Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday in Paris, with Cara Black.

RHYS BOWEN: No travel week would be complete without a trip to Paris and what better guide than my good friend Cara Black. Cara has become THE definitive writer of mysteries set in Paris and her many fans look forward to guessing in which part of the city she will set her next book. The wait is over and Murder at the Lanterne Rouge takes place in Paris's Chinatown (which is interesting because we are about to tour together and I'll be promoting the paperback of last year's Molly book, that took place in New York's Chinatown.

So welcome Cara and tell us :What drew you to Chinatown?

CARA BLACK: I follow your lead Rhys comme toujours. In Paris, my friends live around the corner from a small Chinatown at the northern edge of the Marais. Intrigued I discovered that this warren of several medieval streets contains the smallest and oldest Chinatown of the four Chinatowns in Paris. The inhabitants come from Wenzhou, a southern province below Canton and engage in selling wholesale bags, luggage and costume jewelry. They’re ‘entrepeneurs’ and quite different from the Chinese population in the other Chinatowns. As I walked these narrow streets I heard the slap of Mah Jong tiles and pounding of machines from behind closed doors and in the old courtyards. There’s a whole substrata below the surface of sweatshops with illegal immigrants who come to France to work but become almost indentured slaves to pay off their passage. A conversation with a man in the Renseignements Generaux, the RG, which is the dom
estic intelligence service really sparked this book after he told me ‘No one dies in Chinatown.’

RHYS: People always tell you such good things! So h
ow many more arrondisements to go?

CARA: Twelve down, eight more, Rhys. But of course each arrondissement is
composed of four quartiers. So in theory I could go on well, until I’m a hundred?

RHYS: And what we all really want to know:. Will Aimee ever find a steady guy and settle down?

CARA: Poor girl, she’s unlucky in love. Her fiancé, Yves, the journalist who she thought was the 'one' was murdered a few books back. Ever since it’s been a rocky course - relationships are a mine field for her. Alors, she likes bad boys. But she’s attracted to Melac, a homicide inspector in the Brigade Criminelle despite her experiences with the police - her father was a policeman before he was drummed out of the force on trumped up charges. Aimée’s made a rule that she won’t get involved with this homicide inspector who’s job takes him on all night stakeouts in danger and might not return. Now, she’s broken it. Just when her relationship with Melac seems steady, in Murder in the Lanterne Rouge, they’ve planned a long weekend together he’s called to a new assignment, a clandestine surveillance that takes him away for he doesn’t know how long. He’s been promoted to a job he can’t talk about ‘or he’d have to kill her’.

RHYS: Did you get a thrill when you saw "your" detective agency appear in Midnight
in Paris?

CARA: Yes, I actually saw the film in Paris and jolted in my seat. It was funny because I was determined NOT to see it even though lots of French friends were raving about it. Then one night on my street, rue Delambre in Montparnasse behind the famous La Rotonde, Le Dome and La Coupole cafe’s where Hemingway and the ‘Lost Generation’ of writers and artists hung out I relented. The film literally was about to start so I bought a ticket. French movies theatres are so fun and old fashioned they even have a lady selling candy in the aisles. When I saw Duluc Detective flash on the screen and the real interior of the detective agency I laughed. I interviewed Madame ‘Duluc’ (her married name is different) years ago in Duluc Detective when I was coming up with the character of Aimée Leduc. I shamelessly used parts of Madame Duluc’s story of inheriting the agency from her father and grandfather who’d been with the Suréte and gave Aimée an interesting history.

RHYS: Since this is Red's travel week, tell us one thing about Paris that would surprise us.

CARA: There’s a lot actually. But what’s wonderfully convenient is that you can buy your car registration sticker at the local cafe-tabac - no waiting forever at the DMV and those long lines. You can drink an espresso while you wait, very civilized. Also, the Hotel de Ville, the main Paris town hall, has a clock minder - it’s a real municipal job - he repairs and keeps all the several hundred old clocks in the huge 19th century building running. It takes him two days to wind all the clocks!

RHYS: What's your favorite Parisian meal?

CARA: I’m not an escargot fan nor of raw chopped steak tartare. I love the fish dishes at La Marine, a bistro on Canal Saint Martin - a simple filet dorade with a light caper sauce. Or oysters on the half shell, fresh from Brittany, served at the wine bar le Baron Rouge near the marché d’Aligre one of the oldest markets in Paris near the Bastille. There’s always a line and it’s a wonderful convivial place with fresh-this-morning oysters. The meal would be topped by limon-cassis sorbet from Bertillon on the Ile Ste-Louis, the best ice cream place in the world.

RHYS: I've made a note of both for my trip to Paris this summer! And while we're on my trip to Paris, if I wanted to buy one of Aimee's little black dresses where should I go?

CARA: Didier Ludot’s boutique in the Palais Royal. He only sells little black dresses; vintage couture in mint condition. So grab your YSL clutch and prepare to pull out a big wad of Euros but the dresses are classic, timeless and worth the investment. As French women say ‘you can’t go wrong wearing a little black dress.’

RHYS: Bonne chance with the new book, Cara. MURDER AT THE LANTERNE ROUGE comes out on March 1st and Cara will be speaking and signing all over the West Coast. Some of those signings will be with me but if you want to know Cara's crazy schedule, check it out on her website,


  1. I've been to Didier Ludot. Such a lovely shop, and what a great idea. Didn't buy anything, though.

    However, I have also had Bertillion's, and have to tell you, it's almost as good as Cincinnati's own French pot-processed ice cream, Graeter's. Made in small batches in copper pots, and now available all over the US--try it and see for yourself. Luscious.

