The Bistro

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Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

3,656 replies on “The Bistro”

I have been rereading Deborah Crombie’s series while we wait for The Nature of the Beast. Louise recommended her as an author. She lives in Texas but her books are set in England. I realised that while the detective component of the books was interesting, what really kept me turning the pages was the relationships between the central characters and their friends. Are Detective novels really just soap operas with a murder thrown in I wondered? Well soap opera may not be the right term but it does come back to the people and the characters.

Are there any fictional series, novels or even TV shows, that keep you coming back where the characters are not your prime interest?

Anna, my main interest in a mystery is the interaction of the characters. I enjoy the way they solve the puzzle of “who done it” but it’s the characters and their very human struggles and comic interactions that fascinate me. I love Deborah Crombie’s books because her characters come to life. And I don’t read books where the main persons are ones I wouldn’t want to know. I used to enjoy Anne Perry’s books but they just seemed to get darker and darker. So I stopped reading them. I love the Brother Cadfael series (Ellis Peters)…all twenty of them..and reread them from time to time. I guess the authors I tend to read are like Louise. They still believe that goodness exists and their imaginary characters relay this to the readers.

That’s interesting, Anna – I think that a few modern TV shows have tried to be about the crimes and less is known about the characters and their relationships, but the ones that truly engage me are always the ones about relationships. Sometimes I think this is because of my individual quirks – I once had a conflict with a co-worker, and when our boss was trying to mediate, she observed that Colleen was trying to look at just the work, whereas I had a relationship with everyone in the office. And I thought – how do you not have a relationship with the people you spend every day with? This may have been why we never saw eye-to-eye, hahaha.

It can be very hard to engage with people who don’t understand relationships are core to the way the world works, even at the highest diplomatic levels.

Interesting question. I think the characters are what keeps me coming back to a book, movie or TV show. When I was young, I watched soap operas on my lunch break until one day I thought what a spoiled brat one character was. No more for me.

Clever Cathryne to remember the Antipopes. There is a trick for non Catholics.

There was a schism in the church Julie and for a while there were two lines of Popes running, the one in Rome and a second Papal seat in Avignon in France. Both lines claimed to be the rightful ones.

Now, that would be interesting to know about… Even though I’m not religious and have very little religious knowledge, I do know that for many, many years, the Pope was also a political figure and impacted history a great deal. History fascinates me, but I must admit I’ve not read much from before Henry VIII.

Millie, I’m going with Benedict XIII as your Pope, though he was an Anti-Pope, so I hope he’ll count. He seemed to think he was the rightful Pope!

Julie, I couldn’t agree more with you. Anna’s book is masterful. Interestingly, the way most books from ‘unknown authors’ get a wide audience is through word of mouth. It is up to the ‘first readers’ to encourage others to read it. 😉

This group is a constant surprise Millie! That’s what I love about it.
I agree Julie,just go google the Popes but there are an awful lot of them. Still it’s good fun.
Barbara, Augusta is looking stunning. Just watching a replay ofthe first round. I see the sun shining and the flowers are in bloom. Anyone know why the caddies at the Masters wear boiler suits?? That can’t be fun in warm weather.
I have to stop eating Easter bunnies, I will look like a blimp. It’s making me very lethargic and that hinders writing.

I went looking for why the caddies wear the suits, Anna – didn’t really find an answer, but do know that they’ve been required to wear the same basic uniform (the white jumpsuit) for a long time. On top of that, they need to wear an apron with pockets to hold all the paraphernalia needed along the course, and it also needs to be sturdy enough to hold the velcro name and number tags on the back – they’re velcro so they can be changed, and the number can be added at the last minute… They look for all the world like mechanics’ suits, don’t they?

I think it stems back to days when basically, all the caddies were black, and perhaps even hearkening back to a time when that kind of position would have been held by a slave, and the all-white uniform was, first, to take away any individuality, and second, to make them look “sharp”… all a part and parcel of “keeping them in their place”. Today, tradition is keeping the uniform in place, though nothing else, thank heavens.

