Monday, June 27, 2011
Welcome Calvin Davis & the Mysterious Phantom Lady!
Thank you for having me on your blog, Alison. This is a first for me—being a guest and stepping into the dynamic blogging world of romance writers. Even though I live with a romance writer, this is a new milieu for me. You will be gentle, won’t you?
We all know story ideas come from countless sources: a dream, a newspaper article, a snippet of an overheard conversation, thoughts on the human condition and so on. For me, the idea for The Phantom Lady of Paris stemmed from a theft.
I was living in Paris at the time. I’d gone there in 1968 on sabbatical to write and study French culture. What better place to do that than Left Bank cafés? I rented a studio apartment at 21 rue Galande in the 5th arrondissement (Paris is divided into neighborhoods or wards called arrondissements). I was living in the heart of the Latin Quarter, so named because centuries ago students at the Sorbonne spoke only Latin as they conversed and argued philosophies on the streets of this neighborhood.
Soon I settled into a daily routine. I’d shower, dress, snatch a few notebooks and pencils from the desk, bolt down the three flights of steps, dash up the street to the boulangerie (bakery) and buy a few croissants and then step across the street to the cremerie (dairy) for some yogurt. Purchases in hand, I’d stop in the foyer of my building to retrieve my newspaper from the mailbox. Then I’d meander the streets until I came to my favorite writing café, settle at a table, sip an espresso, read the paper and then write for several hours.
I must interject a description, at this point, of mailboxes in French buildings during this era. Mailboxes were one large, open wooden box attached to a wall in the entry foyer. There the postal person would dump the mail for all the residents of the building. Each tenant would sift through the contents, hunting for mail addressed to him or her. Outside of a weekly letter from my mother, my copy of the English Herald Tribune was my only daily mail—and I looked forward to it. My subscription was my lifeline to the English speaking world while I sat immersed in French culture. One morning, it was gone. The address band that encircled it was there, but not my paper. I was livid. Who would steal a man’s newspaper?
Once my temper cooled and my writer’s imagination heated up, I thought “hey, there might be a story in this…a teacher on sabbatical, much like me, has his newspaper stolen…and the thief has the audacity to leave a note on the bulletin board above the mailbox…yeah, a note…and the teacher leaves a reply…and then the thief leaves another note…and…” Well, all you lovely ladies know how one’s imagination takes flight on the breeze of “what-if’s.” So, thanks to a theft, the Phantom Lady was born.
Here’s an excerpt from The Phantom Lady of Paris where Paul, my hero, finds the first note from the phantom lady.
On this particular morning with a liter of milk, a croissant, and a cup of yogurt in hand, I hurried into the foyer of Twenty-One rue Galande. I glanced into the mailbox, and, to my dismay, my Herald Tribune was missing. Had the mail carrier made his rounds? He always did, religiously and on time, regardless of the weather. Besides, mail for other tenants was in the box. So why wasn’t mine?
I rummaged through the huge mound of letters, finally fishing from it an address band with the Herald’s logo on it, beneath which was my name, address, and that day’s date. I didn’t need to be a forensic scientist to realize that some midget-minded SOB had stolen my newspaper, and, to add insult to injury, brazenly left the address band in the mailbox. Of all the rotten, dirty…
With the discarded mailing band in hand, I glanced at the bulletin board that was just above the mailbox. On it was a note addressed to me, scrawled on a piece of torn notebook paper. A hastily scribbled peace sign adorned the top.
Dear Mr. Paul Lasser,
I borrowed your newspaper. I would say, Thank you, but as nice as I know you are, I don’t have to thank you. Do I? Of course not, darling. So, why bother?
And oh yes, do have a good day! I’m sure I’ll have one. Reading the morning paper always makes my day—as I’m sure it makes yours. For your information: the weatherman predicts mild temperatures, sunny, cloudless skies. Should be a gasser. So, enjoy. Peace and love.
Signed, your neighbor and fellow-newspaper-lover,
The Phantom Lady of Paris.
Why is she in Paris and why do the French police investigate her and her “persons of interest” friends? One friend, a flower child, overdoses on drugs. Another morphs into a terrorist, bombing cafés. Is a Communist agitator an associate of Bonnie’s?
Slowly Paul unearths answers, and even as they quench his desire to understand, they will forever haunt him.
Thanks you again for having me. You’ve been a most gracious host, Alison.
You may buy my novel from the publisher, Second Wind, http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/index.html
Or from Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_25?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+phantom+lady+of+paris&sprefix=the+phantom+lady+of+paris
Thanks, Calvin...this sounds like a truly intriguing 'what if?'
Next week my guest is Sue Fineman.