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I’m so happy. The temperatures here in Scottsdale have finally dropped below 100 F. It’s in the high 90’s every afternoon but it sure beats 110 which has been common more than I would like. The weatherman just said that next Friday it will even be below 90. Everybody who lives here do so for the winters which is on the way. I’m usually here then and it’s wonderful.

I found walking at the mall interesting but you can’t beat being outside. I had to get outside right before dawn, as you can see by this photo, as I wanted to avoid walking in the sun.  There is a line up of three planets that you can see in the early morning right now, Mercury, Mars and Venus. I could only see one which I think was Venus. The moon was waning. I love planetary things that you can see from earth. I wouldn’t want to go to Mars though which I understand will be happening before too long. I’d be afraid I couldn’t get back.

The sky was pretty on this morning. Clouds always add so much to photos. I am fascinated by weather. If I had it to do over, I think I would become a meteorologist. Needless to say, I watch the weather station a lot.

Author Interview: Mark Pryor, The Sorbonne Affair

 I love mysteries and was happy to discover a bookstore here in Scottsdale called Poisoned Pen which sells mostly mysteries, although they have expanded what they sell a bit. I love to go there and wander around and the staff  can always point me to new authors that I haven’t heard of.  I was looking around and noticed a table set up featuring books which had France and mostly, Paris, as the setting. The Sorbonne Affair was one of these. I bought it and was about half way through reading it when I started wondering if the author, Mark Pryor, would agree to an interview. Happily, he agreed. I love doing author interviews.
 The book is set in Paris and is about a well known author who feels she is being spied on and consults with an American Embassy head of security, Hugo Marston, and the story proceeds from there with some deaths and intrigue. I wasn’t able to guess who the murderer was. Along the way, you get some looks at Paris which I especially liked as I could picture them as I read, some tasty food descriptions and information on writing books and getting published. So, if you like Paris and mysteries this may be for you. If you don’t like the “f word”, one character will really bother you.
Questions:
1. This doesn’t have anything to do about your book but how did someone from England end up in Austin, Texas? And, also, how did you go from being a journalist to being an assistant district attorney? Do you deal with murder cases in your job?
Well, my mother is actually from Chapel Hill, NC, and we used to come over here every couple of years to visit. In the early ’90s I went there to travel a bit, spend time with family. I ended up falling in love with the States, with living here, and resolved to stay. I worked as a freelance journalist in Chapel Hill and Raleigh and also went back to school to get my journalism degree from UNC. I then decided to go to law school, attending Duke just down the road.
I met my wife there, Sarah, and after law school we decided to move to Texas, where her dad and sister lived. We got jobs at big law firms (which we hated!) and after three years I applied to the DA’s office here in Austin. I realized I wanted to be in a courtroom, doing trials, and that was the only way I could think to do that. Roll on ten years and I’m still doing it!
2. I love the cover of your book. Did you have anything to do with selecting it? Do you know which terrace in Paris it was taken from? (I think I have been to the terrace seen on the front of his book. It’s on top of the Terrace Hotel, 12 rue Joseph de Maistre, 75018 in Montmartre.
I’m so glad you like it! No, my publisher has an art department that does all the covers. I loved the one for The Paris Librarian, too, they do a great job. And if I knew where that terrace was, I might be there myself, sipping coffee…
3. How did it come about that you set your series of mysteries (Hugo Marston-head of security for the American Embassy) in Paris? Do you spend time in Paris doing research?
Honestly, the only reason is that I had an idea for the first book, The Bookseller, while I was there. Literally walking down the street alongside the Seine and the idea came to me. And so Hugo Marston was born!
Yes, I do spend time there for research. I go for every book, once I have the idea of what the story is. I’ll be going again for the new one in December and this will be something like my 18th visit! I know, I know, it’s tough that I have to go there and research in person but like every artist I’m prepared to suffer a little… 😉
4. I did a Google search for the hotel featured in your book, the Sorbonne Hotel, but couldn’t find it so I assume you made it up for your book. Is it based on a hotel that you know in Paris? Where do you stay when in Paris?
Right, I made it up as there’s no hotel with that name — there should be though, right? As for where we stay, generally I’m there for a whole week so we’ll rent an apartment to make it a little cheaper. We tend to pick different parts of the city each time,just because we’ve been there so much it’s too easy to drift back to a favorite spot. When we go in December it’ll just be for a few days, so we’re scouring for a good hotel in Montmartre, where I plan to set the next book.
5. Did you ever have any contact with someone in the American Embassy in Paris to know how to write about it and your main character?
Yes! I was too shy/embarrassed to do it before The Bookseller came out, but once it hit the shelves I felt like a ‘real writer’ so had the nerve to email the State Dept and inquire. After a few emails got bounced around to several people, someone from the embassy there invited me to come take a tour. I ended up sitting down with a real RSO (not Hugo’s counterpart, he was traveling, but his 2nd in command) for about two hours just talking about what they do and how they do it. it was fascinating and, best of all, it turned out I had got pretty much everything right in the first book. Pure luck, of course!
6. How did you learn about the French legal system?
I actually try and steer clear of getting too technical as far as that goes. Because of my day job I’m pretty familiar with police procedures, crime scene protocols etc, but you’ll notice that once someone is arrested for the murder, the book usually ends. What little I put in there comes from internet research, although now I think about it I do have a friend from law school who works in a Paris law firm now and she advised me on one aspect of The Sorbonne Affair (which I can’t mention, as it might give something away!).
7. How do you get ideas for your books?
I never know how to answer this question, because it sounds weird: I don’t know. Occasionally I’ll take a snippet from something I’ve seen in real life, but not usually. The fact is, I have a hundred books in my head that want to be written, I just don’t have the time. Coming up with plots isn’t hard for me, quite the opposite, and I know I’m very fortunate in that regard.
8. Why did you start writing mysteries?
Because I grew up reading them. I’ve always wanted to write, always did write even as a kid. And so when I started in on it seriously, it only made sense for me to write a mystery. It’s about all I watch on TV, too, mysteries, true crime… and soccer. Crime and the mind of the criminal have always fascinated me and I suppose this is another way I can explore that fascination.
9. Favorite mystery authors?
How many am I allowed?! Ok, so historically my faves have been Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, PD James… those folks. Now I’m super into Philip Kerr’s Berlin Noir series, I love Alan Furst, adore Tana French.. who else? Oh, big fan of James Ziskin, Jamie Mason, Craig Johnson…if only I had more time to read!
10. I assume you visit Paris often. What are some of your favorite places there? If someone were going there for the first time, where would you tell them to go?
Yes! As often as I can. You know, the thing I like to do the most there is walk. Just walk. On my last trip I wore a device that tracked how far I went, and my fei and I covered ten miles every day (and still I put on a few pounds, what’s that about?!). There are lots of obvious tourist attractions, but I would point someone towards the Musee d’Orsay, the grounds of the Louvre, and the Catacombs. And advise them to find a cafe and just sit and have a coffee or a drink and watch people. Rush about for an hour or two, then just sit and watch.
11. Have you visited other parts of France? If so, any favorites? Being from England, were you lucky enough to visit growing up?
Yes, I have, I’m very lucky in that regard. My mother actually lives in the Pyrenees mountains in France, and my wife and I were married in her tiny little village. I’ve driven and taken the train to or through most every part of France and love it all. The Loire for its castles, Bordeaux for its vineyards, Pau for its mountains. Even the flatter northern parts are wonderful, so rich in history with little stone villages dotted around… ahh, you’re making me want to go there now!

