Tuesday, March 13, 2012


DEBORAH CROMBIE: What could be a bigger treat for the week before St. Patrick's Day than to have a new Molly Murphy book from Jungle Red's own Rhys Bowen!

HUSH NOW, DON'T YOU CRY is the eleventh novel featuring Molly, who arrived at Ellis Island as a poor and desperate Irish immigrant in 1900. It is now 1904 and Molly has come a long way, giving up the private detection business she's built for herself in order to marry New York Police Captain Daniel Sullivan. She's promised to leave the detecting to her husband, but interesting cases have a way of falling at Molly's feet. An invitation to spend a belated honeymoon at the Newport, Rhode Island estate of a powerful alderman comes with murder included.

Not only is HUSH NOW, DON'T YOU CRY a cracking good mystery, it is also a fascinating portrait of an era, as Molly gets an intimate look at how the other half lives.

Now, Rhys is going to tell us why she writes about the past, but first I have to say, Rhys, I LOVED this book! Your research shows in all the best ways--the atmosphere is so vivid, and Molly is such an appealing character, strong, curious, and independent while still remaining true to her own place and time. And the cover is absolutely stunning--I can't imagine seeing this novel and not wanting to pick it up and read it! (And Rhys will give a copy to a lucky--how very Irish!--commenter! )

Congratulations on a super job from me and all your Jungle Red chums!

RHYS BOWEN: I read an interesting fact over the weekend: half the books
nominated for the Orange Prize in UK this year are some form of historical novel, be it literary, romance, mystery or any other genre. One only had to see the buzz surrounding Downton Abbey on TV to know that history is hot. As one who has been writing historical mysteries for over ten years now, this is great news but it makes me wonder why this sudden fixation for the past.

In my own case I didn't set out to write a historical novel. All I knew was that I had to write about Ellis Island. I had taken a sightseeing tour there and was unprepared for the overwhelming emotion I felt. This was strange as I had no immigrant ancestors in my family. But I could hear those walls crying out to me, telling me tales of great joy and great sorrow and I knew that I had to put the Ellis Island experience into a book. So Molly became an Irishwoman who has to flee for her life and makes it as far as Ellis Island only to be implicated in a murder there. When she stepped ashore in Manhattan it hit me that I knew very little about New York in 1900. I realize I had committed myself to research on every page for the rest of my life.

Actually the research has become part of the fun. I've always loved visiting other places and now I've added the time travel element to my visits. I'm lucky because much of Molly's New York is still there. I can walk her streets, even eat at some of her taverns. Setting a murder mystery in the past presents a female sleuth with extra challenges: how can she chase a villain, climb a wall in those ridiculously cumbersome garments and little pointy shoes? When she wants to take notes in the field what does she write with? She surely can't carry an ink well around with her. And then there is transportation. In New York it's easy to get around, but outside the city public transportation is limited to railway lines and a lot of walking is involved.

Another reason I've come to love the past is all the delicious motives for murder that no longer exist. I love another but I am not free. I am the rightful heir to the fortune. I must do anything to hide the fact that I was an illegitimate child.

But as to why everyone else is suddenly hooked on history?I think it has a lot to do with the uncertainty of our own times. We want to escape from Wall Street and Afghanistan and the primary elections. We long for a simpler time when society was governed by rules, when everyone knew his or her place, when ladies wore big hats and had tea on the lawn. Of course that pre-supposes that one is one of the ladies and not the drudge in the scullery. It is interesting to me because I write two very different series,one among those ladies taking tea and the other among those struggling to survive at the bottom of the heap. And in a way both my heroines transcend their worlds to experience how the other half lives.

So are you fascinated by the past? Why do you think we suddenly want to go there?


  1. I think the past seems less complicated. We idealize it for that and for maybe ... a purity of focus? Our attention can be so split these days, it's a wonder we get anything done!

    Sometimes I think it'd be great to live in other eras, and then I remind myself about the daily showers I can't live without, and the gluten allergy that I'd probably have died from in an era that didn't recognize it.

    Congratulations, Rhys! I can't wait to read Molly's new adventure.

