Monday, March 24, 2014

@ The Poisoned Pen with Rhys Bowen!

Tuesday, March 4, was a special night because Denis finally got to join me at a Poisoned Pen author event-- it had been way too long! Not only that, but we were going to see a very special author: Rhys Bowen. I couldn't wait to get there!

When we walked into my favorite bookstore, I could see that Rhys was going to be showing some slides, so as soon as I made my purchase, I hustled over to get two good seats. Writing popular series like Evan Evans, Molly Murphy, and Her Royal Spyness, Rhys has tons of fans, so I knew the store was going to be crowded.

Rhys and her husband arrived, bearing champagne and a variety of tasty French foods. Raising her champagne glass, Rhys declared, "I want you to know I'm going to be very fluent tonight! If you're going to be talking about Paris, it would be a sin to do so without champagne and French food!" People needed very little coaxing to fill their own glasses and select delicious nibbles to fill their plates. With an appropriate toast ("Vivre le livre!"), the evening began.

"Long live the book!"

L to R in the darkened room: Rhys Bowen & Barbara Peters

The store was darkened for the slideshow of photos Rhys took when she was doing research in Paris. As we looked at places such as Sacré Coeur and Montmartre, Rhys said, "It's amazing how many cities have iconic monuments that people think have been there forever-- but they date from the 1800s."

One day as Rhys and her granddaughter were walking through a museum in Paris, her granddaughter looked at a painting and remarked, "That's modern." Out of curiosity, Rhys checked the date the painting was done. It was finished a mere two years after the Impressionists had been The Force to be reckoned with in the art world. This intrigued her. What could have happened to cause such a tremendous shift? Off to do research she went and discovered that it was a time of violence and upheaval in the city. Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia were swarming to Paris. The Dreyfus Affair had the city divided, and violent outbreaks were common.

It was also a time of breakthroughs in forensics with Alphonse Bertillon creating the first scientific system used by police to identify criminals. His system would soon be supplanted by fingerprinting, but his other contributions like mug shots and crime scene photography are with us to this day.

City of Darkness and Light

Available NOW!
In the latest Molly Murphy book, City of Darkness and Light, Molly takes her infant son on board a ship bound for France to stay with her friends, Sid and Gus. After a mock stern look from her husband, Rhys refused to tell us why Molly went to Paris. "You'll have to buy the book!" she laughed.

Rhys said, "I have friends who've introduced dogs into their books, and they've told me what a pain that is. A baby is even worse. I began to wonder why on earth I let Molly get pregnant in the first place!"

Bowen then told us how important Café Society was in Paris. "I'm sad. You just don't see this anywhere else. I'd love to sit in a café with other writers and discuss all sorts of things about our craft.

She and host Barbara Peters then moved into a discussion of other important segments of Parisian life, such as "le cinq à sept"-- when, between the hours of five and seven in the evening, men leave work to visit their mistresses. "It's an accepted part of French life," Peters said. "12 to 2 PM is 'le midi'-- lunch-- and 5 to 7 PM is for sex." Bowen added that when she was traveling in France, she had a difficult time finding village shops open between le midi and all the various saints' days. This reminded Barbara of Spain. "I read somewhere that the Spanish are thinking about not staying up all night because the productivity of their workers is practically non-existent. In Spain, prime time TV is on at 1 AM!"

Beautiful Dreamer?

Rhys Bowen talking about her Parisian research
Bowen is already hard at work on Molly Murphy #14. Her working title is "Beautiful Dreamer" because Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams is central to the book. She doesn't think that this will be the final title; however, because her publisher doesn't think it's edgy enough.(She did ask everyone for suggestions, though!)

In this work-in-progress, Molly's friends Sid and Gus go to Vienna where their niece is the sole survivor of a horrific house fire. The girl suffers from both amnesia and terrible nightmares, and Sid and Gus decide to try to interpret those nightmares to find out what happened.

Bowen told us how important Sid and Gus are to Molly because, through these two women, Molly is getting all the family love and attention she never received as she was growing up.

The next "Georgie" book will take Her Royal Spyness across the Atlantic in an ocean liner and on to the Hollywood of the 1930s. Bowen based the ocean liner Georgie travels on upon the Cunard liner, Berengaria. In doing research, she came across a treasure trove of photographs, so she knew what all the rooms on board the ship looked like.

Time flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for questions. (The old adage "Time flies when you're having fun" is never more true than when I'm at The Poisoned Pen.)

When asked about her Evan Evans series, Rhys said that, although she had planned to continue the series, she's already got three books going for this year, so the further adventures of the Welsh constable look less and less likely.

As for her research, Bowen admits that she doesn't use 90% of it once she sits down to write the actual book. "I've found that there are more problems with things you think you know," she said with a laugh. At this point, Barbara Peters told us that when she was in Newport, Rhode Island, she remembered Bowen having written about the area. "I was very impressed by how well Rhys evoked the Cliff Walk," Barbara said.

The last question of the evening concerned the Georgie movie that's being made. According to Bowen, the movie is still in development in London. Matador Pictures has rejected three scripts so far. The company believes-- as will any fan of the books-- that everything hangs on Georgie, so her character has to be just right.

On that note, two lines immediately formed: one for Rhys to sign books, and the other for the rest of the food and champagne. Rhys Bowen is one extremely talented writer; moreover, her personality makes her absolutely perfect for events like this. If you get a chance to meet her, don't miss it!


  1. Cathy - She is extremely talented and it's nice to know that she's such a great speaker too. And she seems like a really genuinely nice person. Loved her Evan Evans series, and this one promises to be as good in its unique way.

    1. It is a good book, Margot. Bowen is one of the very first authors I "conversed" with online, in an old Usenet news group called alt.mysteries.

  2. I may have to read the Evan Evans series. I had a great uncle named Evan Evans!

    1. That's a good incentive if ever I heard one, Marty!


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