Archives For John Pearce

THE PARIS MÉTRO map changed countless times since the first line opened in 1900. The current version, highly stylized, has been around so long it seems like the new normal, but its days are limited — the métro authority is about to introduce a new edition. If you’re a tenderfoot trying to go from Point 1 to Point 2 and your route involves train changes, this will help.

It’s one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” brainstorms. Guillaume Martinelli, a consultant in transit planning, proposed adding a small number between the stations to show the walking time, in minutes.

There are several smartphone apps for navigating the métro system, of which the best (IMHO) is the genuine one produced by RATP, the transit authority. But for those who remain attached to their paper maps, Martinelli’s revision looks like a winner.

(H/T Paris ZigZag – www.pariszigzag.fr)

The audiobook version of FINDING PEGASUS is complete and available on either Amazon or Audible.com. Adam Barr did an outstanding job as narrator, with a performance that brought the characters to life.

I invite you to listen to the summary of the new one or either of the earlier books. The easiest way to listen is to follow the links from my book website, JohnPearceBooks.com. You’ll find three buttons at the bottom of each book summary — one of them links directly to the audiobook page on Amazon.

Lately I’ve been surprised to learn how many of my readers really prefer the audio versions, and there are thousands to choose from. If you don’t already have an Audible account, FINDING PEGASUS would be a good way to start, since you get the first one free with your subscription.

SOPHIE LEROUX’S WALK across the Seine is one of the important early scenes in my new novel Finding Pegasus.The scene traces her walk across the Île de la Cité, home to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sainte-Chapelle, to the quai on the Left Bank, where she and her young son Lucas witness the murder that’s central to the plot. This is a picture of that quai that I took a few months ago. Pont Neuf (which, despite its name, is the oldest bridge in Paris) lies in the background.

Sophie is the late-life daughter of a World War Two associate of General de Gaulle. She inherited her father’s apartment overlooking the Seine (in fact, just to the left at the end of the Pont Neuf). She makes friends easily and has a smart and charming young son, Lucas, who she is walking home across the Seine. Lucas witnesses a murder that sets up the entire plot of the book.

On the far side of the Seine, where Sophie waits for Lucas to arrive on the bus, she stands at the stone rampart next to the green box from which a bouquiniste sells books, smoking.

Seine cruise boat headed up the river as seen from the Right Bank. In the background is the  Quai des Orfèvres, the unofficial name for the old police headquarters, which recently moved out of the center city.

“In Finding Pegasus, John Pearce once again spins a captivating tale of spies, assassinations, derring-do and sex (very tastefully done!) which takes us from Miami to Paris to a remote castle in Eastern Europe. The characters are fully drawn and we soon come to actually care about Kate and Mark as they try to recover the stolen high-tech submarine-cum-drone they have developed. Kate is especially interesting – a brilliant engineer, retired Navy officer, trained knife-fighter, and sexy to boot! The story will have you rooting from the edge of your seat! Dive right in!” — Brian Thompson, professor of French emeritus, University of Massachusetts Boston

“Subs, drones a femme fatale and a murder on the Seine in the heart of Paris–what more can you want? John Pearce’s new fast-paced thriller merges Grisham and Brown. The trilogy is complete.”–David Downie, author of The Gardener of Eden, a novel (Jan. 2019)

Finding Pegasus is John Pearce’s best story to date.  Suspenseful action in an international setting, with current issues as the backdrop, and up-to-date technology the order of the day.   It’s a book you will not want to put down.” –Bill & Barbara Vance, Waco, Texas”

“Pearce shows us a beautiful Paris, cafes, the streets, the Seine flowing gently by, sun in the sky, then shoves a dead body right under our noses! In a class with Clancy and Grisham, Pearce brings us into a geo-political nightmare with more twists than a world-class roller coaster. Hang on to your seat when you read this one.”  Al Musitano – Author of the GothMare series.

“Finding Pegasus is a sophisticated tale of international intrigue and contemporary politics, super-charged on espresso. A boat explosion in Miami and a murder on the bank of the Seine set this quick-paced thriller in motion. Eddie Grant and his pals piece together the resulting jigsaw puzzle. Like John Pearce’s first two Eddie Grant novels, this one is crafted with a fine ear for dialogue and keen observations on place and politics. An enjoyable and satisfying read.” Scott Neeley, AIA, Tucson

“A fast-paced thriller, spanning characters and lifestyles from Florida to France to Hungary.  The author, John Pearce, a part-time Parisian, enables the reader to participate in the city of love and light and to marvel at the flair of the French metropolis. He lets his audience immerse deep into a high-speed pursuit, sex, crime and the latest perilous politics – a thriller that needs to be turned into a movie!” Doris-Marie Heilman

When you look back over Art Hittner’s busy life it’s clear where this great and sprawling story came from. In addition to his decades-long career as a Boston lawyer, he’s been involved in both the art and baseball worlds, and has written books about both.

