MysteryPeople Q&A with Mark Pryor

Mark Pryor is one of our favorites here at MysteryPeople – we’ve followed his Hugo Marston series from the very beginning, and we’re happy to welcome The Sorbonne Affairthe seventh volume of the series, to our shelves. Mark joins us to speak and sign his latest on Saturday, August 26th, at 6 PM, along with James W. Ziskin and Traci Lambrecht of P.J. Tracy. Ahead of the event, our Meike Alana sat down with Mark to ask him about the book, Paris, his busy schedule, and what’s next. 

 

  • Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

Meike Alana: Your love of books (which you share with your protagonist, Hugo Marston) is on full display in the series (titles include The Bookseller and The Paris Librarian). Your latest, The Sorbonne Affair, deals with a best-selling American romance writer who discovers a hidden camera in her room at Paris’ Sorbonne hotel. You poke some fun at the romance genre–Hugo is slightly disdainful towards romance, and is incredulous to discover that many of his accomplished, intelligent friends are fans of the author. Do you care to elaborate on your own views?

Mark Pryor: Absolutely—my position is that a good book is a good book. As such, I hope it comes across as people poking fun at Hugo for being a book snob. I know for a fact some of my readers are also lovers of the romance genre, and just last month I gave a talk to a crowded and enthusiastic room of romance writers.

Ha, but you’re wondering if I read romance, though, aren’t you? Yes, I have and I would. My problem is that I don’t have time to read much, and almost all my reading time these days seems to be taken up blurbing books for other people. That means I have to prioritize, which in turn means I have a giant stack of unread books in my bedroom!

But again, what I’m trying to point out in a playful way is that if a book is good, its subject or genre shouldn’t matter, and yet there are some people who insist their reading or writing are more… let’s say elevated and don’t include one genre or another.

MA: This is the 7th installment of your series featuring the Paris-based Hugo, although Hugo has traveled to London (The Button Man) and Barcelona (The Reluctant Matador). For anyone planning a visit to Paris I always recommend they read one of your books–you so aptly capture the Parisian energy and mystique. Yet you’re a Brit who lives in Austin, Texas. How do you manage to capture the spirit of the City of Light so perfectly? And what’s your favorite spot in Paris?

MP: Thank you for the kind words, I try hard to bring Paris to my readers. To do so, and I know it’s tough, but I try to make myself go there as often as possible. Choke down a croissant or two, suffer through a dozen garlic snails, drag myself along the city’s boulevards on crisp autumn evenings. We all know artists suffer, and as you can see, I suffer as much as any of them…

As for my favorite spot, well, I have several. I always visit the bookstore Shakespeare & Co., and a walk in front of Notre Dame is a must. Other than that, I try to find new places to explore and share. There are always undiscovered cafes and restaurants, little parks and squares and churches.

MA: Previous Hugo novels have hinted at his previous FBI career but we’ve never learned the details about why he left that agency. We learn more about that in The Sorbonne Affair. What made you decide it was time for the reader to learn about the events leading up that his career change?

MP: Your boss. Seriously. That marvelous bookseller Scott Montgomery has said to me since the very first novel that he was sure there was a story behind Hugo and Tom leaving the FBI. I assured him on multiple occasions that no, there really wasn’t.
Turns out he was right.

As for why, I think it’s because I’m always trying to show a new side to Hugo. He’s a hard man to get to know so this particular event gives us a really good look at his psyche, and why his friendship with Tom means so much—to both of them. I better stop there before I give too much away.

MA: Given the complexity of your plots, the evocative Paris setting, the well-developed characters many readers would be surprised to know that you don’t write full-time; in fact, you balance your writing with a challenging legal career and a full family life including 3 young children. How in the world do you find time to write? Do you have to be very disciplined and organized, or do you just randomly throw words on the page when you can carve out a few free minutes?

MP: It’s all about the discipline, filling every spare moment with either writing or something book-related. The way I explain it is to say that I never, ever, have a moment in my life when I think, “Oh, nothing going on today, what should I do?” Ever. Even on July 4 I had to take time to write a couple thousand words in between pool trips and burger-making.

That said, I have no complaints at all. I have a fascinating job, books I love to write, and hugely supportive family and friends (and readers!). So, yes, I’m crazy busy but in all the best ways.

MA: What’s next for Hugo?

MP: I have a few ideas rolling around in my head but so far it’s all a little hazy. More than likely he’ll be paying a visit to Lake Como in Italy, which won’t be too much of a hardship I suspect (for him or me!). I want to develop the secondary plot like from The Sorbonne Affair a little more, the new threat to Hugo and Tom. And I think I want a princess in the book. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

MA: In addition to the Hugo series, you wrote the outstanding psychological thriller Hollow Man. (For anyone who hasn’t read it, the book tells the story of Dominic, a psychopath British district attorney who lives in Austin. Pryor is a British district attorney who lives in Austin. He assures us the work is “completely fiction.” Hmm….) Any plans for another book about Dominic?

