Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Two Women Chat About Perfume and Books" Cara Black and Denise Hamilton

Photo by Laura Skayhan
Cara Black writes the award nominated and bestselling Aimée Leduc investigations set in the different arrondissements of Paris.

She's a San Francisco library laureate, a member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and the Marais historic society in Paris. Cara lives in San Francisco with her husband, a bookseller, and their teenage son.

As often as possible, Cara frequents a Paris little known outside the beaten tourist track. A Paris she discovers on research trips and interviews with French police, private detectives and café owners. Her series has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Hebrew. She's included in the GREAT WOMEN MYSTERY WRITERS by Elizabeth Lindsay 2nd editon published in the UK. Several of her books have been chosen as BookSense Picks and INDIE NEXT choice by the Amerian Association of Independent Bookstore. She loves black and white photography and took many of the photos on her website.

Her new book the 12th in the series Murder at the Lanterne Rouge came out yesterday. She looks forward to hitting the road on book tour with Denise Hamilton, Rhys Bowen, Jacqueline Winspear and Kelli Stanley this time.

thank you so much Kaye!!/carablack

Murder at the Lanterne Rouge "Outstanding." *PW Review

Denise Hamilton’s crime novels have been finalists for the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity and Willa Cather awards. She also edited Los Angeles Noir and Los Angeles Noir 2: The Classics, which spent two months on bestseller lists, won the Edgar Award for “Best Short Story” and the Southern California Independent Booksellers’ award for “Best Mystery of the Year.”

Denise’s new novel, Damage Control, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, raves from USA Today, Los Angeles Magazine and and kudos from James Ellroy (A superb psychological thriller).

Denise has five books in the Eve Diamond series and her standalone book “The Last Embrace,” set in 1949 Hollywood, was compared to Raymond Chandler. Her debut “The Jasmine Trade” was a finalist for the prestigious Creasey Dagger Award given by the UK Crime Writers Assn. Her books have been BookSense 76 picks, USA Today Summer Picks and “Best Books of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Toronto Globe & Mail.

Prior to writing novels, Hamilton was a Los Angeles Times staff writer. Her award-winning stories have also appeared in Wired, Cosmopolitan, Der Spiegel and New Times. She covered the collapse of Communism and was a Fulbright Scholar in Yugoslavia during the Bosnian War. Hamilton lives in the Los Angeles suburbs with her husband and two boys. She also writes a perfume column, Uncommon Scents, for the Los Angeles Times.

CARA: Ok Denise, looks like we're going to be roomates again at Left Coast Crime in Sacramento later this month. After attending the ALA Library Conference in Dallas and rooming together, the pillow fight bar has definitely higher. will be raised. I know you’re the perfume columnist for the L.A. Times and obsessed with fragrance, and I know you’ll sneak away from LCC to comb the second-hand shops in Sacramento for perfume, so I’m wondering if you can sniff me out some samples - this time something citrus?

DENISE: First of all, I love rooming with you. It’s like a slumber party! We stay up way too late talking. How often to I get to do that!!! Yes, I’ll recommend some citrus scents for you. Maybe I’ll bring you some little vials when I come up from LA. I’m thinking Christian Dior Eau Savage, or maybe Serge Luten’s Fleurs d’Oranger or Fleurs de Citronnier. But that’s for you, not for Aimee. What perfume does Aimee wear?

CARA: Aimee is a signature scent gal. A classicist. She only wears Chanel No. 5.

DENISE: Then she’s right in line with chic Parisians because Chanel No. 5 remains the most popular perfume among French women. Speaking of Paris – which I’m so jealous that you get to visit each year for research - what is your greatest extravagance when there?

CARA: I go barebones on research trips, scrape up frequent flyer miles and camp on my friends couch in Montmartre. But taking my friends and contacts out to dinner it’s become part of the routine, especially the policewoman who invited me to the police firing range and the private detective who lets me hang out with her... inviting them out is the only way I can thank them. And with the French dining is an art form, a wonderful experience lasting hours, with the wine flowing, many courses and full of discussion. I splurged once attending the Comedie Francaise, the national theatre, red velvet seat, murals the works to see Phedre, the Greek tragedy. Despite the classical French which went right over my head, just sitting in those seats that Proust, Cocteau, you name it, had sat in was worth it. Ok, once in the Marais, I found an incredible second hand, like new, suede shearling coat, the very thick European kind for those winters,...It weighed a ton, cost next to nothing and I coveted it...of course, I bought it. Wouldn’t you know, it cost an extra baggage fee... more than the coat! But there’s always Chanel No 5, duty free at the airport that Aimée insists on.

DENISE: Aimee’s definitely a femme fatale. What’s she gotten herself into in your new one, Murder at the Lantern Rouge?

CARA: Aimee’s investigation plunges her into the history of the Knights Templar, secret medieval guilds, Chinatown sweatshops and botched affairs of the heart.

DENISE: I love books like yours that teach me about a foreign place. I’ve just read an amazing non-fiction book called Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein. He’s a real character, a Midwesterner who learned fluent Japanese and became the only American reporter at Japan’s biggest newspaper, the Yomiuri Shinbun. For years he covered Tokyo’s seamy underbelly and the Yakuza. He smokes clove cigarettes, has death threats against him and fashions himself a Japanese Phillip Marlowe, fighting crime. Highly recommended. What are you reading these days?

