Sunday, August 23, 2015

Best Day of the Summer: Louise Penny Launches Her Newest Book

Somehow it's always a glorious summer day -- we cross the border into Canada and the magic of the "pre-release" launch of Louise Penny's new book makes the day sparkly.

Or, as Brome Lake Books bookseller Danny McAuley and his wife Lucy Hoblyn proclaimed yesterday, "Welcome to the Global Launch of The Nature of the Beast!"

Hosted by Danny and Lucy at the Knowlton Community Center, the event filled 250 seats plus standing room along the edges. Louise Penny's "patent pending" assistant Lise helped people prepare their books for the author's signature. Young French-speaking adolescents beamed at a table promoting the Alzheimer's Society (Societé), a cause dear to this author's heart and family. And I overheard in the front row two women swapping biographic details of this author whose Quebec-set mysteries, with their depth of human understanding, have become such a treasure for readers around the world. As the author herself noted,
Really, like most of [my] books, it's not really about murder -- it's about community and friendship and love and lots more ... it's about the stories we tell ourselves that allow us to get out of bed and that propel us forward.
Penny noted that the main plot point of The Nature of the Beast -- and she was very careful not to say much, wanting readers to enjoy the book without "spoilers" -- is something she found out about, some 25 years ago, and held onto. "I had to figure out a way to tell the story that would make sense, and also that would make it my own."

The one aspect of the book that she would confirm, prompted by a question from Danny McAuley, was that it discloses the back-story of much-loved character Ruth in the Inspector Gamache mysteries.

As usual, the event featured the charm of seeing Danny, a devoted bookseller and friend, interview this accomplished journalist and crime fiction author. Danny and his family and friends also entertained the crowd with three very effective and humorous skits from earlier Penny work, especially A Trick of the Light, on stage. After performing as "characters" from the books, the group then gave the author assorted "welcome to your new home" gifts, as she and her husband Michael have announced a move to the town of Knowlton. Among the well-chosen items were a "ducky" keychain (if you know the books, you know this reflects the character Ruth!) and a Knowlton High School sweatshirt.

Also mentioned: the team's current project on "The Real Places of Three Pines" (Louise Penny said, "It's kind of a virtual bistro!"), which can be followed at; the need for protecting the author's privacy and writing time in her new location; and the human values of Penny's fictional town of Three Pines -- in Penny's words:
The books -- yes it's about terror and it's about violence, but it's also balanced with love and with the choices we can make. ... It takes so much more courage to be a decent human being than to make the cutting remark, and that's what [husband] Michael does, and [main character retired Chief Inspector of the Sureté] Gamache.
I'll post a review of the book later in the week. For today, Dave is scrambling to make a signed copy of this one -- and of the recently released anniversary edition, from Britain, of the author's first book Still Life -- available at our ABE site.

If I get a moment later today, I'll also pass along Penny's startling description of herself at age 8! Come on back for more.

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