From Amazon.com

This book easily meets the first requirement of novels — it tells a good story, of a young painter bursting with talent but overwhelmed by his own desires. It all leads to an end he never imagined and certainly never wanted.

Henry J. Kapler, Yale ’36, rising artist, moves to New York to polish his skills and falls in with a group of other painters involved in the WPA’s art projects, which were responsible for the murals decorating many of the public buildings of the era. His courtship of the captivating Fiona, also a painter, leads him into the world of New York baseball — Fiona’s cousin plays for the Yankees. The cousin’s mistress, Alice, completes the triangle, and Henry’s inability to choose between the two lovers dooms him.

Henry is based on the short life of the artist Harold J. Rabinovitz, whose painting Eventide Hittner purchsed. It started him down the road that culminated in Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse. On the way he wrote a biography and catalogue raisonné of Rabinovitz’s work and life. Read the interview below to learn more about the process, in his own words. It was conducted by email.

I found the book fascinating and a very enjoyable read, and highly recommend it for its look into the world of public art before World War II, baseball, and the impact of the Depression on the small world of painters, who then as now aren’t a highly paid group.

Five stars

Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse: A novel by Arthur D. Hittner. Apple Ridge Press, Oro Valley, AZ, 2017. Kindle $9.99, Paper $19.95. This review is based on the Kindle edition, which I purchased.

Interview with Arthur D. Hittner

You’ve owned a baseball team and been trustee of a well-known museum. You practiced law for more than three decades, and that’s a very time-consuming profession. I’m fascinated by the variety of your interests. Please tell me how those developed. Did you/do you play baseball? Do you paint?

I most certainly don’t paint.  Even walls would be a challenge.  Baseball, however, intrigued me as early as I can remember.  I have a photo, somewhere, of a tiny kid (me) in a Little League uniform two sizes too large, swinging a bat with the concentration of a surgeon.  My father was only a casual fan, so I’m not sure why my fascination developed, but it quickly became an obsession.  I collected baseball cards, played stickball almost daily on makeshift fields situated amidst the suburban New Jersey apartment buildings near my house, studied obscure box scores in weekly editions of The Sporting News, and indulged in Strat-o-Matic, a dice-based baseball game where actual Major Leaguers performed under my clever management as they would in real life (or so I presumed).  My playing career stalled as a good-field, no-hit high school freshman, a third-stringer whose at-bats were as rare as manned moon landings.  When, established in my law career many years later, I had the opportunity to acquire a modest interest in a minor league baseball team (the Elmira Pioneers, a Red Sox affiliate), I leapt at the opportunity and was instrumental in relocating the franchise to Lowell, Massachusetts, where it remains to this day.

Arthur D. Hittner, from hittnerbooks.com

My passion for art developed independently.  Shortly before my wife and I married, we met her elderly aunt and uncle, who had been Boston-area antique dealers for decades.   They introduced us to the romance and beauty of old furniture and, eventually, art.  Our interests evolved from early 19th century folk portraits to baseball-related fine art (a shocker!) to American art of the Depression era, which has been our abiding passion for the past quarter century.  Always something of a contrarian, I was drawn to the work of a largely forgotten cadre of American painters well-known in their time, though long since eclipsed by the Abstract Expressionists.  The artists of the Thirties were (and remain) largely unheralded and understudied, offering fascinating opportunities for research and discovery.

It should be obvious that writing about art and baseball is far more interesting than decades of drafting partnership agreements and other assorted feats of legalese. 

The arrival of Eventide at your door must have been an event. What is the story behind it?

