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One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

I'm excited to introduce M.L. Longworth, today's featured author. Read about her here:

 

HOW I CAME TO FRANCE:

M. L. LongworthIn November of 1996 my husband, daughter and I did one of those classic vacations: one week in Paris, one week in Provence. Just before leaving, we were having sandwiches in my husband’s office in downtown Santa Cruz, and I tapped three words onto his computer, doing what he told me was this new thing called An Internet Search. I typed: France-Computers-Jobs, and found a job vacancy for a Webmaster, bilingual French-English (my husband was). The company was French and we had never heard of it, and the town listed as Gémenos, which I imagined was a quaint French village with a mossy fountain in its central square and lots of colorful locals. My husband had lived in France and warned me: Gémenos is probably a suburb of Paris, sans caractère.

 

We ran across the street to Bookshop Santa Cruz and bought a yellow Michelin map of France. And after a long search we found Gémenos, not next to Charles de Gaulle airport as feared, but about ten minutes from the Mediterranean Sea, just east of Marseille. As we were planning on being in Provence in two weeks time, my husband phoned the company and was invited—by an accordion-playing Welshman who spoke flawless French—for an interview.

 

The central square in Gémenos did have a mossy fountain, Marcel Pagnol’s white craggy mountains encircled the village, and I ate lunch beside the fountain with our three-year-old daughter while she played with some local kids and the barman kept refilling my glass with rosé. Everyone in the village knew the company—it was their pride and joy—and my new friends were all rooting for the interview to go well. It did. Three days later we were in Toulouse and my husband received a telephone call with the job offer. The rest of our vacation photos depict our daughter scrambling around medieval French villages in her new French yellow boots, me eating cassoulet, and my husband with a panicked look on his face. Sure, we had dreamed of living in Europe, but were we really ready to move? From beautiful downtown Santa Cruz?

 

On February 13th 1997 we boarded an airplane at SFO for Marseille. It was hard to say goodbye to our friends and neighbors; not hard to say goodbye to my husband’s psychotic bosses (never work for a Silicon Valley start-up owned by a husband and wife team).

The first eighteen months in France passed quickly and were a dream. We rented the guardian’s house behind an 18th century château (not Château Bremont!) on the famed Route de Cézanne just outside of Aix-en-Provence. There was a breathtaking view of Mont Ste Victoire and hundreds of olive trees. That first November, almost a year after that lunch in Gémenos, we tried our hand at the olive harvest, which I turned into an essay—it’s still one of my favorites—for Bon Appétit Magazine.

 

The second year was more difficult. We were no longer tourists but living in France, and because of our location in the country, my French did not improve. It barely budged. I found myself needing the car for everything, including buying a baguette. Hey! Even in California I did my shopping on foot! As fate would have it, the elderly propriétaires of the château put it up for sale, a Parisian businessman bought it as a weekend residence, our little cottage to become a vacation house for his college-aged daughter. We left the countryside and the mountain and moved to downtown Aix.

 

The move saved us, and I often think that had we not moved downtown, we would have left France. We rented a top-floor apartment with a much-sought-after terrace, big enough for long dinners, and with a view of St Jean de Malte’s steeple. Yes, it is Marine’s apartment in the book. I had not been in the apartment long (there were still packing boxes in the entryway) before my first-floor neighbor knocked on the door, offering help and advice. I was thrilled to have a friendly neighbor, and invited her in. She stayed for two hours, and as she left she turned to me and asked, “Did I talk about food the whole time?” We laughed and I realized that not only did I have a kindred spirit living two floors down, but I had also understood her French. We are still friends—although we’ve moved from that great apartment—as are our daughters, no longer six but soon eighteen.

 

In France I didn’t have working papers and my daughter had started school (Ste Catherine de Sienne, where MFK Fisher’s girls went), so to pass the time I began writing essays about the region and its art and architecture. My first sale was to The Washington Post, as essay on Cézanne and his mountain. I still have a photograph of me, at the dinner table, holding up the check. I was slowly becoming a writer. I wrote and slowly, slowly, sold more essays, and began writing a book by longhand, a mystery set in Aix, which I kept in the bottom drawer of my desk. Bored and frustrated by waiting for magazine and newspaper editors to reply (or not reply), I taught history at a private bilingual high school in Aix, and three years ago began commuting to Paris, where I teach writing at NYU’s Paris campus. The mystery came out of the drawer, I changed most of it, then did many many rewrites, found a literary agent in New York, and she found us Penguin. And my husband still works in Gémenos!

