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Book Review: “Where There’s Smoke: Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man,” by William B. Davis

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Did you ever want to know the complex, intimate life story of the actor who played the Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files? If so, or if you’re an enthusiast of the late 20th century Canadian theater scene, William B. Davis’ memoir is a special treat.

Davis, who played the chain-smoking villain on the popular sci-fi series for the entirety of the 1990s, was in a previous life a major figure in the Canadian theater, as an actor, director, and acting teacher in Toronto, Montreal and other cities north of the border as well as in England.

The book’s first 200 pages detail his pre-X-Files life and acting career, while also going into a shocking amount of detail about his romantic life (I lost track of how many times Davis has been married; he shares much more about his marriages and various affairs with women than anyone involved would probably prefer.)

Davis’ memoir takes an abrupt turn when he talks about his experiences on the TV show, and he isn’t shy about taking shots at his co-stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, for everything from difficult behavior on set to hogging credit to Duchovny’s power play that forced the move of the series to Los Angeles late in his run. And yes, Davis quit smoking years before he lit up for the first time as Cancer Man.

Davis also makes it clear that he never believed in any of that alien or conspiracy stuff, and that his outspoken atheism extends to the show’s mythology- a view that’s at times put him at odds with X-philes at fan conventions.

But some of his X-Files observations are humorous, such as when he makes fun of certain ridiculous plotlines that we all will remember, especially of the many different times the Smoking Man was killed.

“Where There’s Smoke” is a must-read for people still obsessed with The X-Files ten years after it ended its run, although unless you’re a hardcore Canadian theater buff- and/or you really want to know who CSM was boffing in the ’70s and ’80s- you might want to skip the first half.

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