Monday, November 23, 2015

Jeffrey Siger and David P. Wagner at The Poisoned Pen!

It was a time to celebrate. Not only was I going to see one of my favorite authors, but it was on a night when Denis and I could go together. That hasn't been happening very often lately, and I think Denis misses it as much as I do.

We got there in plenty of time to reserve our seats, and then we just made ourselves comfy in the back to read and chat. Time always flies when I'm at The Poisoned Pen, and that Wednesday evening was no exception. Before I knew it, the silver-tongued devil himself (Jeffrey Siger) was there, greeting me and giving me a kiss on the cheek. (In case you're wondering, that silver-tongued devil remark is made affectionately.) Not far behind was David P. Wagner, a new-to-me author whose third Rick Montoya Italian mystery was recently released.  In these two gentlemen's honor, we were all being treated to homemade baklava as well as biscotti and prosecco. Everything was wonderful-- especially that homemade baklava, the most delicious I've ever tasted. Yum!

"...I think you can tell it's not working!"

L to R: Barbara Peters, Jeffrey Siger, David P. Wagner
 After pointing us to the food and drink once more, host Barbara Peters sat down with the authors and began by introducing us to David Wagner.

"Murder Most Unfortunate is David's third book, and he seems to be slowly working his way through all sorts of wonderful towns in Italy. Will you eventually make your way to Rome?" Barbara asked Wagner.

David P. Wagner
"Yes, I'll get there. Eventually," he replied with a smile. "Bassano is a town that has the Alps in the background, about fifty miles northwest of Venice. If you don't get out of the cities and see the little towns, you don't see Italy."

"It's the same way with Greece," Jeffrey Siger said. "I don't know how many of you know this, but David used to be in the foreign service. His character Rick Montoya is half English, half Italian, and a translator. Oh-- and it doesn't hurt that Rick has an important uncle in the Italian police force!"

Siger said something else that made us all laugh. Then he slipped in a remark that I couldn't catch over the laughter. I wish I had because Barbara's reply was interesting!

"How much sex is allowed in crime fiction?" she asked. "It seems to be one genre where readers just aren't that interested in it. I once taught nineteen-year-old college students who complained that a certain mystery contained too much sex. Nineteen-year-olds!"

Jeffrey Siger
Siger laughed. "My Greek publisher wants more sex; my U.S. publisher not so much. I'm trying to find some sort of happy medium

"I remember reading some of the sex scenes aloud to my Barb [Siger's wife]..." shaking his head. "Barb said, 'I think you can tell by all the laughter that it's not working!'"

"Since both of you move around to different cities, you can do a Jack Reacher-- where Jack shows up in a city, takes care of business, and moves on," Barbara said. Then she jumped a tiny bit in her chair. She'd remembered something. "We got off track, David, and you haven't told us what happens in your book!"

One thing that I'd already noticed is that Wagner is a quiet man who observes much and says little. It's probably got a lot to do with his foreign service experience. Wagner looked at us, smiled, and said, "Montoya has to find out if a murder connects to a missing painting."  Very concise, and just enough to make me want to sample his books. I suppose there is something to be said for being a man of few words!

Let's not reinvent the umbrella...

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Peters then asked Siger about the new position that his main character is given at the end of Devil of Delphi.

"In Greece, all jobs are temporary," he said. "We'll just have to see what happens when Kaldis becomes the Minister of Public Safety.

"When I started writing these books, I knew that I needed a main character who has access to all the best and worst aspects of Greece."

He then listed his books:

"Murder in Mykonos deals with Greece and its neighbors. Assassins of Athens is Greece and its attitude towards its government. Prey on Patmos is Greece and the church. Target: Tinos is Greece and immigrants. Mykonos After Midnight is Greece and outside organized crime moving in. Sons of Sparta is about Greece and family, and Devil of Delphi deals with Greece and foreign powers."

Siger's novels are very popular in Greece, and the Greeks' only complaint is that he's made "the cops too nice!" Normally however, they sing his praises: "Why is it in a country of ten million people-- half of whom think they are writers-- that it takes an outsider to write these books?" is a common refrain.

Siger does something different from several other writers I'm familiar with, and this was pinpointed by another favorite of mine, Tim Hallinan. He once told Siger, "I can't do what you do. I write about an American in Thailand. Martin [Limón] writes about an American in South Korea. You write about a Greek in Greece!"  

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The conversation then changed to differences in language-- especially between English and Italian. Wagner pointed out that when we say "don't reinvent the wheel," Italians say, "Don't reinvent the umbrella." Our English "once in a blue moon" is the Italian "every time a pope dies." Wagner loves these differences, and since his main character is a translator, he can indulge that a bit.

"Many readers find it important to travel to different places in their books in order to experience the food and the culture," Peters observed. Picture me nodding my head enthusiastically at this point.

David agreed. "Input from my readers tells me that food is important."

Barbara went on to say how shocked she was when learning about the bootleg liquor business in Devil of Delphi.

"It really is Breaking Bad Greek Style," Siger said. "The liquor business is huge, so it was only a matter of time before it was exploited. It's been said that if you buy a bottle of Chateau Lafitte in France, there's a chance that one out of every ten bottles may be legitimate."

"And you have these very current situations unfolding against the backdrop of World Heritage sites," Barbara remarked. "We learn a great deal about the problems that face modern Greece."

"When I was living in Rome," Wagner said, "someone wanted to block a street to everything but foot traffic. I learned that the first politician who wanted to do that was Julius Caesar. It puts things in perspective." 

Before the evening ended, we learned that Jeffrey's next book is set in Santorini, although he hasn't come up with a title yet. (He doesn't really care for the "Suicide in Santorini" that friends have suggested.) As for David, his next book is set in Orvieto, Italy and concerns an Arizona woman who had once been an exchange student and who has returned to Italy. 

We all adjourned to the signing table... and to the baklava, biscotti, and prosecco. What a wonderful evening!

L to R: Jeffrey Siger, David P. Wagner


  1. So glad you and Denis could go together, Cathy. And what a great evening - Scottsdale and Greece all at once :-)

  2. Sigh. I do enjoy reading these. Thanks!

    1. You're one of the folks I think of every time I go, Pepper. Wish I could take you with me!

  3. Thank you, Cathy, for once again reminding me of what I said.:) It was a terrific time, something hard to avoid with both you and Denis there!

    1. Of course you needed reminding.... To use another worn-out phrase, you're not only a silver-tongued devil, you're also sharp as a tack. It's always a pleasure to see you whenever you're in town!

  4. Sounds great. Am dismayed that I don't have much reading time now. But I'd love to be in Italy or Greece at this point.


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