  2. The cover is wonderful and I can't wait to read the book. My TBR pile is getting precarious.

    Like Tammy, for me the lure of the past is that life seemed less complicated. I'm not sure it was, though.

  3. Rhys's publisher apparently made some last minute design changes in the cover art, as the actual cover is slightly different than the version shown above, which is also on Amazon. The wonderful background photo is the same, but the placement and the fonts of Rhys's name and the title are much more elegant. Amazing what a little tweaking can do!

  4. Rhys, what a lovely post! I didn't know the story of you visiting Ellis Island but it makes perfect sense that you'd want to translate those feelings into a book. As many times as I've been to New York, I've never seen EI--will put on the must do.

    I've also never written an historical novel--you have so many details to think about, in addition to characters and motives and killers...I'm not sure I'd have the patience...do you have fans who catch you on little mistakes?

    Congratulations and can't wait to read it!

  5. Rhys, how gorgeous..and what a wonderful post! I'm sure it's that depth of feeling that makes your books so special..and cannot wait to read this one!

    I was thinking about that, too..how it's difficult enough to get things right hen you're writing contemporary novel--but in the past? Whew! Even making sure you're not using words that were not coined yet--have you ever had that happen in a draft?

  6. Lucy, I have to make sure I never slip up, so that fans can't catch me out. I do work really hard to make sure every detail is right. I think I only slipped up in the electon of senators in 1900 (but then I never took US history and didn't realize it had changed) So there is always something one doesn't know that one doesn't know!

  7. Congratulations Rhys,
    The new cover looks awesome. Working on my first historical so I am listening to your ever word.

  8. What a beautiful cover, Rhys! I love your story of your experience at Ellis Island! And what a great series you've created from that with such attention to detail. I can't wait to get my copy of HUSH NOW. Congratulations on your book birthday!

  9. I'll echo everyone else and say how much I'm looking forward to getting HUSH NOW, DON'T YOU CRY (with its even more beautiful cover)into my hot little hands.

    (For those readers wondering why we're all congratulating Rhys on her cover, it's because the cover is both A. one of the most important parts of the book in terms of sales and B. the one thing the author has almost NO control over. We've all prayed to the Cover Gods at one time or another, and rejoice to see when one of our own has been blessed by them!)

  10. Julia, so true, and photos definitely don't do this one justice. Even if you buy the e-book, readers, check out the hardcover in the bookstore.

    And Rhys, yes, it's always the things you don't know you don't know!:-) But that's what copy editors are for, right?

  11. Does anyone know what happened to the email notification? There's usually a button to click for that before you publish your comment, but it's no longer there for me since the website update/disappearance episode. Which means I miss comments others post after mine. Is there any way to bring it back?

  12. I was raised on historical novels. My mother loved history, and she demanded that I read ''good" books. I love feeling transported to another time-to feel how others lived, and what daily life was like. for me, it was always about the people and their lives, and of course, the setting. Yes, it is also a beautiful cover ;)

  13. Rhys, I love this series so much! All the research you put into it makes it truly realistic and memorable. I can hardly wait to read this new book. :)

    Cathy AJ

  14. Rhys, this is a beautiful post. I love your new book cover and cannot wait to read it! The cover is gorgeous.

    I think you're right about historic novels. They take us away to a different time and place with a simplicity that seems to exist in the past. Simplicity brought its own problems, and uncovering the complexities of a simpler time keeps wonderful writers like you in demand.

    I hope you will come to Tucson next year. It's an overwhelmingly busy event but one with lots of opportunity.

    [The email update function on mine has disappeared too (a week or so ago). As wonderful as JRW is, as brilliant as you all are, it's difficult to participate here and enjoy the blog as much as I had prior to the recent changes. The new captcha is not only difficult to use, it does not stop spam. I get strings of false JRW comments in my spam folder every day, and not one real one. Yesterday there were 70. Also it is disability-unfriendly. It does help to ask for new word options, but if you are slow in writing, as I am, the words often change while you are entering them, and you must start over. I cannot distinguish the words in the sound version. Hank explained that she was informed that the new captcha is the wave of the future, so we are stuck with it. I adore Hank for trying. The information she received from the technical people is unacceptable.]

  15. Congratulations on your New book !!
    Wishing you great sales