In Marin / READING LIST
MM: Since this was your first
mystery novel, how did you go
about tackling it? Was the process
different than that of your other
books? IA: The process was not
very different from that of my other
novels’, except that the research
was focused on forensic stuff and
the psychology of a serial killer. My
challenge was to create suspense,
plant clues and red herrings, distract the reader so that he or she
would not guess the ending, etc.
Creating the characters was easy
because I had a lot of help — I was
even able to interview (extensively)
a Navy SEAL.
MM: What compelled you to venture
into the uncharted territory of crime
writing? IA: I was tempted to write a
crime novel because it was a big challenge for me. I am always trying new
things and taking risks; I seem incapable of relying on tested formulas.
All my books are different.
MM: How did Ripper come about?
IA: The book was not my idea. My
agent, Carmen Balcells, suggested
that I write a book with my husband,
William Gordon, who is a crime nov-
elist. We tried but it quickly became
obvious that such a project was
impossible: Willie writes in English
and I write in Spanish; he has an
attention span of 11 minutes, I can
write for 11 hours; he doesn’t need to
research because all his novels are
placed in San Francisco in the ’60s
and he knows the place and the time
very well, while I research every sin-
gle detail of my books. So Willie went
to write his sixth novel alone, while I
tried my hand at my first mystery.
MM: You tend to write about families. What is it about that dynamic
that speaks to you? IA: In Latin
America extended families are very
important — we live in clans. As a
political refugee in Venezuela in
the ’70s and ’80s, and later as an
immigrant in the United States, I
lost my extended family, so I suppose I compensate by writing about
families in my books. It is an exercise in nostalgia. CALIN VAN PARIS
Author Talk Ripper by Isabel Allende of San Rafael, Harper
Perennial, $15.99. After a string of murders in San
Francisco, high school senior Amanda takes her
fascination with the online mystery game Ripper into
the real world, making crucial breakthroughs even
before the police. Amanda’s exhilaration turns to
panic when her mother goes missing, raising the emotional stakes
in this convoluted case.
Ten Windows: How Great Poems
Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield of Mill
Valley, Knopf Publishing Group, $24.95. In this collec-
tion of 10 eye-opening essays, the award-winning
poet shines light on the art of poetry. Examining
pieces by some of poetry’s most notable figures,
Hirshfield reveals the mechanisms that infuse poems with their pro-
found power. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera March 17, 7 p.m.
Murder on the Champ de Mars (An Aimée
Leduc Investigation) by Cara Black of San Francisco,
Soho Crime, $27.95. As a single mother with a newborn,
detective Aimée Leduc has time to investigate only one
mystery: parenting. Nonetheless, when a young boy
claims that his dying mother has a secret connected to
the unsolved murder of Aimée’s father, she’s instantly hooked, launch-
ing into a frantic expedition to find the ailing woman before it is too
late. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera March 11, 7 p.m.
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler of San Francisco,
Bloomsbury, $26. Phil experiences disappointment
when his concept for a new radio show doesn’t gar-
ner the enthusiasm he imagined. Meanwhile, Phil’s
daughter, Gwen, forges a friendship with an eccentric
old man. Handler masterfully juxtaposes freedom with
constraint, young with old and humor with gravity. Appearing at Book
Passage Corte Madera with Michelle Tea March 7, 4 p.m.
A Dangerous Place: A Maisie Dobbs
Novel by Jacqueline Winspear of San Anselmo,
Harper, $26.99. It is spring of 1937, and psycholo-
gist/investigator Maisie Dobbs is scheduled to
return to England to visit her ailing father. On the
boat home, Maisie has second thoughts, and she
makes a bold decision to disembark at a British garrison town in
Gibraltar — a safe haven for many refugees escaping the Spanish
Civil War. When a local Sephardic Jew is murdered, Maisie dives
into an investigation that transforms her detour into a perilous jour-
ney. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera March 20, 7 p.m.
Local Page Turners
Book picks by Book Passage’s Kathryn Petrocelli.
We sat down