In late 2005 I’d seen ad in a national art magazine offering a painting from the mid-Thirties by Harold J. Rabinovitz (1915-44), an artist totally unfamiliar to me.  I called the Tucson dealer (we lived near Boston at the time) but was too late—someone had gotten it before me.  But, the dealer informed me, another painting by Rabinovitz had surfaced as a result of the ad.  It was Eventide, an astounding and monumental canvas depicting a poor rural family of three—mother, father and infant child, a veritable Depression-era version of the Holy Family (by a Jewish artist!).  Even more astonishing was the fact that the artist completed this masterful painting on the eve of his twenty-first birthday.   Much to my wife’s horror, I had to have the painting!  Much to my horror, it had already been consigned by the dealer for an exhibition staged by a high-end dealer in New York, who asked twice the price for it.  I could have it at the original price, the Tucson dealer promised, if it didn’t sell during the exhibition.  It didn’t, but the New York dealer stalled for weeks, hoping to sell it before relinquishing it to me.  After running out of excuses, the New York dealer reluctantly shipped the painting to me in Massachusetts—in a box the size of my front door.   And when my wife and I moved (coincidentally) to Tucson several years later, it travelled cross-country in that same mammoth box, assuming a place of honor in our Arizona home, spawning years of research on Harold Rabinovitz and, ultimately, a novel inspired by the artist and his masterpiece (the re-creation of which graces the opening pages of my novel).

What direction will your writing take next? Art or baseball, or something else entirely?

Good question.  It seems that art and baseball have a way of creeping into whatever I write.  I’ve already completed two other novels, one a coming-of-age novel set primarily on a New England college campus in the late Sixties (semi-autobiographical, I suppose) in which the protagonist comically stumbles into an appreciation of art (and women) in a circuitous fashion, and a contemporary baseball novel in which a faded pitching prospect-turned-lawyer (bet you saw that coming) belatedly returns to baseball with the highly unconventional assistance of his recently-deceased wife.  One or both, I hope, will be released in the near future if I’m brave enough.  At the moment, I’m desperately searching for a viable idea (art, baseball or something entirely different) that will return me to my computer keyboard for another round of verbal high jinks. 

Even a quick reading of your Afterword makes clear you did quite a bit of research for Artist, Soldier, Lover, Muse. What were your main sources? What advice would you give to a beginning author who is setting out to write a novel heavily influenced by history?

Artist, Soldier was the logical extension of the research I conducted on the life and work of Harold Rabinovitz, the inspiration for my main character, Henry Kapler.  The biography I produced on Rabinovitz (At the Threshold of Brilliance: The Brief but Splendid Career of Harold J. Rabinovitz) was made possible by the discovery of a scrapbook of photos, newspaper clippings and mementoes lovingly accumulated by Rabinovitz’s parents during the Thirties, which had been passed down to the artist’s niece.  Also useful were first-person accounts of artists’ experiences as part of the W.P.A. and related art programs operated by the federal government during the Depression.   Although secondary sources are useful for fact gathering and checking while writing historical fiction, I’ve found that primary sources—the accounts of the people who lived in the world you seek to re-create—are of greater value in understanding the tenor of the times you seek to portray in historical fiction.

Were the research skills you employed when you were working on your biography of Honus Wagner as effective when you were researching this book?

The Wagner book (Honus Wagner: The Life of Baseball’s ‘Flying Dutchman’), produced some twenty years earlier, was based primarily on secondary sources.  For a time, I installed a big, bulky microfilm reader in a corner of my bedroom to facilitate the perusal of over twenty years of baseball coverage in the sports pages of turn-of-the-Twentieth Century newspapers.  I suppose it taught me perseverance and attention to detail, both useful skills for a budding researcher of history.

What is your writing day like? Do you have a fixed routine, or do you find bits and pieces of time? And where do you find your work more productive, Massachusetts or Arizona?

I have the advantage of not having to write for a living or to meet deadlines.  Those days have (thankfully) passed.  I don’t have a rigorous schedule.  I have a favorite chaise lounge in my living room where I’ll sit and write on my laptop for as long as I’m motivated.  I’ve spent more time in Arizona in recent years, but have been able to produce just as effectively in Massachusetts.  Motivation usually comes from my characters, who invariably develop personalities and take actions I hadn’t specifically planned.   Although diametrically opposed to the way I accomplished legal tasks, I don’t always have a clear idea of character development or plot lines until I’m well into my writing, and I’m frequently surprised (and delighted) when events (particularly endings) are not as I might have initially imagined. 

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The genocidal Bosnian war of the nineties has faded from Western consciousness. Not many people remember the brutal days when Sarajevo had to hang a curtain so snipers could not target civilian pedestrians, although anyone who was paying attention then remembers the pictures of those who didn’t escape, lying in the streets. The memory has faded along with the physical damage, and the region has once again become a tourist magnet.

But as Andrew Turpin knows very well and demonstrates clearly in his second Joe Johnson thriller, The Old Bridge, the horrors of that war and the fratricide that accompanied it are still a dark presence. The continuing war crimes prosecutions in The Hague remind us of that whenever they appear on the front pages.