CARA: I'm loving the Coco Chanel biography you lent me when I stayed chez toi in LA. Coco Chanel comes alive and it's intriguing that she might have had a son whom she referred to as her nephew all her life. Strikes me we gravitate towards people and characters who keep secrets. You explore those hidden past secrets so well in Damage Control.

DENISE: I was an L.A. Times reporter for many years and learned that almost everyone has secrets. And people in the public eye are rarely what they seem. That’s always the starting point of a novel for me. Because the more wealthy and powerful and upstanding you are, the more motives you have to keep those dark secrets hidden. And therein lies the tale! It’s just a matter of figuring it out. And mostly that’s fun. It’s only scary when you don’t know what happens next.

CARA: Speaking of scary, do you remember how your car tire blew out on the L.A. freeway at midnight? We were coming back from the LA Times Festival of Books and we were yakking and yakking and then you had to pull onto the shoulder next to Forest Lawn cemetery and you kept saying 'freeway stalkers' and I kept thinking Sean of the Dead.

DENISE: Turns out we’re not much in the femme fatale department. We called my husband, who came quickly to the rescue and put on the spare. He was the hero! Thank goodness for cell phones, because I do a lot of evening events all over town.

CARA: You're doing a bunch or readings from Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake with other LA Noir writers like Judith Freeman, who wrote that incredible Raymond Chandler biography that you gave me which I inhaled on the plane back from does that feel? I mean you're in the City of Angels that Chandler describes and it's changed - how do you all evoke his spirit?

DENISE: Ha! I just drive around. Hollywood continues to cast a huge shadow and the physical beauty – the snow-white sands, the blue sky, the palm trees and bougainvilla, the snow-capped mountains, the people who come here to start a new love, to be discovered, to leave the past behind – can lull you into forgetting that there’s plenty of crime and desperation. But L.A.’s as noir today as it was in Chandler’s time, which is what I love to explore in my novels. There’s just five times as many people and they come from all over the world these days to chase their dream. What’s your dream, Cara?

CARA: Besides the farmhouse in Provence? The dream starts ‘Fasten your seatbelts please, we’re beginning our descent into Charles de Gaulle airport, Ground crew reports weather in Paris a sunny 75 degrees, ‘ By some force of magic a motorcycle awaits me outside Terminal 1 and I zoom along the peripherique into the outskirts of Paris, then into boulevard Saint-Ouen, nodding to the local cheeseseller who waves ‘ I’ll save you that good camembert that just came in’. I pull up at Cafe Rotonde, to find my smiling friends Anne-Francoise, her beautiful one year old daughter Gabrielle, and Cathy my policewoman friend with an open bottle of champagne - Veuve Cliquot, of course - sitting at an outdoor table. And then my son, magically arrived from his new job, appears with our dog Kipper who also magically behaves and has by osmosis imbibed the well behaved manners of Parisian dogs followed by my husband who smiles...’I’m going to run a bookstore in Paris’ve convinced me.’ Of course, we’re joined by Catherine Deneuve who just happens to be walking by and shares her makeup secrets and Charlotte Gainsbourg who begs ‘I want to play Aimee in the new film, please.’ And the incredible director Bertrand Tavernier appears with a script in hand. ‘I’ve made a few changes, little ones.’ And then Georges Simenon, magically risen from the dead and writing again, sits down, pipe hanging from the side of his mouth and says ‘Maigret needs a helper.’

DENISE: Ah! I love it. I’m coming for a visit.

Denise Hamilton, Cara Black, Deborah Crombie & GM Malliet


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Cara and Denise - Hello!

Welcome, ladies. always fun to have you here and having you here together is a very special treat, thank you.

Books and perfume. Two of my favorite things, and I'm enjoying learning more about perfume from Denise (I've also been spending a bit of money in that area, thanks to you!).

Cara, can't wait to read your latest. I adore Aimee.

Hugs, ladies!

Cara Black said...

Bonjour Kaye! Thanks for inviting us - I think Denise is driving her boys to school and will drop in later. Last night I had great book launch at the Belmont library and Ed who owned M is For Mystery came..he's retired now but will get a Raven award at the Edgars. Such great librarians staged an almost catered affair and there was lots of chocolate!

Denise Hamilton said...

ooh, I want chocolate at my next launch. Hello Kaye and Cara, two of my favorite booky fragrant people. So lovely of you, Kaye, to let us burble on about topics we love here on M&M.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Cara - What a great launch you had! Librarians know how to throw a party! (and I don't know many who don't love chocolate).

I do not know Ed, but have always heard lovely things about him. Quite an honor getting that Raven - wow! My friend Molly Weston will also be there being honored.

Denise - I have questions for you! (more questions - LOL!). What's your favorite chocolately smelling perfume fragrance? And - is there a perfume fragrance that is "booky?"

Phyllis said...

I enjoyed the conversation, but I really want to learn the answer to Kaye's perfume question. :) I would love to wear the fragrance of chocolate!

Phyllis (in Champaign)

Anonymous said...

Kaye, I love you and all you write and post. Be sure to visit my blog March 8 for my interview with our beloved Liz Zelvin on her debut as the " Outrageous Older Woman " in song -- she is so gifted!!!!
Thelma Straw, NYC

jenny milchman said...

DAMAGE CONTROL is on my Pile and I am so glad to learn of Cara's work! Any rec of Kaye's goes right on the Wish List. Thanks for the she said/she said, too :)