"Finally the day died altogether, and on the horizon the brightest stars seemed to stand on pins, which proved to be Nice. The Cap Ferrat beacon kept up its one long, two short blinks of reassurance. With the day gone, Freddy fondly recalled his walk on the Cap as if it were already months and thousands of miles away, and as if it needed to be relived right now to fill an empty spot inside him. Freddy was lonely.
He felt at times like this, that his newly adopted world was really an empty balloon and not a definite structure. The balloon was going to be filled, but filling it would take him the rest of his life; he could not tell by its present shape what it would become, or even its eventual color and, as inchoate as it was, he was not sure that this mystifying balloon did not have a built-in slow leak.”
--Hotel Olive Trees, a novel by André de Riano
André de Riano was the autobiographical Frederic Ives and the Franco-American from New York we knew as Tom Ryan. Scourged by cancer, he died at 61 of a stroke or heart attack in his brownstone apartment on stately Marlborough Street in Boston’s Back Bay. He was found when his good friend Barbara had the landlord break open the door.
André left a knee-high stack of manuscripts--five novels and numerous short stories. None had ever been offered to publishers. In Hotel Olive Trees, he writes of 19-year-old Freddy, a hard-drinking, aspiring playboy and beneficiary of a bottomless trust fund. Freddy was a graduate of “St. Jonathon’s,” a boys’ boarding school in New England. He had been admitted to Harvard, but “eager to rid himself of the burden of his virginity,” he set off for Paris and the bare-breasted beaches of the Côte d’Azur.
At Taft, André formed the Current Events Club and wrote about world affairs for the Papyrus. He won the French prize and was accepted at the University of Virginia. Classmate Gil Allen, who expected to see him there, says he never showed up.
Instead André chose Paris and briefly attended the Sorbonne. From there, he roamed the sybaritic haunts of southern Europe, settling for a while in Salvador Dali’s town of Cadaqués on the Costa Brava of Spain. Back in the States, he tried New York, Hawaii and New York again. By his mid-forties, he had moved on to Boston and all these years, he labored at his novels, his “doorstoppers” he called them.
André’s apartment, strewn with paper and books and thick with the odor of cigarettes, was unnavigable, so he never entertained at home. On my trips to Boston, we would meet at the Ritz, and he would lead me off to the city’s best restaurants. Every time, he wore a blue Taft School blazer. Taft was the taproot of his youth, and perhaps he never outgrew it.
André left the manuscripts and his Taft blazer to Barbara. Barbara organized his funeral at the Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill. After the service, the mourners gathered at the Ritz, André’s afternoon haunt.