The old bridge was, and is, in Mostar (map), which is in Bosnia and Herzegovina just 45 miles from Sarajevo. It crosses the river Neretva and was destroyed by tank fire precisely as Turpin outlines in his prologue. International sponsors rebuilt it, using old techniques and methods as much as possible, and it went back into service in 2004. (The Wikipedia page is fascinating.)

Turpin’s hero is Joe Johnson, a capable former CIA agent who ran afoul of his superiors and turned to freelance war-crimes investigations. This book tells of a dossier dating to the war that was thought to have been destroyed, but maybe wasn’t. If it’s found it will cause acute embarrassment in high governmental circles of the United States.

On the way to a very satisfactory resolution he takes us on visits to interesting places and introduces a compelling cast of characters. Other reviewers have dealt nicely with the plot.

Like Turpin’s first thriller, The Last Nazi, this story moves at a fast clip. The interaction between characters is good. I read it in one session and look forward to finding time to read his third, Bandit Country.

Another resource: Turpin wrote a detailed and fascinating summary of the background to The Old Bridge as part of his email list recently. I suggest you read it. It will provide a richer background to the story he tells in the book. You can find it here.

Highly recommended. (I read the Kindle version, which I purchased.)

To PREVIEW the book, click here.

♦♦♦

Andrew Turpin is a British writer who  worked for many years as a business and financial journalist before becoming a corporate and financial communications adviser with several large energy companies, specializing in media relations.

He originally came from Grantham, Lincolnshire, and lives with his family in St. Albans in Hertfordshire. His very nicely built website is andrewturpin.com

♦♦♦

A note about my own books

Amazon recently selected my first novel, Treasure of Saint-Lazare, for Kindle Prime Reading, which it calls a program “for its most engaged readers.” As a result, the book has vaulted upward in the sales rankings and landed firmly on several best-seller lists, the most prominent of which was the Action and Adventure list, where it reached #9.

It reached #2,000 among all paid Kindle books, the highest since it was first published in late 2012 (there are about two million ranked books. so that made me very happy indeed).

The third in my Eddie Grant series of Paris thrillers will be available in coming months. It’s not formally named yet, but it will be in my editor’s hands in a couple of weeks. Once again you’ll meet Eddie Grant, his beautiful wife Aurélie Cabillaud, their friends, Paris, and two new characters, both marine engineers in Miami who find themselves in Paris after a very narrow escape when their sailboat is bombed in Biscayne Bay.

Part of the action is set in Miami, much in Paris, and part in the caves of Hungary. There are politics, romantic walks through Paris, and the usual amount of romance.

If you’d like to join the Readers’ Group to learn when it will be available, or volunteer to be an early reader/reviewer, please click this link or the one in the box below. I’d be pleased to have you on the list, and you can unsubscribe any time.

I invite you to follow my blog, Part-Time Parisian. There, I post reviews like this one talk about my books, plus whatever other shiny bauble attracts my attention.

I’d appreciate a mention on your favorite social media platform. You can use these links:

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I came late to this amusing and informative book, I’m sorry to say. It’s an amazingly detailed compilation and exploration of what the French would call curiosités or choses insolites but it’s also a broad cultural overview. It’s an example of the best of a certain type of book designed to explain France to English-speakers.

Between A and Z you will learn there are more than twenty-five varieties of garlic grown in France, and that the guillotine was designed by a doctor shortly before the French Revolution as a more humane means of execution. Attaching his name to it horrified him, and his family rechristened itself to escape the shame.

From Absinthe to Zidane

On the way to Zinedine Zidane you will make obligatory stops at Mata Hari, the legendary Dutch dancer executed as a spy (she was really a double agent) near the end of World War I, and a longish section on the history of restaurants, before ending with the entry for Zidane, the former soccer star. He used to be best known for the infamous headbutt during the 2006 World Cup final (which I saw on TV in Paris and will always remember), but he’s since become a respected soccer coach for Real Madrid.

Piu Eatwell is an Oxford graduate now living and writing in Paris, according to her website. She’s written several other books I was aware of but have not reviewed, including They Eat Horses, Don’t They, The Truth About the French, a well reviewed outline of the stories behind the myths Anglophones believe about the French. I found all of them on her list at Amazon.

F is for France was mismarketed, in my view. It should have been sold as a book of much broader general interest, like David Downie’s work, instead of a cabinet of curiosities. But I’m glad I came across it again. For a lover of France and Paris it is both an entertainment and a reference work. It will stay in my library.

