Saturday, August 25, 2012

Louise Penny, THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY: "Pre-Launched" Today in Knowlton, Quebec

Kingdom Books is just an hour south of Vermont's Canada border -- and two hours from the town of Knowlton, Quebec, a charming arts center easily confused with the mystical and murder-prone village of Three Pines in Louise Penny's award-winning crime fiction. Today we rambled north to the home turf of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, for Brome Lake Books hosting of the author's "pre-launch" of her newest book. THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY.  The title officially releases on Tuesday (Aug. 28), so it's a thrill to hold the earliest available copies (now signed! -- and at least one will be available tomorrow online from Kingdom Books).

It's too soon to talk a lot about the book -- I'm only two chapters into it, because so much of the day was spent driving (smile) and savoring French Canadian food (yumm). But this eighth in the series begins with the mystery of why and how music moves us, and proceeds to exactly the kind of mystery you'd expect a member of the Sureté du Quebec to investigate -- and more.

Louise Penny said today, ""My books are really about belonging, about the quest to belong, about love and friendship and second chances." In keeping with her pattern of alternating settings for the Gamache series, one book in Three Pines, the next outside it (to avoid too many bodies piling up in the village), Penny placed this one in a monastery in the Eastern Townships of Quebec province.

"I'm aware that one of the dangers of writing a series is that, inadvertently, you can keep writing the same book. So it's important to me to keep on taking chances," the author explained. She said she left behind her "safety zone" of Three Pines to go forward with just Gamache, who in this volume tests his own assertion from an earlier book that "This center will hold."

Penny also answered audience questions about a Gamache TV film in progress, based on her first two books, with filming starting in October. She is excited about the director and the directions worked out, and is an executive producer for the film. What does that mean?  "For me, being the executive producer is a lot like being the Queen of England," she dead-panned. "I can have opinions but I'm not allowed to declare war."

She usually takes some time off work in winter and begins writing a new book in March, so he is now in the third draft of a probable five or six for her next Gamache book, which returns, of course, to Three Pines as a locale.

The village of Three Pines -- err, that is, the town of Knowlton, Quebec, provided literally three pine trees as backdrop for the event, and they will be planted on the grounds of the community center where this event took place. Penny admitted she plans "an infinite number" of books for the series, so odds are good she'll be back at the community center for many title releases yet to come.

This year's event also included an amazing rendition of a "chant" (honoring the Gregorian ones featured in the new book) describing the Three Pines series, complete with setting and characters (Penny told the audience she tries to be even-handed among her characters, including Clara, whom she originally thought would be the amateur sleuth of the series, as well as Gabri and Gamache, but "I love Myrna -- she is someone I would like to have as a friend). The chant was written and performed wonderfully by Brome Lake Books owners Danny McAuley and Lucy Hoblyn with friends and family, accompanied by McAuley's mother-in-law on an organ! Louise Penny rose merrily at two cameo appearances in the performance, clearly enjoying the surprise, as did the audience.

Beth Mallon and Susan Jensen
It's a fitting tribute to Penny's books (and bubbly personality) that audience members included many who drove hours to be there -- Kingdom Books was honored and thrilled to be named by Danny McAuley at the outset of the event, along with Toronto's "Sleuth of Baker Street," but people also came from Ottawa, from Cambridge (England), and from New York state. The line for Penny's signatures lasted well over an hour, catered with food and drink by boys on best behavior offering Perrier and canapés. Dave enjoyed reconnecting with documentary filmmaker Louise Abbott and her husband and work partner Neils Jensen, and I was "found" by my long-time neighbors and friends from West Barnet, Vermont, Beth Mallon and Susan Jensen. These two teachers savored the opportunity to use some of the last of their summer break in coming to meet Louise Penny and capturing her new book. While waiting in line, they were both reading -- and had reached page 10 as this photo was snapped. Hurrah for Vermont's book community, as well as for Louise Penny, Brome Lake Books, and -- THE BEAUTIFUL MYSTERY.


Anonymous said...

Brome Lake, Quebec was fantastic! Louise Penny was fantastic and quite funny! Brome Lake Books was fantastic and the owners are delightful. Over 200 customers at a book launch at an Independent Book Seller! My partner in crime BK was fantastic. Even the Border Guards for the U.S and Canada were pleasant. Dave Kanell

Danny McAuley said...

Thanks Dave,
It was really great having fellow booksellers attending the launch. We had a wonderful day. Louise is such a fantastic speaker and what a charmer. We just love her. Thanks for being part of the day and for writing such a great blog. All the best.
Danny McAuley