Monday, July 04, 2016

Martin Walker at The Poisoned Pen!

It was a rare occurrence at Casa Kittling: Denis was able to come with me to The Poisoned Pen to see Martin Walker, author of the Bruno Chief of Police mysteries. As it turned out, I'm thrilled that he was.

Denis reserved our seats and then went to sit at the table in the back of the store while I browsed and made my purchase, then I joined him at the table. While I read an advance reading copy of Inger Ash Wolfe's latest Hazel Micallef mystery, Denis discovered he had five credits at Audible and swiftly went about spending four of them. (Stephen King's Bill Hodges trilogy and Spencer Kope's Collecting the Dead-- not that he asked me for my opinion on any of them, you understand. Later on, he would spend the fifth on one of Walker's Bruno books.)

Having come to Walker's appearances at my favorite bookstore before, I wasn't surprised to see him walk in over an hour before the scheduled start time. He swiftly disappeared to sign books for online orders, then he reappeared in the bookstore. In the past, I've watched him browse the shelves, buy books, and then sit down to read. Not this time. It was a good thing I was sitting down because Mr. Walker came over to the table, introduced himself to Denis and me, sat down, and proceeded to talk to us for at least twenty minutes. "Is it always this hot?" he asked us. I thought back to the very recent past and smiled. "No, sometimes it's even hotter," I replied. I think Walker appreciated chatting with a fellow Brit, which is why I'm so glad Denis was there. Weather. Various places in the UK. Football (soccer). Brexit. I can't remember everything we discussed. And people think I'm nuts for showing up so early. Hah!

Barbara Peters and Martin Walker

After letting us know that French cheese, crackers, and wine were available, host Barbara Peters sat down and chatted with us for a few minutes before it was time to start filming for Livestream. Wow-- did she ever have some exciting news!

A small business is leaving, and my favorite bookstore is taking over the entire building! The work begins in August, and from what she said, the retail space will not be expanding. Rather they will be adding spaces like a small kitchen, and a "green room" for authors that can also be used for meetings of book groups. These spaces will greatly add to the functionality of the bookstore... and they've taken out a ten-year lease. I'm looking forward to the changes!

When Martin Walker took a seat in front of the large crowd, Barbara put in a request for more scenes with the mayor of St. Denis, and she also reminded us that the Bruno mysteries are the highest selling paperbacks in the history of the bookstore.

Martin Walker
When Walker told us that he's been on the road since April 28, I could see why he sat down with Denis and me. Traveling solo, I'd be sick of my own company at this point, too! He told us that he's become much more adept at packing and  necessities like washing out underwear and socks. The socks don't always dry; however, which leads to a further talent in sticking wet socks over the end of a hair dryer and turning it on to speed up the process.

Brunos Kochbuch (Bruno's Cookbook) is still not available in English, much to the dismay of many, including Barbara. The last time Walker tried to talk a publisher into the translation, he was told, "You haven't got a TV show. You haven't got a famous restaurant. You haven't got a big bosom. It's not worth translating the book into English." The major problem is that the wonderful photographs that accompany the recipes were taken by Germans who are charging too much for the rights to the pictures. Now that the book has won Gourmand International's World's Best Book on French Cuisine award, the Germans want to charge even more. "I may wind up publishing it myself," Walker said.

In case you're wondering the photos aren't just of food. There are also beautiful atmospheric shots of the countryside Bruno tells us about in the books. In addition, the food photos were not taken on a stage set with a "food stylist" nearby to brush items with glycerin and shaving cream to make them look pretty for the camera. All the recipes were prepared in the Walkers' kitchen in their home in France. You're seeing the real deal. Now I'm no foodie, but after hearing all this even I want to see an English version of this book!

Walker reading from Fatal Pursuit
Walker was made a Grand Conseil of Bergerac wine, and he mentioned having to wear medieval robes and look like a "thirteenth century idiot." Once he was given this honor, he was told, "It is now time to talk about your wine." Thus Couvé Bruno was born. Walker gave specifics about the wine, but I couldn't write fast enough. Never fear-- I'm embedding the Livestream event at the end of this post.

5,000 bottles of Couvé Bruno were produced, and over 4,000 have already been sold. Walker wanted to bring a couple of cases with him to the U.S. but learned it would take about a year's worth of paperwork and a lot of money to accomplish that. 

"It's a very good wine," Barbara Peters said, "but I have to say that I love the label!" Walker laughed. He designed the label for the wine bottles, and Bruno's basset hound figures prominently on it.

Very little was said about the actual plot of Walker's latest book, Fatal Pursuit, but then that's the way of The Poisoned Pen. They don't want to spoil the reading experience for anyone. No, what was mainly spoken of was the classic car that has pride of place in the book-- a 1936 Bugatti Type 57sc Atlantic.

There were only four of those Bugattis ever made, and they were called the most beautiful cars in the world. One was purchased by Ralph Lauren, and Walker estimates that Lauren-- between purchase and restoration-- spent at least $12 million for it. A car museum in California spent $37 million for another, and a third was destroyed at a railroad crossing in France in 1955. No one knows what happened to the fourth Bugatti, which won the very first 24 hours of Le Mans. 