MP: Dang it Meike, you know what a sweet, kind, non-psychopathic chappie I am! I haven’t killed anyone for ages and ages, I promise!

Actually, on January 30, 2018, the sequel to Hollow Man will be published by Seventh Street Books. It’s called Dominic, which is suitably ego-centric for that character. This time around he’s set his sights on a judgeship that he would like, but to get there he has to deal with two significant problems: a colleague going for that same position, and a detective who still has questions about Dominic’s role in a murder that someone else went to prison for.

MA: We always like to ask for reading recommendations from our favorite writers. Read anything lately that you want to tell us about?

MP: Oh, good, this lets me have a quick rave about Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, which is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in years. I’m also about to delve into Unsub by Meg Gardiner and Blame by Jeff Abbott. Oh, and the new James Ziskin, Cast The First Stone. Love that series. As you can see, my TBR pile is greater than my recently-finished stack, but to be fair it’s because I’m reading some manuscripts for blurb purposes, and not so much published work.

You can find copies of The Sorbonne Affair on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Mark Pryor joins us Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM to speak and sign his latest. He’ll be appearing with fellow crime writers Traci Lambrecht (of P.J. Tracy) and James W. Ziskin. 

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MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE SORBONNE AFFAIR by Mark Pryor

Mark Pryor’s latest Hugo Marston novel is our Pick of the Month for August! The Sorbonne Affair comes out Tuesday, August 22nd. Mark Pryor joins us to speak and sign his latest on Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM – he’ll be joined by fellow crime writers James W. Ziskin and Traci Lambrecht (of the writing duo PJ Tracy).

  • Review by MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana

9781633882614Mark Pryor is a perennial favorite here at MysteryPeople.  His Hugo Marston series has just enough danger and grit for noir-lover Scott, a sufficient level of international intrigue for world traveler Molly, and a cast of well-developed realistic characters for Meike (the dominatrix who gets Hugo into a pair of leather chaps is a personal fave– but I digress).  The BookPeople marketing staff witnessed quite the wrestling match when an advance reader copy of Pryor’s latest, The Sorbonne Affair, landed in the office; through sheer will Meike came up the victor (and you’re welcome for that visual).

Pryor’s Paris-based novels feature Hugo Marston, head of security for the US Embassy in Paris; the former FBI profiler’s best friend Tom is his partner in crime and the solving thereof.  In The Sorbonne Affair Hugo comes to the aid of well-known American romance author Helen Hancock, who has discovered a hidden camera in her room at Paris’ Sorbonne Hotel.  What begins as a surveillance affair almost immediately explodes into a murder investigation when the hotel employee believed to have been responsible for hiding the camera is found brutally murdered.  Soon a racy video featuring the author in a state of undress, clasping the equally unclothed body of one of her students, spreads like wildfire across the internet.  Hugo teams up with Lieutenant Camille Lerens to unmask the killer before he can strike again, but secrets run deep at the hotel and Hugo seems to hit one dead end after another.  At the same time Hugo must deal with a shadow from his past that could threaten his contented life in Paris.

Pryor is a fantastic storyteller and there is much to love about The Sorbonne Affair.  The complex plot is deftly woven and unspools at a perfectly measured pace; the unique characters are well-drawn and satisfyingly complex.  While this is not a light-hearted cozy romp through Paris, Pryor does weave bits of humor throughout his novels; bibliophiles will particularly enjoy Hugo’s incredulity at the width and breadth of romance author Hancock’s following–it seems even Hugo’s boss is a fan!  (Side note: The hardcore mystery fan looking for some great recommendations should pay attention to mentions of Hugo’s night-time reading.)    Finally, Pryor’s deep and abiding love for Paris shines through in his descriptions of the city and its denizens, and a croissant with café au lait (or perhaps a wedge of brie and red wine) would be the ideal accompaniment to this latest installment in the series.

Mark Pryor is a British-American prosecutor who works as an Assistant District Attorney in BookPeople’s hometown of Austin, Texas.  In addition to his six previous Hugo Marston novels, he is the author of the thriller The Hollow Man, the first in a new series. (The novel’s protagonist is a British Assistant District Attorney in Austin who is also a psychopath and goes on a killing spree.  Pryor assures us repeatedly that the character is “completely fictional.”) Keep an eye out in January for the sequel, Dominic: A Hollow Man Novel, which promises to be just as creepy as the first! 

