HALLIE EPHRON: It was my pleasure to find myself sitting next to Cathy Ace at the Surrey Writers Conference in British Columbia. We got to chitchatting as we longingly watched the lines of readers snaking their way up to get books signed by Diana Gabaldon and Anne Perry.
With a brand new book just out (The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb), I invited Cathy to talk about Cait Morgan, her "Welsh Canadian foodie criminologist sleuth" who definitely gets around. She travels, she eats, and one can only hope that Cathy writes that aspect of her adventures from firsthand experience.
CATHY ACE: I’ll tell you a secret—I’ve been everywhere she’s been, eaten everything she’s eaten, and drunk everything she’s drunk. Who? My protagonist, Cait Morgan, my Welsh Canadian foodie criminologist sleuth. Luckily for her, I’ve travelled a lot. And luckily for me, she manages to find a dead body, or two, wherever she goes.
If I’m honest—and I understand the Reds like that—the real reason I move Cait about so much, and have her eat and drink her way through her books, is because it gives me the chance to revisit places, and flavors, I miss. I truly believe a location can become a character in a book, and I try to make sure that the story I am writing could only have happened in the specific locale I have selected.
My first Cait Morgan Mystery, The Corpse with the Silver Tongue, is set in Nice where I lived for several months each year for almost a decade. Good friends of mine owned an apartment in the block that was Gestapo Headquarters during WWII, and whenever I visited for dinner, or l'apéro, I couldn’t help but want to set a murder mystery there. Wherever you walk in Cimiez, you’re constantly treading upon thousands of years of human history. So a tale which involved a “Collar of Death” which had travelled from Wales to the south of France, and had a history reaching back millennia, nibbled at the fringes of my mind, even as I nibbled at the foie gras.
I couldn’t ignore the Province of British Columbia, where I live and have a great fondness for the Okanagan Valley and the vineyards around the lake. Yes, my research for The Corpse with the Golden Nose involved exhaustive wine tasting, but I applied myself, and spent a good deal of time in and around Kelowna observing, nibbling, and sipping. But I didn’t want my fictitious ageing rock-star vintner to be confused with any of the real ones who live there, and I think I managed it. (No law suits yet!)
Mexico attracts a great deal of press coverage about the crime which, sadly, is all too real there. A rich cultural heritage lies beyond the inevitable stalls laden with tourist crafts, and bars selling cheap beer-and-shots combos. In The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb I wanted to use the Pacific coastal towns around Puerto Vallarta as a backdrop for a cast of mixed ethnicity and, only because the book needed it, duplicitousness. The book is set on a tequila-producing agave plantation, so once again I had to carry out some onerous research. Believe me when I tell you that the recuperative abilities I possessed when researching Cait first mystery are not what they once were!
In September 2014, Cait, who usually grapples with closed circle mysteries, takes on a closed room mystery in The Corpse with the Platinum Hair.
Luckily for her she’s trapped in one of the most exclusive restaurants in Las Vegas. Yes—Vegas, Baby…but maybe not the one you think you know.
Am I the only person who visits a place, and immediately starts to work out how it can become a great location for a murder? Please tell me I’m not alone?
HALLIE: I confess I read Donna Leon for a trip to Venice, Rhys and Susan for a trip back in time to England, Debs to London, Lucy to Key West. Where do you like to travels take you in your mystery reading?