In this blog space I usually write about what’s happening in my life if I’m not promoting my books, which are, by the way, available directly from the publisher or at Amazon. My latest two books feature investigative journalist Maggie Lyon, and this week she’s agreed to take a break from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her cases, her personal life, and what’s in store after solving Pennington’s Hoax.
PB: Maggie, I want to thank you for taking the time for this interview, and since you’re on a schedule, I’ll simply jump right in if that’s okay.
ML: My pleasure.
PB: While working on Pennington’s Hoax, you spent a lot of time in New Orleans. Aside from getting to the bottom of the Ely Pennington mystery, what are your favorite parts of the Crescent City?
ML: I love the slower pace. People who are always on the run and expecting quick results may be a little disappointed in New Orleans, but I’ve learned to allow for the extra time it takes to get things done down there. And, of course, I love the people. The stories, the traditions, the fact that so much of the lifestyle has endured in spite of the disasters. It’s a city filled with music and food, and food is very important to me.
PB: Of course food is important to you. You’re a former food writer, and your husband is a Michelin-starred chef with a global reputation. What are your favorite restaurants in New Orleans?
ML: Mark-Mario would never forgive me if I failed to mention his restaurant.
PB: You say “his restaurant.” Isn’t it partly yours?
ML: [Laughs] Well, yes, of course. On paper. We share everything, but he’s the chef. He developed the concept, still approves the menu even when he’s not there for weeks at a time, and he made every decision from location down to the plates. I’ve really had nothing to do with the place except enjoy a fantastic meal there from time to time.
PB: Did you eat there every day during the Pennington case?
ML: No. I have my other favorites. In the book I talk about eating at Brennan’s—an old haunt that’s been around for ages, and I did eat at Mother’s for breakfast on several occasions. You can’t go to New Orleans without eating at Deanie’s, and having po’ boys on Magazine Street. I try new places whenever I’m down there, but I can’t abandon my old favorites. And, of course, you have to work out every day if you want to indulge.
PB: Pennington’s Hoax took you to New Orleans, but you seem to indicate in the book that it was almost by accident that this case fell into your lap. I seem to recall that your agent Rina Akin asked you for a favor, and the next thing you knew you were headed for the Garden District down there.
ML: I guess you could say that without Rina bringing Ely Pennington’s new book to my attention, I wouldn’t have had a case.
PB: You went head to head with Rina several times in the book. How’s your relationship now?
ML: [Looks hesitant] Rina and I are good now. We’ve been friends for such a long time, and even though I messed up—and boy, did I mess up—we found our way back to each other. I tend to describe her in my books as fast-talking, brash, hard-as-nails, but she would do anything for me. I would do anything for her. We’re pals, and I expect that we’ll be working together for a long time.
PB: Did she mind how you portrayed her in the book? All those scenes, I mean. You abandoned her and left her hanging, and she reacted. In fact she might have overreacted. She seemed out of control much of the time, and I got the impression you wanted to avoid her. You described a very volatile woman. How did she feel about that?
ML: Rina is one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. She’s also one of the most brutally honest people I’ve ever met, and she expects honesty from everyone around her. While I don’t think she disputes the things I’ve written about her, she would be the first to say that the book is my story and I have to be true to my perceptions. I came to her for advice once about a person I was writing about. I was concerned that the subject wouldn’t appreciate my observations, and she said, “Listen kid. You stick to your guns and write how you see it. If somebody doesn’t like it, they can write their own $#!@% book!” She’s got a way with putting things colorfully.
PB: So I’ve noticed. The color is usually blue, if I’m not mistaken.
ML: Rina’s got a mouth on her, but she’s a good soul. I’m glad she’s in my life.
PB: In the book, you write about other complicated relationships, and one in particular is your marriage to Mark-Mario Van Heflin-Schröder. He’s a celebrity, and while we know certain things about him, you haven’t really offered anything much about your private life together other than you’re working on your estranged marriage.
ML: Let’s just say that we’re moving carefully. Our careers are now separate, and while he doesn’t go on TV to tell the world what we’re up to, I try to be just as discreet when it comes to writing. If our conversations are pertinent to the case or I feel that he bears mentioning at some point, I include him. But I’m not yet comfortable sharing every detail with my readers.
PB: But we’re dying to know how it’s all going to work out!
ML: So am I! Next question.
PB: Hey! I don’t think you’ve ever let one of your interview subjects get away with not answering.
ML: Maybe not, but I have a sense of boundaries when I’m the one being interviewed.
PB: Understood. So tell us what it’s like to spend so much time with the legendary Phoebe VanRyder?
ML: Oh, Phoebe! She’s like a favorite aunt!
PB: Well, she is Andrew Campton’s aunt, but you feel that close to her?
ML: I know people who don’t care for Phoebe or wouldn’t care for Phoebe, but I think they’re missing out. This is a woman who has been around for almost a century, and she’s vibrant with a great memory. If you’re polite and don’t interrupt her, she can tell you about any famous person that you can think of. She’s known every designer, playwright, musician, artist and—well, anyone worth knowing who’s lived in the last hundred years. From royalty to beggars. I’ve never met anyone else who’s had tea with Queen Mary and also started a charity to feed the homeless. She goes several times a year to work, but at her age you can’t expect her to be there every day.
PB: She’s been a newsmaker since she was a little girl, and I’m glad you’ve brought her back to our attention. You didn’t mention anything specific in the book about her charitable work—or having tea with Queen Mary.
ML: She just happened to mention the queen once; a footnote in a much longer story about the postwar era in London. None of it pertained to Ely Pennington or Garvin Canfield, so there was no point in my including it.
PB: Will Phoebe appear in any of your upcoming books?
ML: First of all, Patrick, you’re assuming there will be more books.
PB: Are you saying there won’t be another Maggie Lyon Mystery?
ML: Who knows the future? If another case falls in my lap or I get an interesting assignment from Andrew, then I’ll certainly write about it. If Rina’s still around to help me get it published, you may read about Phoebe—if she’s part of the story. She may not be part of what’s coming next.
PB: What is coming next?
ML: The last page of Pennington’s Hoax offers a clue. Readers will have to read the book and see if they can figure out what comes after my New Orleans adventure.
PB: Can you tell us more about John Benzonator? Is he still threatening you? Have you given more thought about investigating his shadowy connections and bringing them to light?
ML: As you’re aware, John and I spoke briefly in New Orleans, but I’ve heard nothing from him since. A man like that requires keeping a safe distance, and to maintain that, I’m staying away from that whole group.
PB: You mean the Prelature of St.—
ML: [Gasps] No! Don’t say it! They have people tracking all Internet mentions of their name or their members’ names and affiliations. If you post this interview and include anything about them, you’re putting me in danger!
PB: My mistake. I’m very sorry!
ML: I think we should probably wrap this up.
PB: Before you go, I’d like to ask you about the tight situations you get into. You don’t seem to panic. You have a pretty cool head where I’d end up freaking out.
ML: [Laughs] When you’re being held against your will, you just have to analyze the situation, weigh your options, and make your way to the nearest exit without being trapped. If you’re captor happens to be right in front of you, you have to be extra careful so that they don’t notice you trying to escape. Then you simply disappear… like this. §
© 2018 by Patrick Brown
To learn more about my books, especially the two featuring Maggie Lyon, visit my author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1