Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Murder in Saint-Germain: Guest Post by Cara Black

Cara Black is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series, which is set in Paris. Cara has received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, a Washington Post Book World Book of the Year citation, the Médaille de la Ville de Paris—the Paris City Medal, which is awarded in recognition of contribution to international culture—and invitations to be the Guest of Honor at conferences such as the Paris Polar Crime Festival and Left Coast Crime. Pre-order Cara Black’s Murder in Saint-Germain from any bookseller before 6/6/2017 and send proof of purchase to preorders@sohopress.com to receive a free Eiffel Tower USB pre-loaded with Cara Black’s tour guide inspired by her latest book!

Cara Black:
Murder in Saint-Germain

Utter the phrase Left Bank in Paris and one thinks of world renowned locations; the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts, Picasso’s studio where he painted Guernica, back offices of the Sénat, the church of Saint Germain des Pres, and the Closerie des Lilas, famous as one of Hemingway's favorite cafés to name a few. We think of the artists and writers at outdoor cafes where they nursed a coffee all day, the chic passersby, the tang of Gauloise. It all called to me. Especially the Jardin du Luxembourg, the spreading lawns, chalky gravel paths, with the pond and boats, statues staring from flower beds, the quiet spots under the leafy trees for reading. So ripe for murder.

A few books back while researching in Paris, I was lucky to meet Catherine, a former Brigade Criminelle officer (the elite Paris homicide squad) who then worked part-time at the Comissariat in the 14th arrondissement. I wanted to know what her experiences were as a woman, in the late 80’s into the 90’s, in a male dominated team. I’ve learned success comes from finding the right question to ask an interviewee. Even more interesting, that when I think I do, the person relates experience much more fascinating, giving a me a kernel of thought for a new idea or a story. I’ve learned it’s always better to go with the conversations and where they drift and learn new things and tidbits.

It’s a great way to discover procedure and how the police operate in ways that I’d never have thought of asking about. Catherine spoke about the Eastern European criminals and gangs as a source of arms smuggled into France. Arms were brought in from the then recently collapsed Soviet Union through routes to Europe. Later, the arms came from the conflicts in Sarajevo, the Balkans. Also, a lot of these former soldiers took mercenary jobs, or just redirected their efforts to crime in Europe. The famous Pink Panther jewelry heist gang, very slick, organized, come from the Balkans. Catherine opened up about her secondment to the International Court Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and her tours of duty there. She made several years doing tours of duty and enforcement with an International team. She burned out there, suffered trauma and we’d call it PTSD. Looking at my notes about those conversations, I felt there was an issue to address and it intrigued me. I hadn’t set a book in Saint-Germain. It was perfect, full of history, charm and buckling cobblestones. Yet everyone probably knew it better than I did - who didn’t go to St Germain des Pres and have a coffee where Albert Camus and Sartre and de Beauvoir sat? What backdoor could I find for Aimée? Off the beaten track interests me more. I wondered what would she be doing there?

A real challenge. Then thinking about it, Aimée had gone to Ecole des Medicins in Saint-Germain, her grandfather had loved a model at Ecole des Beaux Arts…I’d been to that seedy hotel where Oscar Wilde had died. .. Complicating matters for Aimée is the fact that she is now the single mother of an 8-month old baby. So now I was off and running with Aimée and Murder in Saint- Germain. Fiction, especially crime fiction, can connect the past and present. We see historical themes and trends come to the forefront.

Crime novels encompass all levels of society, from the street cleaner to a countess, murder doesn’t respect class or upbringing. It’s a way to explore sociology, the issues facing today and breathe relevancy into present day as characters experience it.

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