Jul 172012

By Hilary Davidson

My confession: I hate summer. I have a vague memory of enjoying it when I lived in Toronto, but in the decade since I moved to New York, it’s become my least favorite season. My lack of affection for it is based partly on the sticky unpleasantness of heat and humidity in the concrete jungle. It’s also because summer is invariably a crazy time for me. I spend most of it chained to my desk, and when I venture outside, I wish I were still chained to my desk.

That said, there is one highlight: Thrillerfest, the conference of the International Thriller Writers, which takes place in New York every July. While there’s plenty going for the conference, the very best thing about it is that it brings so many wonderful people to town. This year, that list included Meg Gardiner, Sean Chercover, Dennis Tafoya, Brad Parks, Daniel Palmer, Jennifer Hillier, Owen Laukkanen, Peter Farris, Jamie Freveletti, Carla Buckley, Boyd Morrison, Sophie Littlefield, Mike Cooper, Shane Gericke, Josh Corin, Pam Callow… um, I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Some highlights from this year. I was having so much fun I forgot to snap photos until the last night, at the ITW awards banquet:

At the Tor/Forge table with my awesome publicist, Aisha Cloud, author Jon McGoran (who has a novel coming out with Forge next July), and editor extraordinaire Kristin Sevick Brown.
Brad Parks and Daniel Palmer rock the house with “Ghost Writers in the Sky”
You cannot imagine how hilarious this was… 
With one of my favorite thriller writers, Jeffery Deaver, at the afterparty. 
With the always-awesome Todd Robinson at the after-afterparty. While Thrillerfest is terrific for bringing out-of-town friends into NYC, it’s also fantastic for getting New Yorkers into Manhattan to party. 

Wait, there’s more! Check out the video of Brad Parks and Daniel Palmer performing “Ghost Writers in the Sky” at the awards banquet. Many, many thanks to Karen Dionne for recording this for posterity:

If there’s one negative thing I have to say about this year’s Thrillerfest, it’s this: some wonderful writers were missing from it. In particular, I would have loved to see Rebecca Cantrell there, so I could say congratulations on her latest Hannah Vogel novel, A CITY OF BROKEN GLASS. The book is out today from Forge, and it’s earning rave reviews. Library Journal gave it a star and said: “Cantrell’s fourth historical featuring journalist Hannah Vogel (after A Game of Lies) is compulsively readable. A palpable sense of dread builds, as we know that Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom of November 1938, is imminent. This award-winning series succeeds at weaving a very personal story into a well-researched historical survey. In an increasingly crowded genre period, Cantrell’s series stands tall.”

Check out Becky’s website to see more praise for the book. Read an excerpt over at Macmillan’s site. And please send email to Becky telling her that she needs to come to New York next summer!

May 082012

by Rebecca Cantrell

Thank you, Hilary, for loaning me your spot today to celebrate today’s paperback release of “A Game of Lies,” complete with a bright, shiny new cover. Yup, that it’s over there. For the first time, the books have a recognizable face on them. But who is that mysterious woman on upper half? Is it Hannah Vogel herself? Over at “My Book, the Movie” I cast Hannah Vogel as Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, and Carice Van Houten (if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing three times!).

The new cover is gorgeous, but it never occurred to me that I’d ever find out the secret identity of this latest Hannah Vogel, until…

Out of the blue in twitter, I received this message “@rebeccacantrell I’m the girl on the cover of Game of Lies: lovely to be associated with you. Does that make me Hannah Vogel?”

A little bit of tweeting back and forth later, I’d discovered that the cover model for “A Game of Lies” is known in real life as Boo Paterson. Like Hannah, she was a journalist. Like Hannah, she collects 1930s memorabilia (Hannah bought it new, Boo not so much). And, like Hannah, Boo has some pretty amazing stories to tell.

To celebrate the new release of “A Game of Lies” with its gorgeous new cover, I’d thought we’d spend some time talking to the cover girl herself.

Thanks for joining us today, Boo! First, I’m dying to know how you ended up in a gorgeous 1930s dress and necklace, on a lovely Art Deco chair, looking so very much like Hannah Vogel right when she steps into the Monte Carlo casino?

I’m friends with the great fine-art photographer Laurence Winram and we occasionally dream up photos we’d like to create using the vintage clothes I collect: everything from portraits to weird and fantastical stunts.

In this case, it was actually a 40s film noir scene we were faking; the result of which has ended up as the cover of Simon Tolkien’s new book, Sombre Eclat, funnily enough.

At the end of the shoot – which was done in my Georgian flat in Edinburgh – I suggested we do a quick photo with my favourite white 1930s dress, sitting in one of my Deco easy chairs: so the picture on “A Game of Lies” is really the result of an afterthought.

I’m definitely glad you had that afterthought! Like Hannah, your life has been shaped by the World War II era. Why was this time period a childhood obsession?

Not so much an obsession, as a necessity, really.  My dad was a very intimidating alcoholic, prone to outbursts of rage, which is incredibly frightening for a child.

I found that the only safe subject I could talk to him about without him shouting at me was the Holocaust, as it was his great interest. His bookcases were crammed with tomes about the war and he used to encourage me to read them, even whilst very young. One of my bedtime stories was “The Wooden Horse” and, aged eight, I had already read – and been horrified by – the post-war British propaganda book, “The Scourge of the Swastika,” complete with nauseating photos of Mengele’s experiments and the Allies clearing up bodies from Belsen-Birkenau.

Photo by Lauren Winram

Because of this, I grew up so absorbed by WWII I almost felt it was my duty to discuss the atrocities as an act of remembrance. This lead to the following conversation between my friend and I a couple of years ago:

Me: “I love the story of the Scottish Enlightenment – it’s my favourite subject.”
Friend: “Your second-favourite subject.”
Me: “What’s my favourite subject?”
Friend: “Nazis.”

