Thursday, August 16, 2007
Pen Noir goes lighter
I'm not a natural blogger. The idea of "chatting" instead of getting my work done shocks my disciplined Yankee soul to its core. I've got books to write, right? Plots to plan, characters to dream up, settings to investigate and research, scads and scads of research to do.
That, of course, is where the noirish pen goes light. Because for my next book I have to learn all about handbags. Handbags, you know...purses, those accessories which range from the teeny weenie all the way up to things that look like you could keep two or three small dogs inside and still have room for makeup, comb, notebook, and a delicate little ladylike handgun.
I am normally not enthused about purses. I had one I liked. It wore out. I replaced it with one that is unsatisfactory but I haven't had the ertia to find another. In the name of research, though, I will travel far and learn much. I have done so to learn about adoption (Chosen for Death), to learn about militia groups (Liberty or Death), and to learn about police procedure(Playing God). I've even shot a handgun. (See Gary Mehalik photo of me learning to shoot.) So if an interesting character presents herself and wants to chat about purses, what the heck? I will learn about purses so I'll know what she's talking about, and so I can see the world through her eyes as she walks down the street or travels through a Mall. What does she spot and what does it tell her?
It turns out that most people are interested. I happened to mention the plot for the new book to Mary Smith at Five Star, and she told me a wonderful long story about the sister of a friend who knows just the right places to go and people to see in New York. She keeps their business cards, knows which street corners they hang out on. She comes to town with a list and goes out and bags those bags. Sometimes she even calls up and orders by phone. Within minutes, this paragon of purses has been tracked down and I have an e-mail on my desk with her contact information. I can hardly wait to start increasing my store of purse lore.
Mary Smith is only the first. A few nights later, I attend a focus group for clients of a particular investment firm. As we sit around in the reception area, waiting for our group to be called, I start talking to the woman sitting beside me. It turns out that she has been sent by the research angels solely for my edification. This woman owns a boutique that sells shoes and elegant accessories. She used to design her own line of handbags. She has stories GALORE about visiting the studios of high-end designers in New York. Stories of bags stolen and sold out the back doors of production facilities. Stories of who is hot and who is not. She promises to save me accessory catalogues to help with my research. So that her name and number will linger in my tired old brain (currently suffering from a shortage of nouns), she hands me a bright neon nailfile.
Even I, with my dysfunctional purse and a deficit of nouns, can't lose a neon nailfile.
Brother-in-Crime Jeremiah Healy is married to a woman who used to be a handbag buyer for Filene's. When we meet at Five Star's lobster lunch I leave with his wife's e-mail and phone number. Once again I am reminded of people's kindness and generosity to writers doing research.
I have the addresses of two buildings in New York City which are the handbag capitol of the world.
I can hardly wait to get started.
Research on-line suggests a dark link between knockoff purses and funds for terrorism. What could be cooler than that, if you're plotting a mystery? Who knows where all this will lead?
If you're a purse lover, and you have a story to tell, please share it.