Julie, I too checked on the white jumpsuits for the caddies at the national. Bobby Jones set the rule when he formed the Masters Tournament. Why? Good question. I’ve asked a sportswriter in an email. I told him not to research it this week just when everything here is back to normal. I just thought, If anyone has connections to golf or sportswriters, etc. maybe someone else could get to it sooner.
You and I have the same idea as to the true reason, though. You know that only African-Americans could serve as caddies at the National for many years and tournament players could not bring there own caddies.
The PGA would not allow caddies working any tournament to wear shorts until recent years. Of course that is if the club rules allow it.
Anna, a question. What are African-Americans called in Australia? African-Australians? Every day I seem to have more and more questions about everything.

Thanks for the research Julie and Barbara. It seems a strange choice of ‘uniform’ but in the historical context I can see why the nondescript nature may have been used. My mum was quite a good golfer and associate Captain of the Golf Club where I grew up. It’s the sort of question I would have asked her but she won’t remember now sadly.

We don’t use the phrase African-Australian that I know of. Because we are a young country and everyone is from somewhere else if a descriptor needs to be applied it might be Australian of Nigerian descent or Irish descent or Indian descent. When I was growing up it wasn’t uncommon to hear people identify as first generation or third generation Australian. I was only second on my father’s side, my grandfather having emigrated from England. It’s hard to know at what point we stop identifying as being Australian but of somewhere else. Most people are quite proud of being both at the same time which is nice for the most part. That’s not to say there isn’t racism in this country. There is sadly. But I am not sure if there is a country free of some sort of racial or class tension.

Thanks. When I was growing up, we usually spoke of people being Americans no matter what race they were. I thought if you were born in the US you were American.
I don’t think there is any country without racism or prejudice either.

Julie, if you like games, just do a Google search and pick one. I doubt anyone will guess, but like you said, this group can surprise!

Okay – then with Google as my witness, I choose Pope Leo VIII. Can’t wait to hear who it really is…

Barbara, I see why you’re excited! Anna, ‘three’ books are simmering in your mind? But then, you’ve created a platform on which so many fascinating characters stand, I bet you’re mind is filling in details of many simply because you’re as curious to know more as we are. Write On!

Anna, ‘like Tinkerbell’! The more people who believe, the more real the place and the characters become. Love that! The Cove or Three Pines may not be on any map, but they are real. So real we need ‘the Bistro’ to keep the fire going untill the next book so we can enter again.

Julie, your ‘all you had to do was let it out’ comment about Anna’s story floored me. It’s true, but so hard in some ways. I don’t know about Anna, but scenes don’t come to me in tidy sequenced order. They come in bits and pieces and finding just the right spot, with just the right dialogue, and connecting them so it’s doesn’t slow the pace, but adds ‘spice’ can be so daunting some days. At least for me.

Oh, Millie – I know that’s true – that it doesn’t come easily, and “all you had to do was let it out” sounds very facile. I didn’t mean it that way – I’m just in awe that something like this wonderful book could be inside someone… I’ve had teachers tell me I write well all my academic days, and it lead me to believe I ought to be trying to write… Problem is, I don’t have anything to say, hahaha. I get it now, after reading how you and Anna have been working – it needs to be there, clamoring to come out! Makes perfect sense that it would come out all higgledy-piggledy, and you have to put it together in some semblance of order, haha.

Oddly, I finally found my creative talent to be visual, even though I can’t draw, and have never thought of myself as “artistic”… It’s funny what you find out about yourself once you go looking…

I agree, Anna. That was the one thing I didn’t believe about the otherwise excellent article. Not only will writing be with us, but so will reading. It’s not a dying art. Obviously the author doesn’t know about the Bistro! The ‘waiting lounge’ till Louise’s next book comes out. 😉

I asked my teenage daughter what she was doing on her iPad while we waited for lunch in our favourite cafe. “Writing a story with my friend over Skype”.
Turns out collabrative writing is something she and her friends do a lot but they don’t save their stories, which are long and involved. It’s just a way to hang out! Some of her friends do write on fandom sites etc.

I feel comfortable that writing will be with us always.

Julie, I will be totally curious two know if who you thought ‘dunnit’ turned out to be correct. Depends of course where you were in the book when you thought that!

Can I tell you a secret….I wasn’t too sure who was the villain myself until I finished the book. Kept me wanting to write for sure. The other secret is I have no idea where the action sequences came from.

I did guess correctly but at the very first hint I wasn’t sure the incident was meant to be a clue. I’ll have to check to see were I caught on.

