Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Springtime in Paris with Cara Black

RHYS: I've been experiencing a sense of something missing from my life this March and I've suddenly realized that it's not something, it's someone!

March is the month that Cara Black and I both have new books out and every other year we have done lots of events together, all around the Bay Area. The problem is that I'm still in Arizona and heading for Santa Fe tomorrow, so I've abandoned Cara to do her events alone.

So I felt the least I could do to make it up to her was to invite her back to Jungle Red Writers to tell us about her latest book in the Aimee LeDuc series. In case you have lived under a rock for the past ten years Cara sets her mysteries in the different arondissements of Paris. So let's get started.

RHYS: Okay Cara, which part of Paris are we visiting this time?

CARA: Rhys we're going to the 16th arrondisssement across the Seine. To the old village of Passy, where Empress Eugenie, Napoleon the III's wife, took the Passy waters and Balzac hid to write and escape his creditors. Incorporated into Parisin 1860 it's now exclusive, chic and a quartier where the maids were pearls.

RHYS: And what happens to Aimee?

CARA: This is definitely not Aimée's 'hood', nor mine, but she's pressed to do a favor for Morbier, her godfather a police commissaire, involving Xavier, his Basque haute bourgoise lover. Morbier, worried and off to an investigation in Lyon, insists Aimée find out what's going on with Xavier. When Xavierre's found murdered in the garden of her townhouseAimée investigates. Her trust in Morbier is shaken when evidence points to him as the suspect. During her investigations she uncovers ETA, the Basque terrorists, police corruption and links to a Spanish kidnapped princess.

RHYS: Speaking of Aimee, is she an alter ego? In what ways are you like her? Do you wish you were like her? Are glad you're not like her?

CARA: I wish I had Aimée's fashion sense and her luck in finding those couture bargains, let me tell you. But she does things I'd never do and I think that's what writing fiction's all about. I once saw an old poster in Paris circa 1900 of the cover of a cheap polar (like our pulp detectivenovels in the 50's) titled 'Madeleine la Detèctive' with a young woman in a corseted dress climbing a rope over the rooftops of Paris. Maybe that inspired me but there's a French tradition of bold detectives since Vidocq, the Arsene Lupin detective series that highlighted investigators with special skills.I'd really like to have her apartment on the Ile Saint Louis, though.

RHYS:.How do you decide where to go next?

CARA: Sense of place drives me. I find the district that speaks to me or where I think a story would happen organically and where Aimée would get involved. Passy, the district, was an area I avoided writing about for seven years. My friend lives there and kept begging me to write about her Passy but it was too chichi and fashionable. And it closes up early. But after several years I discovered this village like feel she'd talked about, this special ambiance and felt drawn to it. Especially when I discovered a Basque Cultural Center had existed there and I wanted to write about the Basque ETA and played with the ideas of of terrorists using an exclusive neighborhood.. Then I succumbed.

RHYS: Tell us how the research process works (and you have to slave away for your art in Paris)

CARA: Sometimes people forget or overlook that the Aimée Leduc Investigations take place in the mid-90's - people still pay in Francs, can smoke in the cafe's and Aimée uses dial-up. (this is pre-google) so I pay great attention to getting those details right. I consult a French hacker who happens to be a friend of my neighbor a French programmer and try to paint a snapshot or series of shots of that time in Paris. I consult archives in Paris, microfiche newspaper records of Le Monde so I know the weather, the traffic, what was on sale and what strikes were happening in Paris and can set a realistic backdrop of that time and what Aimée faced in her daily life and investigation.

Last November I was very luck and went drinking with the homicide squad, the Brigade Criminelle and then went to target practice. But that wasn't the same night we went drinking!

RHYS: Cara,as always I love hearing your stories. You always manage to find something exciting and quite unexpected. Bonne chance with the book!


  1. Rhys, Hallie and I will step in! We'll be appearing with the fabulous Cara in Boston at the Boston Public Library on May 4--and Porter Square Books on May 5! Vive les girls!

    Oh, my goodness...it's just so glamorous. I met a woman at a bookstore signing recently--and asked her who her favorite mystery autheors were.

    She said--oh! Cara Black--and she writes English so beautifully for a French person!

  2. Hank, looking forward to seeing you and Hallie!
    First time I've been mistaken for a French
    Writer :) Rhys I'm in Seattle at the mystery
    Book store feeling you should be here too Cara

  3. Welcome back Cara--can't wait to read this latest installment. I am always so green with envy when your books come out. Tell us again how much time you have to spend in Paris to do your research?

  4. I LOVE Aimee's fshion sense - I swear I can see her Kohl-rimmed eyes. And the last time I saw you, Cara, as I recall you were wearing a fabulous pair of shoes (patterned wth flowers?) that you'd scored somewhere.

    See you Boston at the BPL and Porter Square Books! I have a friend who's coming to PSB because she's 'always wanted to meet Cara Black.'

  5. Roberta thanks for the warm welcome. I never spend enough time in Paris, as I tell my husband, but go twice a year for research. Hard work, but someone's got to do it. Actually I sleep on my friend's couch and am lucky for that. Last time I got to visit the Crime Scene unit at the Prefecture through a connection...just gold!
    That fashion sense eludes me pretty much Hallie, I stay safe and wear black. Those shoes were a find though. How sweet of you to say that about your friend, I look forward to meeting her. Our Boston trio will be cool if Hank wears those Pradas and skips the Uggs Cara

  6. Sorry to chime in so late on one of my favorite writers--and people! Envy Hank, Hallie, and Rhys getting to do an event with Cara at Porter Square Books.

    But I get to read the new Aimee--a treat for me!