Liz Smith: Weather-Master Bill Evans Writes the Ultimate Terror Book, "Blackmail Earth"

“I DON’T believe the absurd rumors that Katie Holmes “auditioned” to be Mrs. Cruise, or that their marriage was nothing more than a contract. I’ve interviewed Tom Cruise many times over the past decade, and he strikes me as a guy who loves being in love. He also loves being in control — that’s what happens when you’ve been a movie star for nearly three decades.”

That’s Jess Cagle, the managing editor of Entertainment Weekly, in his latest Editor’s Note. Jess thinks “the true tale of TomKat probably isn’t that interesting.”

Mr. Cagle would probably also like his publication to be the first to snare Mr. Cruise for a post-Katie interview.

LEAVING ASIDE the drum of hopeless politics, the most fascinating thing in TV is the weather. And weather coverage has never been bigger! Now comes WABC’s Bill Evans, a man with many Emmy Awards, who has written a thriller about — the weather.

“Blackmail Earth” is much more frightening than any vampire thriller. The heroine is a female version of weatherman Evans and she analyzes weather like the scientist she is. She is even on the president’s council on the geo-engineering to combat warming oceans.

Her adventures include a sudden-love-at-first-sight passion for an upstate New York dairy farmer that involves her with a witches coven and a serial killer. She also travels to the Maldives Islands which are being eaten away by rising waters and Islamic terrorists.

Some of the plotting leads far afield. But then there is the stuff  about seeding the atmosphere with sulfate (as happens in volcanic explosions) which threatens a new Ice Age on top of a drought that has already emptied New York’s reservoirs.  This latter part seems all too likely and is scientifically horrifying.

And Mr. Evans knows his ecological weather well enough not to scare the hell out of us in his novel. Cooling the ocean by dumping it full of iron oxide, indeed! But he does remind us that the volcanic eruption in Tambora in 1815 caused crops to fail and created snowfall in June and July. The entire world suffered then.

Mr. Evans also amusingly knows his network types all too well. There is even an old-time newsman involved who is described as a combination of Morley Safer, Mike Wallace, and Peter Jennings.

Read “Blackmail Earth” (Tor Books) if you are a fool for weather and/or environmental disaster theories. And try answering the author’s question: Is it conceited for mankind to even think that it could actually alter the planet’s climate or can this be a reality?

A victim discovered during the 2009 excavations of the Tambora eruption of 1815. (Photograph: Rik Stoetman).

NEVER SAY there’s nothing interesting to do in New York in the dead of summer. From August 2nd to the 18th, the Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot will present “Coriolanus.”

Yes, high culture will happen at the Municipal Parking Lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets. This version of Shakespeare’s classic has been re-envisioned by director Hamilton Clancy as a “modern day election fable, because of the play’s strong conflicts between rich and poor and the political fervor it incites.”

The play stars Arash Mokhtar as Coriolanus, Corey Triplett as Brutus andSara Oliva as Sicinius. (Brutus is usually played by an older man, but Mr. Triplett is quite young, and Sicinius is a male character. Director Clancy has revised more than the ancient Roman era, obviously!) Call 212-873-9050. Remember, this is a parking lot. Bring water, a fan and an umbrella, just in case.

ANOTHER REALITY show has hit the airwaves, “Beverly Hills Nannies.” This one takes “real” nannies (is anybody really real on a reality show?) and places them in various situations with various well-to-do BH families. Among those being nanny-ed are Tricia Leigh Fisher and her brood. She is the daughter ofConnie Stevens and the late Eddie Fisher. Tricia will represent the “cool, funky family.” Her half-sister Carrie will pop in, and so will mom Connie and sis Joely Fisher. ABC Family Channel has enough confidence in the series to have already planned a second season.


FILM COMMENT magazine has a long cover story on the mysteries of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi movie “Prometheus.” It helps a little. There’s also a hefty tale by director Larry Cohen titled “I Killed Bette Davis.” It is the story of Davis’ last film appearance in “Wicked Stepmother,” a movie she quit, her role unfinished. As with anything concerning Miss Davis, this is riveting stuff. She fought and fought to the very end, a true champion.

But highest points to writer Chuck Stephens who brilliantly examines the brief, fascinating career of lanky blonde bombshell Beverly Michaels. She made only a handful of films, mostly B’s, except for MGM’s “East Side, West Side” in which she strangles Ava Gardner and almost knocks out Van Heflin.(She was tough!)

Michaels is best remembered for the compellingly sweaty, sleazy, “Wicked Woman.” This is the ultimate 1950’s black-and-white noir. See it once, and you’ll never forget it. If “Wicked Woman” is still unavailable on DVD, please, Criterion, get on it!

NORA EPHRON, again and forever: recently I wrote that at her memorial service, everybody received a torn out page from Nora’s large collection of favorite recipes — one recipe was included in everybody’s program.

Sherrie Westin came up to me after to give me the one she received, for “Liz Smith’s Biscuits.” Many people have asked me to reprint it. So here it is.

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 TB baking powder
6 or 7 TB of butter (I like salt butter)
2/3 to ¾ cup milk

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder. Cut the butter into it using a pastry blender or knives until the butter is in tiny pieces. This recipe will not work in a Cuisinart — the whole point of biscuits (or shortcake) is that they have to be flaky and the only way you get things flaky is by leaving the butter in tiny little bits. Add the milk and blend.

Roll out on a floured board, cut with a small juice glass into biscuit rounds and bake on a baking sheet at 450 until done, about 8-10 minutes.

This makes about 8 biscuits, which is barely enough for 2 people in my opinion.

This column originally appeared on on 7/18/12

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