My first exposure to F is for France was an advance reader copy I downloaded from Netgalley in 2016 and promptly forgot. When I ran across it again (while I was preparing Netgalley to support the publication of my next novel in a few months), I bought the Kindle version, which is the edition on which this review is based.

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“If I flipped a franc, it would land on something worth swallowing,” David Downie writes of his arrival in Paris in 1976. He remembers, as I do, gazing into the yawning seven-story hole where Les Halles had provided food and drink to all Paris until its relocation to suburban Rungis several years before, and he laments much more strongly than I do the second replacement for the historic Baltard canopies, the massive skate wing that covers the new and very chic shopping center. Les Halles has come a long way, from Zola’s Belly of Paris to yet another pricey and upmarket shopping center.
Downie’s newest book is the third in his recent series of memoirs/explorations of Paris. Beginning with Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light (2011) and continuing with A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light (2016), the series explores his fascination with his home city. I still think Paris, Paris is the best guidebook I’ve read, and it’s not really a guidebook but a slow, guided introduction to fascinating aspects of the city. A two dozen peeks through a two dozen keyholes, which together add up to a rounded view.
The list of Downie’s books is long. There are more than a dozen on it. I haven’t read all of them but I’ve read and enjoyed a good sample, and many of them have food at their center. Or wine. Or food and wine.
Unless you are a serious student of French culinary history — enrolled at one of the big cooking academies, for example — I suggest you approach A Taste of Paris the way you’d approach a historical novel. It is nicely written, in Downie’s own idiosyncratic style, and full of facts and sidelights about the historical personalities, including the three King Louis <sup>(see links below)</sup> whose reigns led up to the Revolution. It’s entertaining.
As you get into it you’ll appreciate more the sheer depth of Downie’s knowledge about Paris, France, food, and any combination of the three. I still remember reading his Food Wine Burgundy and thinking it contained more information per square inch than anything I’d read. A Taste of Paris comes close.
Readers of this blog know that Paris is my favorite city, and that I spend a lot of time there researching and writing my novels. One of Downie’s sidelines is as a tour guide, and a few years ago my sister, visiting with friends from Texas, asked him to guide her group, and invited me to tag along. It was an impressive experience. Downie’s knowledge of the city’s history is precise and seems bottomless.

Midnight Pigeon at Les Halles

The part of A Taste of Paris I enjoyed most was Downie’s discussion of more recent years, such as the story of Les Halles. I remember with pleasure the midnight dinner of pigeon Jan and I shared with the financial editor of the International Herald Tribune and his wife in the early seventies, when we were freelancing in Frankfurt and writing business and financial stories in the German-speaking countries. Les Halles as Zola described it almost exactly a hundred years before, down to the rich onion soup that made up an obligatory part of every meal.
I’ve enjoyed meals at restaurants he mentions, many of them, and bought a peppermill at E. Dehillerin, which he calls “the most famous and labyrinthine of several kitchen supply emporiums” in the area. It’s like your grandfather’s hardware store.
And I’ve also visited and recommend the famous sculpture by Raymond Mason, in a side chapel of the imposing Saint-Eustache church which looks over Les Halls. In modern style, it depicts vendors when they left Les Halles for the last time in 1969. It’s colorful and atmospheric.
St. Martin’s Press, published Sept. 26.

Useful links

Book link on Amazon

Raymond Mason obituary discussing the sculpture (Telegraph)

David Downie’s website

When there’s more than one King Louis, what is the plural? Here’s one good exploration. Your mileage may vary.

Do you love opera? Do you love Trump?

Don’t miss this parody from Scroll.in. Trump meets the opera. Is there any doubt who will win?

One of my favorite blogs is Arun With a View, an old-fashioned blog run by Arun Kapil, an American from the Midwest of Indian origin who now lives in the Paris banlieu (he’s very insistent on this description in his blog).

In any case, Arun discussed at some length a couple of weeks ago the significance of the decision by the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, to invite President Trump to the traditional military parade that marks the storming of the Bastille, which kicked off the French Revolution just a few short years after the American one. Click here for the post.

Dinner at the Eiffel Tower

Macron also took the Trumps to a dinner at one of the fanciest restaurants of Paris, the Jules Verne, high up in the Eiffel Tower. Our president opined that the crowd at the base of the tower was one of the largest ever. Maybe he’s never been there on a Tuesday morning. Or a Wednesday afternoon.

Read and enjoy. Arun’s views are always pungent and frequently very insightful.