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.
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|
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.
"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|
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.
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|
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!