here?
Well, I certainly played a lot in my day. My dad loved acting too, and we spent a lot of weekends in Atlantic City, so those scenes were based on experiences I had had. But you know, I’m a writer — I’m not that good at math. When my husband read it, he said to himself, you have it all wrong. You must not have been a very good player.
Courtney, the youngest of the sisters, who just lost her Los Angeles apartment to her bookie and is probably an alcoholic, was my favorite character. The first thing she does when she comes to town is start a fire while trying to cook a steak.
In fact, the first thing she does is tell Nathan’s husband, Diego, that Nathan doesn’t want the secret birthday party he’s planning. In my head, it was Courtney stealing into their lives and metaphorically burning down their house. Then I thought, “Oh wait. She’s going to burn down their house!” There’s also a little autobiography here – having once started a fire in my kitchen that almost burned down my house. I have experience with that.
So we got the Grace Kelly dress, the Liz Taylor ring… what’s next?
Audrey Hepburn’s estate.
Yes! Coming out next year. He is heavily influenced by the movie “Sabrina”, a love triangle, which was filmed on an estate in Glen Cove.
Even more glamor on Long Island!