I had a rare literary experience recently. A friend of mine, Peter Skala and his wife, Barbara, came to dinner, and they brought with them a recently published book about Peter. The book is written by Peter’s long time friend and business partner, David Hutt. Barbara has written a self-published autobiography, My Life as Me, which I have read, and I was eager to read the ‘sequel’ about Peter. Briefly, Peter was born in Austria in the mid 1920’s; his mother was a well-known actress; his father was a business man, so he came from a comfortable middle class. As you know, the 1930’s were a time of political and social turmoil in Austria. Peter’s family had Jewish connections which were a distinct liability in Austria at that time, so Peter, who is Christian, and the rest of his family fled to the US. Peter, en-route to the US, spent a year in the UK as a teenager. He went to school in New York and joined the US Army, where he became an officer whose German language skills were put to good use in General Patton’s army. He later went to Yale (my alma mater), worked as a key manager in several large multi-nationals and became a successful head hunter.
I have posted the following review of The Boy Who Wore White Stockings on Amazon:
This book is a captivating historical biography. David Hutt decided to write a biography of his friend and business partner, Peter Skala, but, in addition, he has included an examination of Peter’s genealogy back for about two centuries. This reminds one of The Hare with Amber Eyes, and like that story, it often makes fascinating reading from cultural, political, sociological, perspectives. Mr. Hutt is clearly a skilled, and dedicated researcher, and while the output of his research captures the reader’s attention, the linkages between the genealogy and the biography are somewhat tenuous, except when Peter’s grandparents arrive on the scene. In The Hare with Amber Eyes, it was the netsuke that made the inter-generational connections.
For me, there were three parts of this book: the genealogy, Peter’s childhood/boyhood, and Peter’s early adulthood. (Will there be a sequel about the rest of Peter’s adulthood? One hopes so!) One disappointment about the section on Peter’s childhood/boyhood, is that one hears the voice of Peter himself too infrequently. I know that Peter would have pungent comments about many of the events which are reported.
The section on Peter’s early adulthood, with particular emphasis on his war-time experiences makes fascinating reading, and his voice is there.
David Hutt is clearly a very talented researcher and writer. I am certainly ready for the sequel!
Peter is a very clever man with a pungent, ironical sense of humor. Faced with any controversy, he will come straight to the point. For me, it was quite interesting to read about the environment in which he grew up, because it gave me a sense of how the character I know came to be. Briefly, in the past, he has talked about his experiences in France during the Second World War, but this biography includes some episodes of which I had known nothing (including how he captured a German general and obtained the surrender of a German platoon without firing a shot!)
I’m afraid that the chances of a sequel are fairly slim. The Boy Who Wore White Stockings ends just before Peter met Barbara. I suspect that David Hutt doesn’t want to stand between Peter and Barbara in writing about what happened next