The Sorbonne Affair comes out Tuesday, August 22nd – pre-order now! Mark Pryor joins us to speak and sign his latest on Saturday, August 26th at 6 PM – he’ll be joined by fellow crime writers James W. Ziskin and Traci Lambrecht (of the writing duo PJ Tracy).

A (Partial) Atlas of Texas Crime Fiction

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

A hard land with a difficult history, Texas has always lent itself well to crime fiction. From the crime fiction greats who helped define the genre to those writers shaping the landscape of crime fiction today, Texas has a long tradition of social critiques and sendoffs of hypocrisy (the hallmarks of Texas crime fiction, in my opinion) delivered via murder mystery. Tales of Texas history may gaslight their audiences into believing in the state as a land of triumph, but we crime fiction readers know the dark, murderous truth about the land we call home….

Below, you’ll find an incomplete (of necessity) guide to Texas crime fiction, brought to y’all in honor of Texas Mystery Writers Month (that is, May). Emphasis is placed on well-known classic writers and the wide array of new crime fiction released in the past few years. We know we’re leaving out quite a few of the Texas mystery writer greats, and many of the good one-off novels. Some have gone out of print; others have simply dropped off our radar as we find new voices to champion.

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Meike’s Top Ten Mysteries of 2016

Meike Alana truly became a trusted member of MysteryPeople this year. As author Josh Stallings said, “She looks normal, but she’s just as crazy as we are.” Her tastes run the gamut to traditional, to thriller, to noir, but as you can see in her top 10 for 2016, she has great taste. The listing is in no particular order.

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

97803162310771. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott 

No one plumbs the depths of teen girl depravity quite like Ms. Abbott and she’s done it again in this gripping tale of psychological suspense.  Gymnast Devon Knox is a prodigy seemingly destined for gymnastics gold, and her family will go to any lengths to help her fulfill those dreams.  When a handsome young man is violently killed, rumors begin to swirl and it becomes apparent that her dreams may be at risk.  

97814516866302. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

I’ve often thought it wouldn’t be all that hard  to adopt a new identity—cut  and color your hair, get some glasses, throw on a hat and some baggy clothes.  Tanya Dubois must do exactly that after she comes home to find her husband dead—although she knows it was an accident, she’s sure the police will suspect her so she packs a suitcase, changes her look, and heads for Texas.  There she’s taken in by bartender Blue; running from her own past, Blue soon convinces Tanya to trade identities with her and things get a little crazy.

3. Young Americans by Josh Stallings9780996948005

Throw a heist story in a blender with glitter, drugs, and disco; add characters like a stripper who learned the fine art of safe-cracking at her grandfather’s knee and a badass ex-Marine transsexual; you get a rollicking thrill ride of a mystery. Groove to the sound of David Bowie as you blow through the year’s best heist novel! 

978163388205814. The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens

When a wealthy socialite is brutally murdered, suspicion immediately falls upon her husband.  Although he claims to have an alibi, a neighbor reports seeing him at the scene on the night of the murder and he’s arrested and charged with murder.  The investigating detective is convinced the police have the right man in custody; his good friend, who is counsel for the defense, is equally certain his client is innocent.  Both men will go to any lengths to prove their position, even though it threatens to destroy their friendship.  Fantastic twists in this one!

97816338817785. The Paris Librarian by Mark Pryor

I’ve been a fan of Pryor’s Paris-based series featuring Hugo Marston, head of security at the US Embassy, since his debut with “the Bookseller” several years ago.  In this latest, Pryor tries his hand at the classic locked room mystery when a body is discovered in the basement of the American Library in Paris and Hugo is called to investigate.  Stock up on croissants, you’ll be craving them with café au lait as you read this atmospheric European thriller.

97816338812666. See Also Deception by Larry Sweazy

Marjorie Trumaine lives on an isolated North Dakota farm with her  disabled husband Hank, where she works as an indexer to make ends meet.  When her friend Calla Eltmore, the local librarian, is found dead the police believe she committed suicide, but Marjorie is certain that’s not the case and sets out to uncover the truth.  In the process she uncovers myriad small town secrets  that put her safety in peril.

97816338818397. Heart of Stone by James Ziskin

Ziskin’s protagonist, Ellie Stone, is one of my favorite characters in the genre—a  confident 1960’s twenty-something girl reporter with a taste for strong whiskey and fast men.  While Ellie enjoys a late-summer holiday at her aunt and uncle’s Adirondacks lake property, two dead bodies are found on a nearby beach.  The local police chief believes these were victims of suicide, and asks Ellie to photograph the bodies as evidence.   But Ellie believes something more sinister may be behind the deaths and becomes determined to find out what really happened.