 

THE REST, VERY BRIEFLY:

 

I was born in Toronto in 1963. I went to university in Toronto in the early 80s (York, Fine Arts) and have fond memories of listening to Handsome Ned at the Cameron House, or seeing Jeff Healy play at Grossman’s Sunday evening jam. It’s still a great city and I love the fact that you can stroll up Ossington Avenue on a Sunday and see live jazz in a small bar.

 

We try to get back to Canada once a year; sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. One of my favorite places in Ontario is southern Bruce County, especially the rolling green hills and perfectly tended gardens of the (mostly) cattle farmers up there. It’s where most of my cousins still live. At the last O’Hagan family reunion we had 425 attendees. And then there’s a magical lake in the Kawartha’s, where my cousin Joe has a cottage. I can’t tell you the name of the lake, because I want it to stay idyllic, and Joe would kill me.

 

I married my husband in 1989, we bought an old orange van, and drove across the USA, settling in northern California three weeks before the Loma Prieta earthquake that fall. My husband found a job in IT, I went back to school, and we lived in a great old Spanish apartment building—the kind you often see in movies about 1930s Los Angeles—in downtown San Jose. After two years we moved ‘over the mountain’ to Santa Cruz, had a baby in 1993, and stayed there until that fateful day when I was playing around on that thing called the Internet and typed in ‘France-Computers-Jobs.’

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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

ML Longworth (portrait by Greg Salvatori

 

 

How long did it take you to write the first book?

 

Years. I began it when my daughter was in primary school, but it sat in a drawer until she was in junior high! I thought it was passable, but was too shy and embarrassed to show it to anyone. I had never written fiction before. When, in 2007, I began teaching at New York University in Paris, I pulled the manuscript out of the drawer and finished it. I was inspired both by my students, many of whom are great, honest, writers; and by my very clever colleagues who have PhD’s from Yale and Oxford and Harvard. I didn’t want a doctorate, but I knew that I now wanted, very badly, a published novel.

 

Was it hard to find a publisher?

 

It was hard to find an agent! It took months, maybe even a year, because you’re supposed to wait until you get a reply from an agent before you send your pages off to the next. Sometimes the agents wouldn’t reply. I was very lucky to find Katherine. She’s originally from New Orleans so she’s a real Francophile.

 

Are you a big mystery fan?

 

I must say that I don’t read mysteries often. I like Donna Leon, I have a crush on Brunetti and one of the (male) librarians at the American Library of Paris told me that he has a crush on Brunetti’s wife Paola! I also read P.D. James, and I love John Thaw in the television version of Inspector Morse. But other than that…

 

So why did you write a mystery?

 

I was too shy to begin writing fiction, so I thought that if I wrote ‘genre’ fiction I would have some boundaries to work with. Every mystery has the same framework: someone dies, there is a murderer, and the hero/heroine looks for that killer. It helped me enormously, especially with the dialogue, which as a non-fiction writer I had never done before. And then you very quickly become comfortable with your characters and it’s hard to shut them up!

 

So what do you read?

 

Barbara Pym and Anita Brookner are my favorite writers. I love Irish writers too, especially John McGahern and Roddy Doyle. Dublin is one of my favorite places in the world.

 

Speaking of place, Aix has much importance in your book, almost like a character. Are you a big traveler?

 

Yes! We’re lucky living in the south of France, because we can easily drive to so many great places. I probably shouldn’t claim to be a ‘big’ traveler, as I like to stay in Europe. From our house we can drive to the Italian border in two hours, so we’re very attached to Italy. Our daughter speaks Italian, and she claims that our vacations consist of: churches, restaurants, and more churches. We love old stones, and good food.

 

What are your favorite cities?

 

Lyon, Dublin, Warsaw, Toronto, Porto, Basel, London, Venice.

 

Towns?

 

Arles. And Beaune (for obvious reasons…the wine!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

M. L. Longworth blogs here: http://mllongworth.com/blog/

 

La Cadière d’Azur

We’ve sold our house in Aix-en-Provence and bought a house, surrounded by vineyards, in the countryside south of Aix. Call it a mid-life crisis or empty-nest syndrome if you will–our 20-year-old daughter has lived in London for two years. But we also saw it as a chance to live in the country, and to reduce our mortgage (houses are cheaper the further away you get from prestigious Aix).