Martin Walker
The Bugatti factory was in Alsace, a region fought over by France and Germany many many times. At the beginning of World War II, Germany quickly took control of Alsace and commandeered the Bugatti factory to make aircraft engines. The fourth Bugatti was driven from Alsace to Bordeaux... but the car never made it to Bordeaux. The two men driving the car were killed in the war, and they never told anyone what they'd done with the car. Well, the route they would've taken from Alsace to Bordeaux would have taken the men and the car right through Bruno's turf, and Walker knew he had to write a book and include the missing fourth Bugatti. "If that car were found today-- with its history-- it would be worth even more than the $37 million the California car museum paid for theirs," Walker told us.

"I've been in the fighting in Iran. I've been in the fighting in Afghanistan," Walker said. "For research into Fatal Pursuit, I went for a ride with a champion rally car driver.  I have never been more scared in my life!"

Walker reading from Fatal Pursuit
The author then gave a dramatic reading of part of the rally car race scene in the book, and when I say dramatic, I mean dramatic. Walker really got into it, and it was easy to see that he was channeling his own fear into Bruno's experience. It was so much fun to listen to him!

There followed a few interesting tidbits. How to tell if a calf has been raised solely on its mother's milk (called "milk veal" in France), and the fact that the German title for The Devil's Cave is Femme Fatale. Of course that led to talk about Bruno's romantic woes. 

"Bruno prefers strong, independent women," Walker said. "I completely understand that. I married one, and I have two daughters who are exactly the same!"

Since it was still so fresh in the news, Barbara asked Walker to talk a bit about Brexit. The man is more than qualified, and if you'd like to see those qualifications, take a look at his About the Author page on his Bruno website.

All the Walkers voted to remain in the European Union (EU), although they were not enthusiastic about it. "Aspects of the EU are brilliant," Walker told us. "If you get sick, you have an EU health card that insures you'll be taken care of. You can live and work anywhere you please in the EU. Any European student is entitled to study abroad in any European country. 

Available Now!
"But Brussels is filled with bureaucratic meddlers poking their noses into things that are none of their business. These bureaucrats are greatly influenced by lobbyists-- there are more lobbyists in Brussels than there are in Washington, D.C.! It would seem that their primary job is to wipe out the small farmers and fishermen, all in the name of helping out the big companies. The EU has almost decimated the fishing industry.

Walker then pointed out one glaring fact about the Brexit vote in the UK: "70% of those with a university education voted to stay in the EU. 70% of those who left school at the age of fifteen voted to leave."

However, for the break with the EU to be final, Article 50 must be carried out, which would call for an Act of Parliament. Since Parliament is packed with members who want to stay in the EU, that Act would not be passed.  Walker hopes that Brexit might bring about some badly needed reform within the European Union.

"Those who were in charge of 'Exit'  are like dogs that chased a car and caught it. What do we do now?" Walker said. "Winners' remorse," Barbara agreed.

A blogger's eye view
Many people in the UK are fed up with the number of immigrants coming there. Walker told us that this is because Britain's economy is much better than that of any other country in the EU. People are going there for jobs, and they're coming in very large numbers. "London is the fifth largest French city in the world, and the second largest Greek city in the world," Walker said. He then told us a funny story about Boris Johnson, but you're going to have to watch the Livestream event if you want to know what it is. I know. I'm cruel!

The tenth Bruno book is in the process of being edited and will be out next year. Walker is being pushed to write a second cookbook, but he's wanting it to focus on their garden with their hens and pheasants that they raise. We'll see what happens. 

The event ended with Walker's information that we may be able to see a "Bruno" television series. It's a French and German production, but they must have found a market here in the U.S. because it's being filmed in English. (Keep your fingers crossed!) Although the author wasn't permitted to tell us the name of the actor portraying Bruno, he did say that his wife offered to take this person on a private tour of the Périgord! (It didn't happen.)

Martin Walker is always one of the most interesting authors to visit The Poisoned Pen. The man has seen and done so much. He definitely has an international view of events that I appreciate. And now here's the event on Livestream. I hope you'll watch it because it's definitely worth your time!


  1. Oh, you are so lucky, Cathy! As you know, I really like his Bruno series very much. And what a treat to get the chance to hear him. Sounds like you had a fabulous time.

  2. Sounds like a fun time had by all. Nice news about the PP's expansion. I've not read any of the Bruno books as yet. Another series on my TBR at some point. Hey, did you see that the 2018 Left Coast Convention has been placed in Reno? Fancy a trip? LOL

    1. LOL! I saw that and was thinking about it (seriously). I won't be able to make any firm plans for a while though. That tends to be prime visiting time here at the Barlow B&B. :-)

  3. The current book I am reading is The Dark Vineyard which is the second book in the French Countryside series. Last month I read Bruno Chief of Police and I was so taken with Bruno and the French countryside. I really like the way that Bruno handles problems or situations as Chief of Police. He has great people skills. So to read about Martin Walker's visit to the PP was a real treat! Oh, I wish I could have been there. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. You're very welcome, Lynn. Enjoy the series!

  4. I've read three of this series, and would gobble up the rest quickly except, then what would I do?

    I had no idea that Bruno had a cookbook (that may be in English yet), nor a blog, complete with recipes. What a treasure trove!

    And what an accomplished man Martin Walker is! Lucky you for having been able to both speak with him and hear him speak.

    1. He is-- absolutely-- one of my favorite authors to see at The Poisoned Pen. Always a very enjoyable time in which I never fail to learn something.


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