978163388120418. The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake by Terry Shames

This latest installment of Shames’ series, set in the fictional small Texas town of Jarrett Creek, finds police chief Samuel Craddock investigating the murder of a young  woman who has recently returned to her home town after a lengthy stay in a mental institution.  Craddock soon finds himself dealing with not only murder, but multiple layers of secrets and deception that someone is determined to keep hidden.

978161695610319. His Right Hand by Mettie Ivie Harrison

Harrison is a practicing Mormon and has written an incredibly unique  series featuring Linda Walheim, the wife of a bishop in the Mormon church.  Linda’s tight-knit LDS community is thrown into upheaval when their ward’s second counselor—one of the bishops’ right hand men—is found murdered.  But when the autopsy reveals that this devout Mormon, a loving husband and father who was a pillar of the community, was a biological female, church officials seem more concerned with covering up the murder than with solving it.  Linda must step in, and in the process Harrison explores the LDS stance on gender and sexual identity.  The series provides an unprecedented glimpse inside the secretive Mormon Church and presents multiple sides to some of the complex issues its members and leaders are grappling with today.

978194422500110. Dollar Signs by Manning Wolfe

Austin attorney Merit Bridges likes her wine chilled and her men hot (and on the younger side).  In order to protect one of her clients, she goes after a shady corporation  that’s taking property from innocent people—aided by her bad-ass office manager Betty (she of the Ann Richards hair, motherly attitude, and smart mouth) , uber-fashionable paralegal Val, and investigator Ag (who wants more than friendship from Merit).  A fantastic debut, and Austin residents will have fun identifying local landmarks.

You can find all of the books listed above on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

Letters to Santa: Hugo Marston & Walt Longmire

mysterypeople-holiday-logo

This year the MysteryPeople staff decided to have some fun with letters to Santa from some of our favorite crime fiction characters. We decided to wind up the blog series with letters from two authors – Craig Johnson, creator of Sheriff Walt Longmire, and Mark Pryor, who gave us US Embassy Director Of Security Hugo Marston. Each sent along a list of the perfect gifts for their heroes. 

Hugo Marston, Director of Security for the US Embassy in Paris, would like to receive this holiday season:

  • A signed, first edition, Sherlock Holmes book.
  • A new pair of Tomy Lama boots.
  • A two-week vacation. For (from?!) Tom.
  • A bottle of Chateau Pichon Lalande, to share with Claudia. Maybe a case, they’re in it for the long haul.
  • A coffee maker that requires no coffee making ability whatsoever.
  • A subscription to The Economist. (To be shared with Emma, his secretary.)
  • News that the new President-elect will be retaining the services of Hugo’s boss, Ambassador J. Bradford Taylor.

You can find Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston series on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

Sheriff Walt Longmire doesn’t have many needs, but he would appreciate the following items:

  • Rainier Beer Jubilee Half-Quart cans
  • Plutarch’s Lives, eight volume leather-bound set, J&R Tonson &S. Draper, London 1749
  • 20 Rounds 230 grain JHP .45 ACP ammo
  • A gift certificate for “The Usual”, Busy Bee Café
  • And, Ham, any variety (for Dog)

You can find Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

Mark Pryor to Visit the Murder in the Afternoon Book Club

  • Post by Scott M.

 

On Monday December 19th, at 1 PM on BookPeople’s 3rd floor, The Murder In The Afternoon Book Club is celebrating the holidays with one of our favorite authors. Mark Pryor has steadily made a name for himself with his hero Hugo Marston, head of security for the U.S. Embassy in Paris. He’ll be joining us to discuss the first book in the series, The Bookseller.

The story starts with one of Hugo’s main loves, books. When approaching the bookstall of Max, a dealer he does business with, he spots the old man being shoved into a car that speeds off. Out of his jurisdiction and with the help of a beautiful Parisian journalist, Claudia Roux, and his loose-cannon buddy with the CIA, Tom Green, Hugo is off to save Max. His search leads him to a shadowy world involving books, drugs, and secrets from the Second World War.

Mark is incredibly fun to talk to, so it should be a great discussion. We will be meeting at 1PM, Monday, December 19th on the third floor. The Bookseller is 10% off to those who attend.Since this is a holiday party as well as book discussion, everybody is asked to bring some kind of treat.

You can find copies of The Bookseller on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club will meet to discuss The Bookseller with special guest Mark Pryor on Monday, December 19th, at 1 PM

MysteryPeople’s Guide to the Texas Book Festival

Hey Folks! Overwhelmed by the number of amazing panels at this year’s Texas Book Festival? Can’t see the forest through the trees? Never fear, MysteryPeople is here with a guide to mystery, thriller and true crime happenings at the fest. Here’s a link to the full schedule, but in the following schedule, you can see we’ve picked out some of the highlights for crime fiction fans.

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