Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Guest Author Laurie R. King: Paris in the Twenties.

I'm delighted to welcome Laurie R. King today. For the one or two of you on the planet who don't know her work she's the prolific and award winning author, a friend, who writes ( among her many books) the Kate Martinelli series set in SF and starting with the The Beekeeper’s Apprentice another series featuring young Mary Russell who becomes an apprentice, then partner of Sherlock Holmes in early 20th century England. Books in that series appear regularly, taking the duo and their cohorts on into the Twenties and around the world, winning admiration far and wide. Today marks the publication of The Bones of Paris. A story set among Surrealists, artists and a drink with the notorious Kiki of Montparnasse. Congratulations And welcome Laurie. LaurieR.King.com


Only “Shakespeare’s London” comes close to being so specifically evocative.  Twenties Paris is life writ large—booze and sex and the fever of creativity, the kinds of friendships and life choices that no one had ever had before.  As if a venerable city fell beneath an occupying army of undergraduates, ’20s Paris what happens when you stir a whole lot of Americans into a post-war city and tell them to work hard and play harder.
Alice B. Toklas & Gertrude Stein

The place exploded.  Of course, there had been Americans in Paris since before there was an America—Ben Franklin wasn’t the last to have a good time along the banks of the Seine.  Gertrude Stein (“America is my country, and Paris is my home town.”) settled in during 1903, but the invasion truly exploded in 1921.  That spring, honeymooners F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (“The best of America drifts to Paris.“) fell in love with the City of Light.  In July, Man Ray arrived and got out his camera.  In December, Hemingway and his own new wife sailed to a new life along the Seine, indelibly linking his name with that of the city:

Hemingway 1929
But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.

(And why, I wonder, is Hemingway not regarded as a Romantic writer?)

Every one of these cultural scouts wrote home with enticements about how cheap it was, how beautiful, how it was The Place to Be.  Soon, artists and writers rolled in on every boat across the Atlantic, and although a few had money enough for the Ritz, most gravitated to Montparnasse, where rents were low and wine (to say nothing of women and song) plentiful.  So what if the apartments were under-heated, ill-served by running water, and generally unconnected to the sewer mains?  A True Artist is above mere comfort.

André Kertész - Latin Quarter, Paris, 1926

And for a few years, the Left Bank did indeed bubble with creativity.  A very few years.  The tourist checklist of sights expanded to include drunken cafés and the art crawl.  Middle-class Americans out for a summer’s lark sailed to France and plunked themselves down on the café terraces, buying drinks for the denizens, collecting napkin-sketches and stories about “Hem” and “Scott” to parade before their friends back in Indiana, buying up a few daring bits of modern art to hang on their dining rooms walls.

By the end of the decade, Paris felt like San Francisco after the Summer of Love: the truly creative had all either died, broken down, or migrated to sunnier climes, leaving behind bars full of drunks, bug-infested flats full of twitching druggies, and streets awash with open-mouthed tourists.

By the end of the hot summer of 1929, no one needed the Crash to tell them that the Twenties in Paris were over.

Which is precisely when a writer moves in, treasuring the end of things like an actor treasures a well-lit stage.  A city filled with old buildings and new life, the dregs of an expatriate community, an entire era on the verge of collapse. 

Perfect stage-setting for a thriller.

Laurie for Cara—Tuesday


  1. Laurie, what a perfect background for a story. I read this blog on my iPad while lazing around before I got up this morning. I downloaded the book while I was still in bed. THIS is right my street! YUM.

  2. Beautiful postcard of history, Laurie, thanks!

  3. Congratulations, Laurie, your post is the first to ever elicit a straightforward compliment from Everett! No wonder, as with Annamaria, I can't wait to get to The Bones of Paris!

  4. Laurie I'm in the middle of Bones of Paris - amazing - and will see you tonight at your launch at Books Inc in SF...thanks for a wonderful post!

  5. What a perfect set-up for a book, and a mystery, to boot. It makes us want to find the book immediately.