I guessed at a bit more than half way. I’m not a very good detective but I enjoy mysteries.

Well you can just knock me down with a feather! The major action scenes came easily to me (I too have no idea where they simmered, either). It’s the in between parts that I find harder, the how much background is too much and where should it be… Oh well, I guess that’s what editing is for, right? Again, well done!

Wowee – finished now, and it was a roller-coaster! The characters are wonderful, and the “peril scenes” (for want of a better term) were breath-taking! I had the villain right, but not until you wanted me to see it. It wasn’t any great vision on my part, that’s for sure, hahahaha. It wasn’t until the cave scene. I followed along with the first misdirection, and was so concerned for Mattie! I was kind of impatient with Thomas for not telling what he knew – completely understand it – but I couldn’t help thinking, just as he did, that if he’d told it earlier, two people’s lives wouldn’t have been endangered. Then again, the third might have not been discovered until too late.

I really think you’ve done a masterful story here, Anna – and I’m very serious – I think you ought to find a literary agent – this book, and the next coming up should have a much wider audience…

Thanks Julie!
It really isn’t a who dunnit as such. I think the story holds whether you know who the villain is or not. I am no Agatha Christie that’s for sure but then I was more interested in a character driven story.

Agatha was always able to fool me – right down to seeing the Mousetrap in London! (I’ll never tell!) But I agree – it isn’t the whodunnit that’s important in stories – there’s lots where I don’t know who the culprit is till the very end, but I don’t engage with the characters. That’s the acid test for me – do I care about these people in more than just a general way? Can I even tell them apart? So often, I just get lots, because, other than giving them all names, the author hasn’t managed to make each person an individual. You did a great job of that!

But I also was meaning to say that you did great at building suspense and bringing me along on a very hair-raising time. That I was worried so much for Mattie, and thinking the same things as Thomas, until we were in the cave, and then some things that Darryl said meant I could take the final leap – and then, of course I was worried for more people… But it was all because of how you wrote it… masterful!

I just read on the previous page that you reread The Cove Barbara! That puts you in a very small group for sure!

Anna, I haven’t reread it yet but I totally agree with Barbara’s comments. I want to know more about Mattie and Thomas and all the rest. That’s good writing.

Thanks Nancy! Me too. I am having trouble sitting at the computer and letting it flow. Before I wrote The Cove I spent weeks with just that first scene in my head and it wouldn’t budge until I started to write. Then every night I would go to bed and some new scene would play until I wrote some more.

Something similar is happening now but I am getting scenes from three different books if I am not mistaken. Book two is clarifying and I think I could write that but then book three started to play and in the last few days book four. I realised then that there was a continuing arc that I didn’t know about until now and I am letting it solidify. I do hope it comes off as I am so keen to see what happens!

Thanks Nancy. The world of The Cove gets stronger the more people who believe in it! Kind of like Tinkerbell. Because your belief makes the characters more real. Like Three Pines. It’s not just a place in a book, it’s alive in the world because we believe.

Oh, this is exciting! I find it fascinating that all this was “in” you and all you had to do was let it out! I am saving the last chapter for later today – I’ve now come to the part where I don’t want the book to end…

Fess up time! Was telling my hubby about mentioning here how I ‘mumble’ curses at my computer… He said, Mumble?”
So I replied, “OK, sometimes I sound like Ruth!”
“Sometimes,” he asked. So I sent him laughing to his armoire!

Barbara, and anyone else who wants to play along. How about you guess away, and I be the one not to say ‘who’ till I finish? Correct guesses get a free copy! I was told a long time ago that excitement was the flip side of fear! I have to turn my fears into excitement. You have helped so much already but I have a lot of fears to overcome… And I’m not sure why! I can sit at The Bistro and write with abandon and joy. Maybe because you are all so kind and I have found acceptance here, rather than rejection. For that I thank you all.

Barbara, since you like to research, here’s an area in which I could use help: what are the duties of an Ambassador? Some people say to ‘write what you know”. Others suggest to write what you want to know more about. I like both so it’s a complex story written from many points of view. As I used to tell my husband when tackling something ‘new’ for the community theatre or the City Council, “What have I gotten myself into?” 😉 I need to start to answer my own question with just one word: FUN!