    No wonder the name of the detective agency in the movie sounded familiar! How fun, Cara! Good luck with the new book, and you and Rhys have a grand time on your tour. Any chance you're coming to Ohio? I'll buy you each a Graeter's cone!

  2. I wish we were coming to Ohio, Karen but we're confined to the West Coast this time. I think we'll both be in Cleveland in October for Bouchercon convention. Are you thinking of attending? It's the biggest thing in mysterydom--and Doris Ann Norris is fan guest of honor (one of Ohio's own)

  3. Yes, I am definitely planning to to to Bouchercon this year, very much looking forward to it. (If you're interested, there will surely be Graeter's to be had!)

    I think I met you both at Festival of Mystery last year (year before? Can't recall), and bought books from you both there.

  4. Karen, Graeter's sounds like it's worth a trip, I'm going to work on Rhys! I forgot to mention the designer mark down shoe shops on rue Meslay, have you been there? A place where Hank would go wild -

  5. Fascinating! Cara, I loved your first book, Murder in the Marais, which I just found and read. I'm looking forward to reading the whole series.

    I'm so curious--why does no one die in Chinatown? Is it because of the secret slavery & they hide the bodies? Or because it's such ruled-with-iron peaceful place? If I'm missing something obvious, please bear with me. I'm doped up on meds this morning.

  6. Linda, why 'no one dies in Chinatown' is what I explore in Murder in the Lanterne Rouge - there's a whole clandestine group of illegals working in the old courtyards and well, if I told you any more, it would give too much away, sorry!

  7. Ah! See, I thought I was missing something due to brain fog. I'm looking forward to reading it and finding out, Cara.

  8. What a great interview. I love the Aimee Leduc mysteries and I love Paris, so it was fun to learn more about both.

  9. No, but it sounds as though I need to find rue Meslay next time I'm lucky enough to go to Paris!

  10. PS, best wishes for a great vacation of your own in Paris.

  11. Ohhhhh....I WANT a black dress from Didier Ludot. Sigh. Cara, will you take orders, maybe???

    So lovely to see you here...and you know I adore your books.

  12. "designer mark down shoe shops on rue Meslay," ..oh, now you are killing me.. :-)

    And hurray for Bouchercon..see you there.. (maybe I can get a little black dress by then..)

  13. fun to be here ladies and thanks for inviting me!
    little black dresses could be your new reds uniform

  14. Oh, far as I'm concerned, they already are...

  15. Oh, Bertillion's! I'm swooning at the memory. And I just had a chance to recommend both Cara's and Rhys's books to a friend who wants to read more mysteries, loves England between the wars, and is headed off to Paris and Lyons next month!

  16. Hi Cara! I'm jealous Rhys gets to tour with you! But at least I got to see you in Dallas, and scored a galley of the book--which I LOVED!

    For those of you who haven't read Cara's books, this series is one of my very, very favorites. Not only is Cara's view of Paris fascinating, but her pacing is fabulous. These are books you literally can't put down!

    Good luck on your West Coast tour, Cara and Rhys!

  17. Well, we're all rooting for you to go to 100, Cara! I'd so love to walk around Paris with you. My favorite thing in Paris is the pastry. I still remember an apricot tart with pistachios. AMAzing. Then I read somewhere that the French think it's not polite to eat while walking (in public). Can this be true??

  18. Thanks Leslie! Debs, you're so kind. I'm parsing out No Mark Upon Her slowly savoring and almost at the end...I don't want it to end but I want to find out! Rhys and I wish you could join us too. Hallie, there's a wonderful patisserie in the Marais with the apricot pistachio tart you mention and always a line outside. You would love it. Can't say many Parisians eat on the street or in the Metro - it's not done. But near the Sorbonne I've seen students munching baguettes and running to class

  19. Hi Cara! We met here in Portland at a reading, and also at Book Passage last summer. I'm looking forward to reading your latest. I'm going to check out your website to see if you're coming through Portland in the near future.

    Reading this post was like getting a Paris fix...I dream of Paris.

  20. Black Is Back!

    For the 12 days leading up to the release date, Soho Press will be hosting a Twitter and Facebook extravaganza highlighting one title in the series every day starting Wednesday, February 22. Keep an eye out for some of Cara’s favorite excerpts, Aimée Leduc quizzes, book giveaways, and more.

    Best of all, everyone who tweets/retweets with the #BlackIsBack2012 tag during the festivities will be entered to win a Frenchified mega-prize on the twelfth day! Stay tuned for more info and follow @soho_press on Twitter to join in the action.

  21. Of course I remember you Lisa - I'll be at the Alliance Francaise in Portland March 18 - hope to raise a glass of vin rouge with you.ihewern cativi

  22. So much fun to see you here. I want one of those little black dresses to go with outrageously beautiful shoes, and to walk down those streets-heaven.

  23. ha! i hope there ARE 100 more Aimee Leduc books!

  24. Looking forward to seeing you in Tucson!

  25. Oh, Cara, I'm so excited! Stopped by my local mystery bookstore to drop an ARC and found that you'll be visiting I Love A Mystery April 3. I'm so looking forward to meeting you and getting your new book! Hurray!

  26. Wait, did I get that part right about getting your car registration off a store like 7-Eleven Du Paris? That is just A-MA-ZING! The joy of making technology to work for the better. Sigh...