Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Three Hours in Paris

Today is the publication of my first ever standalone novel, Three Hours in Paris, a book I had to write.  My book tour was cancelled. Book stores across the country and the world are still here, struggling but figuring out how to do business. Things change yet they remain the same, non?  We’re navigating uncharted waters living through a pandemic in the 21st century. I’m trying hard to wrap my head around how to help readers find THREE HOURS IN PARIS, and to think about its relevance today. 

On one level it’s a story about resistance and the fight against fascism. We’re living in a time when so much going on echoes the past. Yet, given a situation like the one Kate Rees, my prototgonist, finds her self in; choosing to fight back in a way she can, lends itself to today. Fighting back can be interpreted in everyday ways; speaking out, questioning and making your voices heard ie #metoo. Not all of us would or could fight back Kate’s way but every act of resistance is Resistance.  Kate to me is an everywoman - a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife - who finding herself against the circumstances of war and tragedy, struggles and persists and doesn’t let up. She knows the world wasn’t always like this. That it will pass but in so doing there’s a toll taken. Yes, her struggle and survival is hopeful because it’s about persisting and doing what you feel is the right thing.
Here is the virtual book tour we came up with starting today. Please stop by and note that today Sujata and I will be chatting on Facebook at CaraBlackauthor. Sorry to blatantly self-promote but traditionally on MIE we're allowed to tell you ALL on our book's birthday.
My book was inspired by the French resistance to Nazi Occupation and European fascism during WWII. 

Now as you may know, or not, for the past twenty years I have been writing the Aimée Leduc detective series set in Paris. Throughout these two decades, I've had to go to Paris to do research--I know, such a tough gig. I've been privileged to spend several months a year there, couch-surfing in friends' garrets, interviewing police, cafe owners, bus drivers, metro workers, private detectives, collecting bits and pieces of history and lore to go into my books. I kept uncovering stories about the Nazi Occupation: stories about quiet and not-so-quiet acts of resistance by ordinary Parisians. I've seen the bullet holes still in the wall from the street fighting during liberation. The German graffiti lining the tunnels and bunkers. At the markets, the photos you can still buy of people standing in line holding their ration cards. The past is still so vivid there--so many haunting memories still alive.

I filed these tidbits away--they didn't really have a place in the Aimée Leduc books. But I couldn't get them out of my head. 

Then one day I stumbled across a fact: what amounts to a footnote of history: In June 1940, two weeks into the German Occupation, Adolf Hitler spent a total of 3 hours in Paris--only 3 hours--and then abruptly departed, never to return. I thought to myself--now why would that happen? Hitler fancied himself an artistic man; a failed painter who had memorized the layout of the Paris Opera. Paris was the crown jewel of his empire. Why would he have spent only three short hours in the City of Light?

 What if something happened? 

What if Hitler was fleeing for his life? 

What if someone tried to assassinate him? 

This WHAT IF grabbed me because it was plausible. 

Paris was newly occupied; the Parisians were volatile. We know there were many other attempts on his life. We know about the wide-reaching cover-up work done by Goebbels, his minister of propaganda--the pioneer of faux news. 

And that was it--the WHAT IF I needed. Suddenly I had a book I desperately needed to write. 

THREE HOURS IN PARIS, the novel that grew out of this WHAT IF, was perfect for me in so many ways because it also let me use so many of the fascinating secrets of WWII history I had collected over the years. 

Stories people didn't usually talk about. 

For example, the recently declassified files of Section D, the predecessor to Churchill's Special Operations Executive. Section D specialized in international interference, sabotage, assassinations, ungentlemanly warfare--all of their operations were deniable. 

Stories of female spies who signed the official secrets act and never spoke of their work during the war--never spoke of their heroism, took their stories to the grave. 

Stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things--harnessing their unique skills to aid the war effort. 

Like my protagonist, Kate Rees, who came to me when I was on book tour in Oregon. I realized the center of my story was a young American woman--a cowgirl who grew up on ranches during the depression, a hardscrabble childhood with five brothers. She was an Olympic-caliber riflewoman, having to learn to shoot by necessity to defend the ranch and hunt for food. 

The Kate Rees who came to me was a young widow stranded on the wrong side of the ocean during a war--having lost her family in a Luftwaffe raid, she is broken-hearted, alone, and bent of revenge. With her special skill set, nothing to live for, and nothing to lose, Kate is the ideal recruit for the unsanctioned Section D--for a clandestine mission in Occupied France, most likely a suicide mission--to assassinate the Führer. 

Spoiler--you may have guessed--the attempt fails. And now I had a young American woman stranded in Nazi Occupied Paris and I had to get her out. I knew of course she would be pursued--by a German police detective in the Führer's security service whose own life was on the line. It was very important to me that this character, Gunter, not be a cliché Nazi caricature--he needed to reflect the moral complexity of what people did during the war.  Because as you know, good people can do bad things. I want to take a brief moment here to tell you a secret: Gunter's name is an homage to Bernie Gunther, the detective at the heart of the novels by the late, great Philip Kerr.  

The Führer has only given Gunter 36 hours to find the assassin. In the resulting cat-and-mouse game, all Kate has to help her survive are her wits, her resilience, her make-do, and what she'd learned in a weekend of spy training with Section D--some rudimentary tips about disguises and lock-picking. She would have to rely on the newly-forming resistance movement as she tried to escape--she had been told she could never trust anyone, anyone could be a collaborator.

The best part of writing this book was I was finally able to use the stories I'd collected about the Parisian underground resistance movements--the stories I couldn't forget, that I wanted to give voice to, about the brave men and women who risked and often lost their lives to try to defeat fascism. I wanted to tell these stories in a way that has resonance today and above all, I hope, will keep you turning pages.

That's my story. Please support your local independent bookstores and authors with books out this month at www.bookshop.org I hope you'll enjoy Kate's journey.  Viva la Resistance! 
Cara - Tuesday


  1. Cara, it sounds like a stunning premise and a stunning character. It's waiting on my Kindle as we write!

  2. I love everything about THREE HOURS IN PARIS! From the inspiration, to the characters, to the telling to -- of course-- the author. Congratulations, Cara.

    As for what your going through in trying to get the word out in the midst of so much world trauma, I feel your pain. Today is the release date for ISLAND OF SECRETS, the the trade paperback version of THE MYKONOS MOB, and all I can say about promotional efforts in the time of Covid-19 is this: "If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, do the books printed on the paper for which it gave up it’s life ever get read?" Stay safe.

    1. Congratulations, Jeff on Island of Secrets! Bravo and we'll get through this!

  3. Sounds intriguing, enticing, irresistible (yes, pun intended). Thanks, Cara, and good luck with the book!

  4. Thank you EvKa and here's a toast - virtual raised glass - to everyone having a book birthday today!!

  5. Well this is definitely on my list! I love it when you all write about the what, when, where and why and how a book comes to life. Living as an expat in Greece I now understand your comment about how history is still alive on this side of the pond. Can hardly wait to read this one!