Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Paris Librarian: A Hugo Marston Novel

Idgie Says:
Receiving this book for review was exciting for me as I had listened to Mark discuss the writing of it when he was at Southern Voices in February and I loved the research that went into creating this story.  You can watch the Southern Voices video below!

Hugo appears, on the surface, to be a friendly, outgoing, laid back guy just hanging out in Paris, working a cool job.   But he didn't get that cool job just for being a great person to know - underneath his casually affable persona, he is sharp as a tack and very few details miss his eye.  When an investigation is needed, he's the one you want on it.

Mark doesn't skimp on details and you can easily visualize his Paris, and his love of the city, in his writing.

The Paris Librarian is the sixth Hugo Marston novel.

Seventh Street Books
August 9, 2016

Hugo Marston’s friend Paul Rogers dies unexpectedly in a locked room at the American Library in Paris. The police conclude that Rogers died of natural causes, but Hugo is certain mischief is afoot.

As he pokes around the library, Hugo discovers that rumors are swirling around some recently donated letters from American actress Isabelle Severin. The reason: they may indicate that the actress had aided the Resistance in frequent trips to France toward the end of World War II. Even more dramatic is the legend that the Severin collection also contains a dagger, one she used to kill an SS officer in 1944.

Hugo delves deeper into the stacks at the American library and finally realizes that the history of this case isn’t what anyone suspected. But to prove he’s right, Hugo must return to the scene of a decades-old crime.


Mark Pryor is a former newspaper reporter from England, and now an assistant district attorney with the Travis County District Attorney's Office, in Austin, Texas. He is the creator of the nationally-recognized true-crime blog D.A. Confidential. He has appeared on CBS News's 48 Hours and Discovery Channel's Discovery ID: Cold Blood.

Mark adds:

"I write fiction because I can't help myself, and I set my stories in Paris because I love the city and its people.  And, of course, its food -- snails are a direct (if slow) route to my heart.

"And if you've ever sat in a Paris cafe, watching the world pass by with a carafe of red wine in front of you, then I'm sure you can understand why Hugo lives in Paris.  And if you haven't done those things, well, I encourage you to do so.  Just be sure to invite me along."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Dollhouse - Spotlight and Author Interview

Idgie Says: 
LOVE the cover!  This book looks very intriguing - I suggest you give it a look over.


THE DOLLHOUSE (on-sale August 23), is a debut novel by journalist Fiona Davis.

THE DOLLHOUSE tells the dual storylines of two women who, decades apart, are enthralled by the allure of the real-life Barbizon Hotel for Women, which, from 1927 to 1981, was an exclusive residence for young, single women who wanted to make it in the big city, including Liza Minelli, Grace Kelly, Joan Crawford, Joan Didion, and Sylvia Plath. 
When Davis walked through the doors of the Barbizon 63 a few years ago, she was struck by the history of the building and conceived of a novel: partially set in the Barbizon of 1952, and partially in the condos of today. When Darby McLaughlin arrives at the Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, she is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.


THE DOLLHOUSE is a gorgeous product of both Fiona Davisrich imagination and extensive research. To fully imagine the lives of Barbizon’s residents, she delved into the buildings history, scoured 1950s womens magazines and copies of the New York Times, and interviewed several women who lived in the Barbizon in the 50s and 60s. She visited Lior Lev Sercarz’s legendary spice shop La Boîte to develop one characters passion for blending spices and took a class at Lincoln Center’s Swing University to get a feel of downtown jazz clubs.

The more I researched,” says Davis, the more pressing it became to provide a glimpse into the way women were expected to live and behave in the early 50s, and how hard it was to break out of that mold. And since the conversation regarding womens roles continues even today, I included parallel time lines in the book: one when a new arrival shows up at the Barbizon Hotel in 1952, and another that takes place in the Barbizon 63 Condo of today.”

The result is both a page-turning, vivid evocation of one of New York Citys most iconic residences and a celebration of the women of New York City’s past and present, brimming with all of the glamour, mystery, excitement, and unfettered opportunities that lay in the glittering city beyond.



A Conversation with Fiona Davis

W hat c om pel led you to w ri te this bo ok?
I love the history of buildings, whether it’s wandering around a castle in England or the Tenement
Museum here in New York City. The Barbizon Hotel is iconic, a building that housed so many women’s stories, and I wanted to explore the way women’s roles have changed over time, the ways that theyve stayed the same, as well as issues of class and status.

I checked out one of the renovated condos in the Barbizon building during my own apartment hunt, and was surprised at how much the place had changed from the 1950s black-and-white photos. When I learned that several long-time residents had been “grandfathered” into the building when it went condo, I realized I had the makings of a novel.

W hat kin d of resea rc h d id y ou do fo r the boo k?
The research process was a blast. In addition to reading everything I could get my hands on about that era, I interviewed several women who lived in the hotel in the 50s and 60s, and incorporated their experiences in the book. I also looked at several women’s magazines from the early 1950s and scoured old issues of The New York Times to get a sense of what day-to-day life was like back then.

New York City played a big part in my research. A visit to Lior Lev Sercarz’s legendary spice shop in
NYC La Boîte – gave me the idea for developing one character’s passion for blending spices. And I took a class on bebop jazz at Swing University part of Jazz at Lincoln Center – taught by the brilliant trombonist Vincent Gardner. Now that was heaven.

W hat a re s ome o f t he real loc ati ons an d p eople in t he boo k, a n d wha t a re ma de up?
Real locations include the Barbizon building, the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, and Hector’s Cafeteria, which was located at Broadway and Fiftieth Street. The Flatted Fifth nightclub from the book is a fictional mix of several clubs that once existed, like the Five Spot and the Half Note, as well as Small’s, which you can find on West Tenth Street in Greenwich Village. Most of the musicians mentioned in the novel are real, except for Stick Hawkins, who’s based on Thelonious Monk. I was desperate to include a scene of Monk performing, but his cabaret card was revoked in
1951 due to a narcotics arrest, which meant he was banned from playing in any of New York City’s clubs. I used Stick Hawkins as a stand-in, as that part of the book takes place in 1952. Unfortunately, Monk didn’t get his license back until 1957 - what a loss to the jazz fans of that time.

W hat w as i t li ke mov ing f ro m jo u rna lism to fic tio n w ri ti ng?
As a journalist, I love crafting a story from research and interviews, and when I decided to write this
book I approached it in the same way. But since it was fiction, I could use my imagination as well, and spin a story rooted in fact but not limited by it. I hope readers will get a glimpse into the way women were expected to live and behave in the early 50s, and appreciate how hard it was to break out of that. At the same time, I hope they’ll enjoy reading about how two generations of women can influence each other to stand up and be counted.