We can’t move into the new home until the end of July; so we’re in a rented apartment in a stunning  hilltop village, La Cadière d’Azur. Much lesser known than its neighbor, Le Castellet (stay away, unless you enjoy phony villages where no one lives anymore; the boutiques all sell identical tacky souvenirs; and the restaurants serve you up a delicious frozen, and then microwaved, meal). And you have to park in the official parking lot; after doing a tour of fifteen minutes, I was amazed that I owed the town € 3,40 for the pleasure.

The sun has finally come out, and so I walked around La Cadière this afternoon with a camera around my neck.

The main street, with the town hall, two cafés, a wine bar, and a smattering of independently owned shops.

 

 

A tiny road above the town, looking towards the church. Great medieval house on the left, with a curved turret.

 

You could smell these climbing roses from a few yards away; the blue door is lovely, too.

 

A polished brass door knocker.

 

Another one…

 

The boulangerie; the bread is baked in a wood-fired oven.

 

The gates that lead to the upper streets.

 

The view from La Cadière d’Azur across the valley, and the many vineyards (AOC Bandol) below. The perched village on the top right is Le Castellet.

 

Turning around from the valley view, and looking up at the church.

 

Notice all of the benches; there must be fifty in this small village. In Aix there were fewer: poor form  for a city ten times (or more) the size of La Cadière. In Aix, you had to race if you saw a free spot on a bench. High school and university students were usually reduced to sitting on steps to eat their sandwiches. I admire a place where you don’t have to order a drink for the right to sit down.

 

More photos to come!

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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

Excerpt: DEATH IN THE VINES

 

Chapter One

The Angels’ Share


Olivier Bonnard sat on the bottom stone step of his cellar, his hands gathered around his head as if he were attempting to soothe a migraine. He ran his callused fingers up through his thick graying hair and groaned. He glanced over at the embedded fossil in the cellar’s stone wall—it was in the form of a scallop shell—and leaned over and carefully touched it. This was his secret ritual; he had been doing it each time he entered the cellar since he was old enough to remember. It was a reminder that millions of years ago much of the south of France had been under the sea, salt water covering the earth where vines now grew. His friends had aquatic fossils in their cellar walls too, in vineyards as far north as the Lubéron and the Rhône Valley, but this perfect little scallop was his favorite. He rubbed his hands through his hair once more and tried not to cry. The last time he had cried was eight years ago, at his mother’s funeral.

He sighed and forced himself to look up at the wine racks. He slowly took out a pencil and piece of paper from his quilted jacket—the cellar’s temperature was a constant sixteen degrees Celsius, hence the jacket, even in early September—and began writing. The list included two magnums of 1989 red; one magnum of 1975 white; three bottles of 1954 red (which happened to be Olivier’s favorite); two bottles of 1978 white (that was old for a white, and they had probably gone off now); three bottles of 1946 red (the first vintage after six years of war and his father’s favorite); and a 1929 magnum that was the very last from his grandfather’s first bottling.

He continued his list for some minutes, and then put his pen down and stopped: there were other bottles missing, but he needed to take a break. Even though they were his family’s wines, Bonnard couldn’t begin to put a value on the 1929 or the 1946; both were now collector’s items. His insurance agent in Aix would help with the estimates—he had the catalogues from Sotheby’s and Christie’s wine sales in his office. Paul was an old high-school friend and wouldn’t nickel-and-dime Olivier.

Bonnard was devastated by the loss of the wines, many of them bottled by his father and his grandfather, but tears came to his eyes when he realized that the thief must be someone very close to him. Though the cellar was always locked, everyone in Olivier’s family knew where to find the key: it hung to the right of the kitchen door, as it had since Olivier was a small boy. Who else knew where the key was kept? His felt his face flush, despite the fact that his hands and feet were almost numb with cold—as he thought of each person’s face. Friends, neighbors, acquaintances—he felt awful imagining them as suspects in a policeman’s lineup. There was the postman, Rémy, who liked to pull his ancient Mobylette, or, when he was not working, his dilapidated van, right up to the kitchen door; Hélène, the manager of his estate and his chief winemaker—her husband was a policeman, and so he immediately took her off of his list; Cyril, his only other full-time paid employee, who helped him year-round at the winery; and Sandrine, a local university student who hosted in the tasting room on weekends and holidays and whom he had hired, if truth be told, more for her beauty than for her wine knowledge or ability to count change. Every year there were a slew of North Africans who picked grapes at harvest time, but they rarely came near the house, and he felt racist thinking of them as thieves—they were so eager to work during the vendange, a backbreaking job that Olivier had gladly done as a student, but that nowadays so many young French refused.