When I was about 25, I was staying overnight with my parents and my dad was so horrible to me that I finally confronted him over the fact that he had never once said he was proud of me. The next day, outside my room, was the gift of a book entitled: “Never Again – The True History of the Holocaust.”

Because, apparently, nothing says ‘I’m sorry’ like the mass murder of millions.

Ouch, that sounds really difficult. How about we move on to something more recent, and hopefully less painful. The first book in the Hannah Vogel series deals with the cabaret and jazz nightclubs of 1920s Berlin. I think you might have spent more time there than Hannah. What is your attraction to that world and music?

As well as being a journalist, I’m also a music manager and I lived on the jazz scene in New York for two years, not long after the ‘Hannah’ picture was taken. I have a particular love for Manhattan’s speakeasies; blank doors of boarded up shops and hidden alleyways leading to an alternate world of old-time luxury, hot jazz, gin bennets and hushed conversations.

That scene is secret and feels slightly forbidden – one feels one can hide from the cares of the day amongst the artists, musicians and hedonists that populate it.

Billy Strayhorn’s jazz classic, Lush Life, sums up the attraction for me:

Photo by Laurence Winram

I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come-what-may places
Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life
From jazz and cocktails

There is nothing like it – ‘relaxing on the axis of the wheel of life’ in that easy-going late-night bohemian culture. But if you go all the way through that song, you realise it’s really about alcoholism, despair, regret and dread, which I can also relate a lot to.

You’re even busier as a writer than a model. What’s your latest writing project?

I’ve just finished writing “Blue Notes From New York,” which is a narrative non-fiction book about a time when I was so poor that I was forced to work undercover for a professional gambler in a squalid and dangerous underworld, where I had to keep my identity secret.

I then made one last gamble by withdrawing thousands of pounds on credit cards before escaping with my singer to New York, where we experienced the starry sophistication of Manhattan’s nights and the crushing disappointments and dark reality of life outside the spotlight.

The book – which is threaded through with the lyrics of classic Tin Pan Alley songs – pulls back the curtain on the world’s greatest jazz clubs and exposes the players and liars on and off-stage in a city steeped in music.

Though I don’t shy away from grim realities, I think it’s ultimately a hopeful book about the gambles we all take in life – whether one’s metaphorical horse comes in or not.

That sounds fascinating! Would you mind giving us a sneak peek?

Certainly. Here’s an excerpt:

In the nine o’clock darkness, the hot wind rustles litter across a non-descript street as we search the building numbers, but the only one matching that which we have is a block of flats. An old Chinese man laughs and points to the battered grey door of a boarded up tailor’s and says: “Bussa! Bussa!”


He reaches past us to press a hidden buzzer half way down the wall.

The door opens and we grope our way through two sets of black velvet curtains into a long, dark, corridor bar with booths down one side, tea lights guttering on their zinc-topped tables.

As our eyes adjust to the lightlessness, a very glamorous redhead sashays out of the dark towards us.

“Hello, I’m Karla.”

Thanks, again, Boo Paterson, for visiting today! Best of luck with music, journalism, and especially ‘Blue Notes from New York!’

If you’d like to keep track of what Boo’s up to, follow her on twitter, as @lushlifeboo.

Turn Your Back If You Dare

 IRS, Rebecca Cantrell, trust  Comments Off on Turn Your Back If You Dare
Mar 092012

Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

Who can you trust? Let’s start by admitting that if you are searching for the blindly devoted on this blog, you may have bigger issues than we can address today. We spend our days (nights, weekends) plotting against the world. It’s not personal. It’s just fiction. Let’s repeat that one together, it’s not personal, it’s just fiction. And incredibly fun when things are going well.

We don’t mean to raise your suspicions. You should be suspicious and leery of offering us access to your deepest, darkest secrets. We are probably up to no good. Probably, definitely. I only confess it to put you off your game. Surely anyone who looks you in the eye and says I am beyond trustworthiness must be overstating the case. Evil reverse psychology inappropriately applied to friends and readers. My bad.

Here’s a top 5 quick list of some of the people you should never put your faith in:

1. A boyfriend commenting on your new dress.

2. A parent critiquing your manuscript.

3. A neighbor insisting you didn’t flash him (he’ll also tell you he never looks out the window).

4. A customer service person kindly insisting it’s not a user-error.

5. A politician, lawyer (uh oh — that’s me), insurance salesman, any salesman or the weatherman.

Now that we’ve eliminated some of the people you should never turn your back on, let’s discuss some of the people you can rely on for loyalty and protection. And when you can rely on them. I can rely on Rebecca Cantrell to provide an alibi for anything below a Class A felony committed (allegedly) while at a conference we are both attending. How do I know this? She’s sitting next to me in the cell. Nobody talks, everybody walks. It’s not so much about trust as self-interest and accomplice testimony.

You can absolutely rely on your readers to find the typo. No matter how many times, how many ways you and your team have reviewed your draft, it’s out there. And someone, with fresh eyes and an attention to detail admirable in an IRS auditor, will find it. The other thing you can depend on — they’ll let you know. It’s not just the typo either (yes, my cat changed colors in Catnapped), it’s the factual flaw. Research, research and more research will not keep you safe from this. Trust your readers, they’ll fix something just as your breaking something else in the next book. Then, they’ll share again.

Here’s the quick-list of who you can trust with everything:

1. Your dog. The Lab won’t blab.

2. See #1.

3. See # 1 and 2.

4. See #1, 2 and 3.

5. See # 1, 2, 3 and 4.

At least there is a list.

Watch your back.


 Posted by at 8:01 am