Where There's Smoke...: Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man, a Memoir [Paperback] Reviewed By Dr. Wesley Britton of Bookpleasures.com
Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new four-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, will debut via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Dr. Britton teaches English at Harrisburg Area Community College.
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Author: William B. Davis
Publisher: ECW Press (October 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 177041052X: ISBN-13: 978-1770410527
As the title implies, William B. Davis is best known as the “cigarette smoking man,” a secondary character on the television series, The X-Files. Without question, most readers will pick up this memoir wanting insights into and behind the scenes stories about the cult classic. Devotees won’t be disappointed—though they should know in advance it will take 217 pages before Davis dives into his experiences with Scully and Muldar.
That’s because Davis had a long and distinguished career before taking on the nebulous role of “CSM.” Starting as a child actor on Canadian radio, much of his story is set in Toronto and other provinces in theatrical productions where he spent decades directing and teaching, not acting himself. The bulk of his book discusses his education in stagecraft in his home country and England and the numerous plays and local theatres he helped shape and create. It’s fair to say much of this material is very hit-and-run with much name-dropping of actors who, for the most part, are going to be more familiar to Canadian audiences than elsewhere. In fact, his memoir could serve as a history of Canadian theatre from the 1950s to the 1990s, from the times there were few opportunities for Canadian players through the experimental 1960s to more modern decades where Canadian performers and crews tend to serve as support for American television and film. Along the way, in a very lively and engaging style, Davis wryly comments on his romances and lifestyle. Few other professionals would make so many career choices based on the quality of local skiing.
Then, we do get some 60 pages on how he took up TV roles mainly to supplement his income and how a very small part on a series with an uncertain future changed his life. Yes, he shares his often uncomplimentary thoughts on David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. He goes into considerable detail regarding the interactions of the producers and the storylines that involved his character. He comments on the phenomena that was The X-Files and what he learned about the distinctions between being an actor and a celebrity. On an often very intellectual level, he recalls how he felt pangs of conscience in the third season when he feared the show was promoting an unreality he worried was affecting the audience. Then, abruptly, Davis wraps the story up with very few pages devoted to what he’s been doing since the series’ finale. Readers will need to make their own speculations as to why.
So, aficionados of The X-Files will get their monies worth. Those interested in the Canadian stage will get even more. Beyond these two audiences, anyone interested in the acting profession can pick up insights and wisdom from a director who’s worked with some of the best in some of the most challenging circumstances. It’s a fast-paced story told with wit and humor, enjoyable for any reader with an eye for the footlights.
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Wes Britton’s online radio interview with author William B. Davis for “Dave White Presents” is available HERE: