Monday, March 17, 2014

@ The Poisoned Pen with Martin Walker!

Here it was, a Monday evening, and I was fighting my way through rush hour traffic to get to my favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. I was really looking forward to this evening's author, and not just because of the delicious spread of food and drink that always seems to accompany him, but because Martin Walker writes one of my favorite mystery series. Anyone who hasn't read a Bruno, Chief of Police novel is missing a treat!

The evening was even more special because Walker was to be interviewed by another very talented writer, Dana Stabenow. I had to get there in plenty of time to get a good seat!

I'm happy to say that so many people turned up that The Poisoned Pen's staff had to hustle and bring in more chairs, and as I sat and people-watched, I saw yet another author, Rhys Bowen, come in to take one of those seats. It's fun to see some of my favorite authors attend signings as fans, and it's just as much fun to watch them browse the shelves and make purchases. (Bookaholic to the core, aren't I?)

Before the interview began, bookstore owner Barbara Peters came out to make introductions. Peters is a notorious traveler, and those of us who attend events at her bookstore get a kick out of seeing her wear clothes and jewelry she's purchased in countries around the world. However, in honor of her bookstore's 25th anniversary, Barbara has vowed to stay home the entire year. "It's only February, and I already have itchy feet," Peters quipped. "It will be interesting to see if I can last an entire year."

"That's not doing me any good, Martin!"

Dana Stabenow interviews Martin Walker

Once the interview began, Walker told us he was "especially happy to be in Arizona," because it was -6°F. when he left Washington, DC that morning. Walker lives part of the year in the Périgord region of France-- the area he brings to life in his books. After being honored as a Chevalier of the Confrérie de Paté de Périgueux, Martin had to judge the Foie Gras of the Year. Even though he took tiny bites, he "still had more foie gras than I thought possible for any man!

Walker's books are published in English, and only the second Bruno book has now been published in French. It will be interesting to see how the French react to them. (I can't see how they could be anything but pleased.) "These aren't just mysteries that I write; they're small documentaries of the life in that area," Martin said.

Dana Stabenow
Walker and his wife Julia have published a cookbook. Before any of you rush out to get it, it's only available in German. Dana Stabenow looked at him in mock dismay and exclaimed, "That's not doing me any good, Martin!" The book contains the Walkers' own twists on familiar recipes like Quiche Lorraine, and as he described the recipe for Boeuf Perigourdin, I think our mouths all began to water.

Walker doesn't know when the cookbook will be published in English, but it will be. When he and his wife were notified that a photographer would be coming to take photos for the book, Martin and Julia found themselves cooking non-stop. Afterwards, they held a huge party for all the villagers so the food would not go to waste. "Now you're just torturing us!" Dana groaned.

From Scarlett to Crimson

Walker describing French food
Walker then began to talk about his Bruno novels in general, and The Resistance Man in particular. The last known (but one) head of MI6 in the UK was John Scarlett. In The Resistance Man, the author introduces a man named Crimson who's retired to Bruno's area. When Crimson's house is burgled and the police discover he's a former spymaster, the robbery is taken much more seriously than it had been at the beginning.

Walker likes to add tidbits of World War II and French Resistance lore into his Bruno novels because that era was so important in the region where he lives. In this book, it's a train robbery. The Germans had loaded a train with money and were moving it away from advancing allied troops. The French Resistance robbed the train to keep the money out of German hands. 15 tons of cash ($300 million in today's money) was taken from the train... and disappeared. Martin had fun doing research and coming up with his own theories on what happened to the money from the train robbery.

Another bit of research that went into the book involved the Marshall Plan and the secret CIA slush fund that was the source of France's nuclear program. (Something the French would love to deny.)

The seventh book in the Bruno series, Children of War, will be released in the UK this summer, at the end of May or the beginning of June. Walker is already working on number eight. "No end in sight, and that's what we like to see!" Stabenow said.

"...more history than what is good for us."

Martin Walker
When Dana mentioned how often World War II and the Resistance appears in his novels, Walker said, "One of the problems in Europe is that we have more history than what is good for us. And people have long memories.

"You can't move in France without seeing a street sign with a date on it, and all these dates matter. The dates serve to keep people picking at the scabs."

Dana asked if Bruno was going to leave St. Denis to avoid Cabot Cove Syndrome. Walker replied with an emphatic "Absolutely not! I could no more leave St. Denis than I could have Bruno marry!" Stabenow responded with, "I'm really glad to hear that."

However, Martin did share the information that the next Bruno book, Children of War, will introduce a new American love interest for St. Denis's Chief of Police. You could feel everyone's heightened interest fizz and zing throughout the bookstore!

Longtime Basset Hound lover and owner Martin Walker hadn't written many Bruno books before he realized that Gigi, Bruno's own faithful Basset hound, was living on borrowed time, given the breed's average life expectancy. Instead of letting the dog slip away quietly, he decided that Gigi would go out a hero, and that's exactly what Gigi did. (This dog lover cried through those scenes.) "You have no idea how many phone calls, emails, and death threats I received over Gigi's death!" Walker said.

Bruno on the Small Screen

Available NOW!
A combined German-French production company is making a television series based on Walker's books, and the author made sure the contract included a "Hitchcock Clause," which means that he gets a tiny walk-on scene in each episode. The series is set to premiere in the fall.

The actor portraying Bruno is evidently quite handsome because Walker's wife, Julia, kept wondering, "Do you think he'd like a private tour of the Périgord?" The actress who portrays Isabelle is a martial arts expert, and Martin had us all laughing when he said, "I'm going to be very careful around her!"

A fellow fan in the room told us that there was already a series based on Bruno being broadcast in Switzerland. This was news to Walker, and he smiled and exclaimed, "I must call my agent at once!"  He then told us that this reminded him of a book he'd written, The Cold War and the Making of the Modern World, which was published in an unauthorized Chinese version. It was bad. The book looked as though it had been run through one of those clunky computer translating programs, and any mention of Mao Zedong had been changed to follow the Chinese Communist Party line.

The wonderful evening ended with Martin Walker telling us that his books are extremely popular in Germany, and the French have told him that he "is responsible for bringing more Germans to the Périgord than anyone since Adolph Hitler." I know that many of us in the room wanted to board the next plane for France. Bruno, the chief of police of St. Denis-- and Martin Walker-- have that effect on readers.


  1. Cathy - What a lovely visit you had! I really do like the Bruno series, and it's nice to know that the author behind it is as nice as I'd hoped.

    1. Both the author and his books can charm the birds out of the trees, Margot. :-)

  2. Now I'm in trouble. How am I supposed to read all these books? It sounds like I'd like the whole series. The French Resistance is a very interesting topic.

    Give up sleeping, reading blogs, paying bills, everything?

    1. I think you would enjoy the series, Kathy-- and I'd hate to tell you how much sleep I've lost over the years!

  3. I'm guilty as charged, too, Cathy. I still stay up all night if I have a good book in hand.
    It started when I was 11 with my flashlight under the covers, and I'd read my books.

    Then when I was in high school, and one year we had to be there very early, I was always late because I was up late reading fiction.

    So, I'm a bit crabby as I haven't read for days.

    1. If I hadn't read for days, I would be extremely crabby, too!


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!