Still Here

Still here in Arizona and haven’t done a thing except walk each morning at the mall, talk with my Mom and watch all of the New York Tennis Open and some college football and go to a couple of movies. Oh, and read a lot, lots of mysteries. Nothing worth photographing except a few things at the mall. I’d like to do a short day trip this week. I don’t think my Mom will be up for it but we will see.

The carousel in front of the Hotel de Ville in Paris. I was going through my Paris photos and found this. I don’t remember when I took it. It’s always there.

I took this from the second floor of the Eiffel Tower as I climbed the stairs with my grandsons some years ago. Not the best photo ever. Did you know that you now have to go through security to get below the Eiffel Tower or to get into line to go up?

Art

While looking around Old Town Scottsdale I found some interesting art, mostly part of a fancy art gallery I think.

I spied what I thought was a regular saguaro and went to get a photo with the pretty yellow flowers in front of it when I realized that it was made of metal.

Then I saw this group of metal sculptures.

The sculpted metal lady sported turqouise jewlry which I thought was cool.

Another metal sagauro, light post and a planter with cactus all artfully displayed.

Isn’t this great?  Nature is an artist too.

I think this was the entrance to parking at the gallery which I didn’t get the name of.

Here Again

A photo from Paris from a few years ago. I especially like the light. It was taken from the metro as it crossed the Seine. No photos from AZ at the moment.

I am back in Scottsdale with my Mom after a quick trip to los Angeles. It is back up to 110 degrees or so every day which just kills my spirit and I don’t get outside to take photos. My only excursion is in the car to drive to the mall to walk and I often make a stop at the grocery store on the way home. Mom’s doctor wanted to do two procedures on Mom but she only, reluctantly, agreed to one-the subcutaneous Loop Heart Monitor, which keeps track of her heart 24/7. Once a day the whole record is sent in via the Internet to the doctor’s office where they check for various things. If she should have another episode, they can see if it was caused by her heart. She is one of many who have atrial fibrillation where the heart beats irregularly which is the leading cause of strokes. It was a quick procedure done in the hospital. We were almost ready to be checked out when a nurse ran by as the patient next to us coded and suddenly there were twenty people in the room trying to bring him back. We don’t know if he made it or not. He was intubated and being helped to breath when they took him out of the room. Mom can’t walk well but she sure looked healthy compared to him. She told me she doesn’t want me to leave. I did point out to her that I have a life in France to return to-and believe me, I am very ready to return. I think she will hate being alone again but I have found an agency which will send someone to check on her once a day and do various things for her. Progress.

Mom and I were both born in Houston, Texas so watch the news about the hurricane very avidly. I have a cousin who still lives there. I wrote the day before the hurricane was due to land and asked if he was leaving but he said no and that, in fact, his wife was getting her nails done. The next day he said they had very little rain and that what was being shown on the news was “fake news”. The next day I saw photos of his pool which had turned green and was overflowing and what he called a lake in front of his house but he still wasn’t leaving. The day after that I called and he said his son was coming in a boat to get them and that there was two feet of water in his house. Both of his cars are destroyed. He headed back a few days later with his son and friends to start ripping out walls and start the repair. He had flood insurance for 22 years and finally stopped it thinking it was a waste of time and money. In the meantime, in Dallas, my son and daughter can’t get gas. There is sort of a panic run on gas stations as everyone is afraid there won’t be any left due to the damage to the suppliers in Houston.

I’m looking forward to seeing Notre Dame again.