Cara Black: French Mystery/Detective Novelist

My job is to take you with my detective to that street (in Paris) and feel it, smell it, taste it.”

Books
Murder in Marais – 1999
Murder in Belleville – 2000
Murder in Sentier – 2003
Murder in the Bastille – 2004
Murder in Clichy – 2005
Murder in Montmartre – 2006
Murder on the Ile Saint-Louis – 2007
Murder in the Rue de Paradis – 2008
Murder in the Latin Quarter – 2009
Murder in the Palais Royale – 2010
Murder in Passy – 2011
Murder at the Lanterne Rouge – 2012
Murder Below Montparnasse – 2013
Murder in Pigalle – 2014

Honors and Awards

San Francisco Library Laureate
Medaille de la Ville de Paris, for services to French culture

Nominations:
Anthony Award, Best First Novel, Murder in the Marais
Macavity Award, Best First Mystery Novel, Murder in the Marais
Anthony Award for Best Novel, Murder in the Sentier
NCIBA Finalist


Cara's delicate tea set for special occasions.

Cara and George at the end of the interview.
We had fun.

Kipper, a writer's best friend, greeted us with barks and sniffs.

A fixture of French cafes and bistros, this tray is from French spirits company Ricard. So famous is it for its Pernod, the names Ricard and Pernod are nearly interchangeable.

Cara's house is in one of our favorite San Francisco neighborhoods, Noe Valley.

This clock is part of the whimsy that adorns Cara's kitchen where she sometimes works.

A view of the valley from one of Cara's windows

Stacked with books and papers, this colorful chair adorned with frogs is part of Cara's working space.
Interview Movie
(Embedded version below)

Audio File
(Note: To download the podcast,
right click on the link if you are on a PC,
or
control click if you are on a Mac. )

Location:

San Francisco, CA

Run Time:

33:15

Genre:

Mystery/Detective/Crime

Website:

Raised:

Woodside, CA

Youthful Influence:

Storytelling grandfather, reading father, reading herself, esp. Robinson Crusoe. French nuns at her school.

Favorite Authors:

Oscar Wilde. P.D. James and Agatha Christie helped inform her knowledge of mystery structure.

Creative Habit:

Cara's Recipe: Find an intriguing place in Paris to learn about, take notes in Paris cafes, talk to flics, form a story. Walk the streets. Visit Paris flea markets and pick up things your characters might have. Do a 100-page rough draft, then timeline on butcher paper. Revise. Take to critique group. Work on yellow pads, computer, in a sunlit office and in an active kitchen. Work with a good editor. Go to writers' conferences and workshops.


So far, Cara Black's detective, Aimée Leduc, has solved a murder in a different arrondissement of Paris 14 times.

That sense of place permeated that story, the sounds, smells and textures of the street, the feeling of ghosts in the building, the layer of a new society over this past were part of the story and shaped Cara's future storytelling. The story also invoked questions of how past crimes affect the world we live in today.

She learned more about this neighborhood as she wrote her book, and developed a method of capturing place: not only does she research, she tapes street sounds - from the click of high heels to a snatch of conversation, sits in sidewalk cafes taking notes on her surroundings, talks with the flics (police) and other experts, and goes to Paris flea markets to buy things her characters might touch or have in a pocket or purse.

She now teaches writing workshops as well as writing a book a year (I can hardly wait to see which arrondissement we'll get to explore next March!). Her NYTimes and USAToday bestselling books have been on the bestseller list of nearly every major newspaper in the country, and are picks of lists like Indie Next, BookSense, and the Washington Post Best Books of the year. She is featured in Great Women Mystery Writers by Elizabeth Lindsay (2nd ed.), and has been nominated for Anthony, McCavity and shortlisted for the Northern California Independent Bookseller best novel awards.


Cara grew up in a family of storytelling Francophiles, studied with French Catholic nuns and spent much of her early adulthood living in Europe.

But it was a trip to the Marais, the Jewish Quarter of Paris, with an old friend that changed her life. Her friend pointed to a nearby building and told the story of her mother during WW II. Her mother was 14 when she returned home to an empty apartment in that building because the Nazis had taken her family. She lived there alone for a year and survived the war while her family was sent to Auschwitz and never seen again.

To read Cara Black is to immerse yourself in Paris, in the gritty streets and quarters that tourists seldom see. Is is said that while Aimée Leduc is the private investigator in Cara's mystery series, Paris is her main character. Although Aimée specializes in cyber-security in the mid-to-late 90s in Paris, she invariably ends up solving at least one murder while taking the reader on a tour of a new arrondissement, a different quarter, a unique monument.


Paris Arrondissements & Cara's Book Locations
Because the titles are large in comparison with the map, the locations are approximate. For instance, the "Lanterne Rouge" would be in the Quartier Asiatique, which is under the "der" in the word "murder" in that title.

A wonderful view of San Francisco on our way to interview Cara.

Cara greeted us with tea and homemade gougeres .

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