Springtime on Canal Saint Martin in Paris
we see the buds sprouting on the trees lining Canal Saint Martin, the
folks still in winter coats but far as I’m concerned it’s springtime
in Paris and time for crime. I have to say this canal, a wonderful thin
weaving stretch of water carrying barges to the Seine and site of
Georges Simenon’s ‘The Headless Corpse’ an Inspector Maigret novel,
sparked the idea for Murder in the Rue de Paradis, the eighth Aimée
Leduc Investigation. An evocative setting, dark water shimmering at
night, rain soaked cobblestones on the quai. But my editor wagged her
finger, ‘You don’t need to do a copycat killer of Simeon’s famed
Maigret. Not to mention most American’s haven’t heard of Canal Saint
Martin. Aimee, your detective can stretch more than that. Think,’ she
said, ‘of the darker side of the City of Light.’
about the Gare du Nord I thought, the bustling train station where the
Eurostar disembarks from London and the glass awninged roof resembles a
smudged glass umbrella..surely Americans would know the Gare du Nord? I
could set a murder there, use that for the title.
editor seemed ok with that. And me too until scouting around the Gare
du Nord one winter day for a murder location, I thought I’d found the
place. A little frequented corner near the tracks, quiet, a perfect
location to slide a knife in someone’s back ..most of you are crime
fiction readers and writers who probably think the same strange way I
do. But as I reached for my notebook to draw a map for this ‘perfect’
murder site content with Murder in the Gare du Nord as the title for
the book…who walks around the corner but a trio of CRS riot police in
full jumpsuit gear and with Uzi’s slung over their shoulders? No good,
the station was patrolled tighter than a shut Breton oyster and that
title now felt as good as a plastic bag popped on the tracks leading to
the netherworld of northern France. What to do…how could I find a
title for this book in this off the beaten track of Paris that
fascinated me? And a place American readers might know or could
identify with. ‘After all’ my editor said, ‘Americans have heard of the
Marais, Montmartre even Ile Saint-Louis but the 10th arrondissement?’
An arrondissement called by a French writer ‘a quartier of poets and
locomotives’, an area rich in small little jewels of belle epoque
theatres, an artisanal district which below the surface was still rich
in the theatre arts; fan makers…
and feather ateliers for theatre and haute couture, a once thriving fur
district, small manufacturers who still exist like the buckle factory
in the same family for 110 years. But for les Arts de la Table,
everyone in Paris goes to rue de Paradis, the well known street of
porcelain and crystal shops, once the site of the Baccarat museum and
the street name struck a chord with my editor. And me.
when I researched in the archives and discovered the old name for a
sliver of rue de Paradis…the rue d’Enfer – the street of hell – so it
would encompass Aimee’s journey in this book from paradise to
hell…and it all jelled after that. and with passage like this Passage
and little squares tucked in the warren of streets like this
and those forbidden areas
and of course the police get involved
and the fireman go on strike in the Bastille…of course, this is France and people go on strike all the time
and the best part of my research is that I get to ride a motorcycle sometimes
it was when I took a short cut through the 10th arrondissement en route
to the archives, I noticed the cluster of small cafes, the men smoking
hookahs and drinking those potent little cups of Turkish coffee that I
realized I’d stumbled into Little Istanbul. And nearby by the
storefront mosque and the Kurdish Cultural Institute. But when a
policeman told me about his experiences investigating the August 1995
Metro bombing of St. Michel, the bombing that rocked France, the story
formed. In this pre-9-11 time the authorities had one take on the perps
while my take, given what we know today, differed. And that ‘what if’
buzzed and took off in my head. My editor, ever the wise one, was
right. I had a whole quartier with Kurdish freedom fighters, Turkish
militants, bourgoise bohemians – or bobo’s as the French call them –
taking over lofts in the old warehouses, ateliers specializing in hems
for haute couture, and Aimée on the hunt for the murderer of her former
boyfriend. Seems a chador clad figure was seen leaving the crime scene.
I didn’t need a headless corpse found in the Canal Saint Martin.
you, does the plot spring fully formed in your head, or does it take
thickening and time to jell? Does it come from a name, a place or
perhaps a first line that sets you on your path?
Saint Martin — Adrian Leeds
all others Cara Black
Cara Black lives in San Francisco with her husband, a bookseller, and their teenage son. She is a member of the Paris Sociéte Historique in the Marais. Loves photography. Cara, like Aimée, once had a moped and appreciates their tempermenal tendencies. She also, like Aimée, likes dogs and owns a Coton de Tulear. Unlike Aimée, she has never owned an apartment on the Ile St. Louis but feels she will someday when the lottery smiles on her. She is currently working on the new book of the Aimée Leduc series.
Thanks for being here today, Cara!!!
P.S. Cara is the first of three wonderful guest bloggers who are kind enough to stand in for me while I catch up on some book writing and do some more promotional travel. Next week, Libby Fischer Hellmann joins us, and the following, our dear friend Simon Wood will be back. I’ll be back with lots of new wine selections and fresh blogs April 18. À bientôt!
Great to see you Cara! Thanks for visiting.
My plots often come from an image or picture that pops into my head. The plot of the current WIP came from a dream. They usually change drastically by the time of the finished product.
J.D. Nice to be here. And fascinating that your plot came from a dream.
Cara, the pictures are fabulous. Somehow, living in Washington, DC as I do (formerly called the “Murder Capital of the World” – or at least of the country) it’s hard to imagine terrible crimes – even fictional ones – taking place in the midst of such a beautiful setting as Paris. So much literature about Paris is historical or romantic. But then I thought about the violence of the French Revolution and other landmark events…..Question: how much, if at all, does the environment, charm, culture, population of a city influence the crime statistics there? Or do the bad eggs tend to turn up to greater or lesser degree just about everywhere?
Fabulous shots, Cara – and thanks for sharing those little pieces of your (and Aimee’s) world that some of us will never see in real life. Truly impressive. Great luck with the story, and thanks for filling in for JT today. =)
Deane, now you have me thinking Murder in Paris of the Potomac. I tend to think more crimes of passion occur in France but then greed and revenge are good motives anywhere. Yet with the economic disparities, immigration issues, higher unemployment and Sarkozy the hardliner president enforcing the ban on women/girls wearing the ‘foulard’ scarf in the workplace or school who knows?
Thanks, JB, my pleasure!
Cara, such a pleasure to have you here! Thanks for standing in, and for the incredible pictures!!!
My plots come to me from all over. Dreams, dutiful contemplation whilst drooling out of the corner of my mouth, a setting sun — situation responses definitely factor in. The news. I’m greedy. I take and take from every source I can find.
Was it Picasso or the wonderful character actor Ned Beatty (not that they look alike or anything…hmmm think about that) who said good painters/actors borrow…great ones steal.
Avec plaisir, JT…and many thanks…hope you’re getting some work done!!
Cara, your pictures are making me immensely jealous. I haven’t been to Paris in over five years – I think I need to plan a vacation!
Love the photos of my very favorite place….can not wait to get back there….
Thanks for the virtual tour, Cara. Truly wonderful shots.
My plots seem to come from titles, and those can come from anywhere. In my current WIP, it came from a funeral I attended.
Hey Cara..welcome and what a great post.
I have to tell you that my wife is standing over my should looking at all the great pictures and asking me…when do get to go? Soon, I tell her….
Soon, Aldo? Mother’s Day…?!
And merci, cher Santa, the wine was great! Thank you again for coming…
A funeral, Louise??
From Cara in Charlottesville with sleepy roomate Libby Hellman about to nod off