Thursday, June 5, 2014

The delights of print

It was exciting to click the link to "Models for Marlowe," Michael Paraskos' kind review of The Kept Girl in The Spectator, but that paled beside opening up the actual magazine, and finding dreamy John Gielgud moping above me on the page.

Thanks for the hard copy, MP!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Case of the Storybook Book Club

It's a little unusual for an author to attend a meeting of a book club that's discussing her latest book, but what is there to say but "you bet!" when the request comes from one of the prettiest storybook houses in Los Angeles?

So last night, I took The Kept Girl show on the road, for an evening of scintillating dinnertime conversation surrounding 1920s Los Angeles, the young Raymond Chandler, cults, judicial appeals, archival research and the joys and frustrations of independent publishing.

I was the guest of a wonderful group of Westside women who have been gathering to talk about books for 25 years. They don't typically read mysteries, or books set in Los Angeles, so I was honored that they put The Kept Girl on their list.

Our hostess, Martha, set a beautiful and clever table dotted with a selection of packaged foods that were available in the 1920s. We began with Waldorf Salad. Dessert, naturally, was Jell-O.

I brought along little packets of photos of the real-life characters who appear in the book, wrapped in a replica of the limited edition art deco slipcase. It's fun to share these faces, which I've lived with for so many long hours, with folks who have only met them in the novel. I didn't take a formal poll, but it appeared that Raymond Chandler (at 12 o'clock) and Manly P. Hall (at 3 o'clock) were tied for book club dreamboat status.

The night ended with a lively discussion about the group's summer reads, and the gift of this lovely bouquet of purple hyacinth flowers from our hostess' daughter, Alissa. Their perfume today reminds me of a very sweet night.

Is your book club interested in reading The Kept Girl? Esotouric Ink offers discounted copies for group orders, and can provide discussion questions on request.   

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Printing "The Kept Girl" - Behind the Scenes Footage

Writers, readers: did you ever wonder how the book on your shelf was made? This four-part video series (with a new episode published daily from April 8-11, 2014) reveals the secrets of modern offset printing, through the process of printing The Kept Girl, a neo-noir novel from Esotouric Ink.

The Kept Girl is crime historian Kim Cooper's acclaimed debut mystery, starring the young Raymond Chandler, his devoted secretary and the real L.A. cop who is a likely model for Philip Marlowe, all on the trail of a cult of murderous angel worshippers.

Although The Kept Girl was printed using modern offset press technology, the book has a look and feel inspired by the pulp fiction of the 1940s. It needed a printer who understood what Esotouric Ink was aiming for, and would let them be part of the production process to ensure the book hit its unusual aesthetic marks.

In this four-part series, you are up close and personal at Tower-Lee Company, the oldest family-run printing concern in Los Angeles, watching inner pages and cover wraps of "The Kept Girl" come off the offset press and pass through the folding machine, as well as watching a test run of the hand-crafted Art Deco decorative wraps created for the deluxe edition, and learning how this neo-noir novel was crafted in the digital age.

Visit us daily for a link to each new episode.

Day One: The Guts (published April 8, 2014)
Day Two: Color Covers & The Folding Machine (published April 9, 2014)
Day Three: Decorative Wraps for the Deluxe Edition (published April 10, 2014)
Day Four: Interview with the printer (published April 11, 2014)

The Tower-Lee Company's website. For a printing quote call Gary (323) 890-1000.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Kim Cooper's blog tour guest posts

All through February, Kim Cooper was on a virtual blog tour celebrating the launch of her debut mystery novel, The Kept Girl. Along with interviews, excerpts book reviews, the tour included five original essays placed on bookish blogs:

Plus one more, post tour: a Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist highlighting music that inspired the story.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Kim Cooper explains the origins of "The Kept Girl"

Los Angeles Times, October 1929

I first encountered the Great Eleven cult while researching a true crime bus tour called Wild Wild West Side for EsotouricThe cult's mixture of esoteric absurdity, brutality and sex appeal was fascinating, and I accumulated a large file of press clippings and legal documents in an attempt to understand their motivations. Passengers on the tour were similarly captivated by the cult's bizarre antics, and quite moved when we paid a graveyard visit to their youngest victim, Willa Rhoads.

After a few excursions, all of Esotouric's West L.A. bus tours went on hiatus. But I didn't want to let the Great Eleven go. Another facet of their story fit in perfectly with my husband Richard's tour of Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: their most prominent financial victim was the nephew of Chandler's boss at the Dabney Oil Syndicate.

Raymond Chandler, circa 1920s

My other task on this tour was introducing Thomas H. James, a crusading Los Angeles policeman and likely model for Chandler's white knight detective Philip Marlowe.

The two narratives blended together as I shared my research—which grew to include James' scarce self-published pamphlet Chief Steckel Unmasked (a gift from the writer Lynn Peril) and writings and historic documents from the collection of Rick Baudé, whose mother is the last surviving member of the cult.

With each successive telling, I felt I understood the characters and their city better. I yearned to do something more with them, but what? How could I tell these concurrent, but not necessarily connected, stories outside of the specialized format of a bus tour?

Lonely old people—financial fraudsters—Raymond Chandler and his women—crooked politicians— idealistic cops—missing husbands—golden idols—the great bubble of boomtown Los Angeles about to burst—oil—alcohol—milk—blood. It all simmered together in my brain until, one day, I saw the pieces of the puzzle start to click into place, and the form they took was fiction.

It wasn't what had actually happened, but it absolutely could have been.

I set down mental pins representing the facts of the fraud against Clifford Dabney. Then I put Raymond Chandler and Thomas H. James on the set, and moved them among the other figures. I could feel the story meshing like the wheels inside a clock.

Chandler with Dorothy Fisher.

But there was something missing—or rather someone. If you know your Raymond Chandler, you know he was worthless without a smart secretary at his side. And so I created the character of Muriel Fischer, her name and aspects of her personality a nod to Chandler's Paramount Studios secretary Dorothy Fisher, who I was privileged to know at the end of her life.

Once Muriel was in the picture, everything came alive.

The result is The Kept Girl, my first novel. You can read the first few pages here.