Olivier then thought of his immediate family, only their heads weren’t in a lineup at the Palais de Justice but sitting around at dinner—not in the bastide’s elegant dining room, where his wife liked to eat, but at the long wooden kitchen table before a roaring fire. It was a comforting image and one that usually made him smile, but today it only gave him a knot in his stomach. There could be no reason why Élise, his wife of twenty years, would move the wines. Although she fully supported the Bonnard winery, she was a teetotaler, and her interests lay more in the design shop that she owned with a friend in Aix than in Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. He couldn’t fathom why Victor, his eighteen-year-old son, who had been fascinated by the earth and vines since he could walk, would steal the precious bottles; nor his pride and joy, the thirteen-year-old Clara, always with a book under her nose, and the best student in her class every year since kindergarten. Olivier’s father lived with the family, on the ground floor in a separate wing of their large eighteenth-century house. Albert Bonnard was eighty-three years old and though in good physical health was beginning to tire easily and lose his memory. Last week Olivier found his father slowly walking along the rows of vines, talking to the plants, thanking them for this year’s generous bounty.

Olivier stood up and stretched his sore legs—he had been sitting on the step, in a daze, for nearly an hour now. He turned around with a jolt as someone came down the cellar stairs. He half expected to come face to face with the thief, back to pick up some of the 1960s that he or she—Olivier didn’t want to be sexist—had missed.

“I saw the light on; are you picking out some wines for our dinner tomorrow night?” Élise Bonnard asked her husband. “Oh, oh,” she continued. “I can tell from that stunned look on your face that you have forgotten all about the dinner with the Poyers!”

Olivier was always pleased to see his wife—even after so many years of marriage—and that afternoon even more so. Even though she didn’t drink alcohol, she was a fine taster; and she loved to travel around France, and sometimes abroad, with Olivier, on his wine tours. Last year they had been to Argentina, on an exchange between South American growers and French ones. Today, seeing Élise, Olivier realized just how lucky he was, and how much he needed her. His eyes filled up with tears, and his shoulders fell forward and began to shake.

Élise Bonnard looked again at her normally very composed husband, the smile now gone from her face, and she ran down the rest of the steps to put her arms around him.

 

Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Death in the Vines

Copyright © M.L. Longworth, 2013

 

 

 

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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

Overview

 

Death in the Vines  

 

A crime wave jolts Aix-en-Provence in the third delightful Verlaque and Bonnet mystery Fans of Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, mystery lovers, Francophiles, and foodies will adore this who-done-it with a beautiful European setting. In her riveting follow-up to Death at the Chateau Bremont and Murder in the Rue Dumas, M. L. Longworth evokes the sights and sounds of late-summer Provence, where the mistral blows and death comes in the most unexpected places.           

 

Olivier Bonnard, the owner of Domaine Beauclaire winery, is devastated when he discovers the theft of a priceless cache of rare vintages. Soon after, Monsieur Gilles d’Arras reports that his wife, Pauline, has vanished from their lavish apartment. As Judge Antoine Verlaque and Commissioner Paulik tackle the case (with a little help from Marine Bonnet), they receive an urgent call: Bonnard has just found Madame d’Arras—dead in his vineyard.

 

Cover image courtesy Penguin Publishing.

9780143122449_p0_v1_s260x420.JPG
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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

Please welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

 

 

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maxcat
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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

Hi, M.L., I need to find your books as they sound quite interesting. have a great day!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Fricka
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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!

Welcome, M.L. I tried to get on here earlier this morning but was blocked, so I think the gnomes are at it again!

Your books look very interesting to me, so after I looked over the descriptions of your books, I ordered the first one from my library and hope I will have that in a few days!

I noticed that on the library site, your name, Mary Lou, was given in parentheses. Did you choose to go with initials on your own, or was that an editorial decision?

Death at the Chateau Bremont  

" A murder mystery is the normal recreation of the noble mind."--Sister Carol Anne O' Marie
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Re: One-Day Feature - Please Welcome M.L. LONGWORTH!


Fricka wrote:

Welcome, M.L. I tried to get on here earlier this morning but was blocked, so I think the gnomes are at it again!

Your books look very interesting to me, so after I looked over the descriptions of your books, I ordered the first one from my library and hope I will have that in a few days!

I noticed that on the library site, your name, Mary Lou, was given in parentheses. Did you choose to go with initials on your own, or was that an editorial decision?

Death at the Chateau Bremont  


I'm glad you mentioned this, Fricka! I was curious what the M.L. stood for!