The Poisoned Pen, then you may be getting to know us a little too well!
Jeffrey Siger writes a wonderful mystery series set in present-day Greece, and Denis and I won't miss an opportunity to see him when he's in town. Not only does this man know how to write, he's a silver-tongued devil who's a very interesting speaker. Jeffrey lives part of the year on Mykonos in Greece and then spends the rest of the year in the United States visiting family and talking to people about his latest book. He also contributes to one of my favorite blogs, Murder Is Everywhere.
I was happy to see that the staff had underestimated the number of people coming to see Siger, and they had to put out additional chairs. I also saw Poisoned Pen Press authors Donis Casey and Frederick Ramsey coming to spend some time with a fellow PPP writer.
|Jeffrey Siger (left) and Donis Casey (right)|
"...but I found salvation, and...."
|Barbara Peters and Jeffrey Siger|
Once everything settled down and host and author had climbed aboard their chairs, Barbara Peters and Jeffrey Siger quickly got down to business. Pulling a postcard from the Hellenic National Museum in Chicago out of his copy of Mykonos After Midnight, Siger said that we'd undoubtedly noticed that the book cover was rather bland, but the books are being repackaged with a new look inside and out.
"I was originally a lawyer, but I found salvation, and now I am a struggling writer," Siger said-- and the look on his face made it clear that he doesn't regret the career change one little bit.
Barbara Peters told us that the Poisoned Pen Press found out about Jeffrey Siger because his first book was a bestseller in Greece. In fact, the first three books in the series were published in Greek. None of the rest have been because-- due to the terrible financial state of the country-- Greeks simply aren't buying books. Not everyone believes that is the real reason, however. A woman approached Siger with her opinion: "The books aren't being published in Greek now because you're saying bad things about us, aren't you?" Siger replied, "Even your own prime minister is saying that Greece is the most corrupt country in Europe!" Through his books, Jeffrey is attempting to show how Greece got where it is today and where it might be headed. Reading about Inspector Andreas Kaldis's investigations is one of the best ways to learn and be entertained all at the same time.
"I call him Cassandra."
Barbara Peters told us that she has described Siger as Cassandra for telling the truth in his books and not being believed. Jeffrey shared an example of his prescience:
For one book, he wrote of a bar changing to a strip club in order to show how a neighborhood had changed. Two weeks later a friend called. "Did you hear? They're thinking of changing 'Zorba's Bar' to a strip club!"
Sometimes he's just too prophetic for his own good. He once had to kill a book he'd almost finished because what he was writing about actually happened. He didn't take it very well. "I put my fist through a wall," Siger recollected.
"Writers are inveterate body snatchers," Jeffrey commented. "I get to see how people are dealing with their lives in a country whose finances are going to take decades to recover."
When Peters mentioned the paucity of crime fiction set in countries like Greece, Mexico, and the continent of Africa, Siger stated that it's probably due to the fact that crime fiction in those places is "too much like real life and headlines."
Peters and Siger then spent a few minutes talking about writers, like Gary Corby, who write mysteries set in ancient Greece. Both agreed that Greece is fascinating. It's the cradle of civilization, it's the bridge between East and West, and it's the birthplace of the gods.
"I stopped drinking," Jeffrey told us, "and not for any health reasons." What he's discovered is that drinking plays an important role on Mykonos, and if he drinks too much, he can't write. "I finished my new book a month and a half ahead of schedule," he said with a smile. "I haven't read your latest," said a deadpan editor named Barbara Peters. "I may want you to start drinking again."
"We're not opening in Greece..."
Jackie Kennedy Onassis is the person who put Mykonos on the map. Residents of Athens in particular now like to spend their holidays there. So much so that many built huge houses on the island. You might think all that building was good for the Mykonos economy. Not so. Once the Athenians moved into their houses, they stopped staying in hotels, they stopped eating in restaurants, and they stopped drinking at the local bars. Cruise ships don't help because they provide most of the amenities that tourists would otherwise buy on the island. Mykonos has yet to fully recover from that building boom.
Mykonos isn't like the rest of Greece. As an example, Siger told us of learning that Louis Vuitton was opening a store on the island. During a press conference the Vuitton representative was asked about the importance of opening a store in Greece. The representative replied, "We are not opening in Greece, we're opening on Mykonos." The major reason for that distinction is the fact that Mykonos gets a lot of traffic from the Arab world and India. People with excessive amounts of cash to spend have created an artificial economy on the island. While Mykonos gets the visiting millionaires, the unemployment rate countrywide is 27%, and for those Greeks under the age of 25, the unemployment rate is 57%.
In the past five years, taxes in Greece have gone up fivefold. Income taxes have risen, and deductions have been taken away. Property taxes that were once $5,000 are now $25,000. Almost everyone in the audience was stunned, especially when Siger went on to say that the Greek constitution does not allow taxation of Greek shipping owners.
Jeffrey Siger's next book is set on the Mani Peninsula on the Peloponnese, where it's said the descendants of the original Spartans live. The Manis are supposed to be the worst of the bad guys. This man knows how to whet people's appetites for the book to come!
The evening wound down with Barbara harking back to Siger's Cassandra-like tendencies. "I get good intel because I don't take cheap shots at people or at events in my books. I have a lot of contacts." As someone who likes to accumulate Frequent Reader Miles in my armchair while I read a good book, I'm glad he does.