Thanks for allowing me to say who I think is the Pope you are writing about. I think Pope Callixtus III. I was surprised to see who his family was. I need to read some history as I have them incorrectly placed in my memory. You are so much Fun.

Thanks, Barbara, for saying I’m fun. 😀
Just following Gamache’s lead trying to turn my hell to heaven!

This is so funny – I love games and yet, I can’t play this one, as I have so little knowledge of medieval times and religion in particular. So remember, Millie – you are writing for people like me, who come into this with no prior knowledge…

Thank you. I have hours of reading ahead on the primary sources alone. Enjoyed reading the Thomas Cromwell section. Previously, I had thought Henry protestant. His view was very involved I see.

Julie, it’s not only spelling that the ‘great minds’ who dictate our educational system have decided is no longer important to teach – cursive writing is no longer taught. I recently came across a great quote, “There is great value in cursive writing, it seems the act of connecting letters to each other also aids with the connection of thoughts.”
I remember how hard it was for me to switch to directly typing out my thoughts, rather than put them on actual paper, first. So maybe there is some truth to that. Or maybe not? It took me several years but I adapted.

I think we have to learn to adapt or we die. If not physically, a part of us certainly doesn’t thrive. I think that’s where I am now. In the middle of ‘adapting’ to so many changes. If taken singly, no problem. But so many, right on top of each other is a bit overwhelming… But I’m not giving up. The intention is there and I think it all starts with that. Then we try to do a bit more each day, or night, as the case may be.

I’m beginning to think that if I’m to get any more writing done, I have to give up on trying to change what has become my body’s new normal sleep cycle. The middle of the night is when the ideas burst forth without ‘working’ for it. During the day, there’s not much there. And I’m not talking about inspiration. I mean my brain / mind starts to actively work on the story after midnight, even when I want to just quiet all thoughts. So… I’ll just work with what I’ve got for now. Otherwise I will drive myself nuts trying to deal with yet another change and get no where fast!

I have to start to love myself the way my husband does, “just the way I am.”

Thanks Julie, I didn’t intend to end up having an ‘aha’ moment when I started this comment, but it’s another example of, “I don’t know what I’m thinking until I write it down and read it.” Wish I could remember who said it! Oh well, it’s still daylight! ROFLOL!

Oh, that’s funny, Millie – and I think you should totally go with when your body is telling you that your mind is at its best! I agree with the idea that cursive is an important thing to learn – if only so future generations will still be able to read old manuscripts, etc. The minute a manuscript is transferred to typing, it has been altered – run through someone else’s brain – and so it has been “interpreted”. To read something as it was originally written is the place where true knowledge and understanding begins, I think. I worry very much that in one or two generations, people won’t even be able to read typeset material from very long before their own time, because they will all be speaking in texting code, LOL! (irony intended). Only specially educated people will be able to interpret the classics, and we’ll find ourselves repeating some very bad times when the elite classes held all the knowledge…

Well, aren’t I the little philosopher today, hahaha.

Julie, I LOL at your pet peeves. Could have been my list. I almost scream when I see 4 used for four in ads. That and intentional misspellings tell me one thing. I don’t want to shop there ever. I can not read printed material without “editing” it in my mind. I even edit speakers. No wonder I am so hard on my self.

I know just what you mean, Barbara – it’s so funny. I KNOW that spelling doesn’t have a thing to do with a person’s intelligence, or even whether or not they can write a compelling paragraph, but it’s hard not to let my perceptions be colored. All because of my very strict teachers when I grew up! My best friend in the world is about 10 years younger than me, and grew up in a Montessori school sort of world. It was her dear ego that they were afraid of squashing if they mentioned that something was spelled wrong… fast forward 40 years and she is so frustrated because she can’t spell and she has let it make her feel like she can’t write or speak – it’s been paralyzing for her. And she is very intelligent. I wish those teachers could be dug up and flogged! (and I know it’s not the individual teachers – it’s the system – but really, would it have been so hard to teach those kids the right way to do things?)

Off my soapbox now.

I posted before I did something to lose it.
Millie, I read Pope Joan(?) with a book club. While the idea provokes controversy, it was interesting reading. My point being, writing about a person about whom little is known can be a challenge and can also provide the opportunity for creativity. The Medieval Period is a fascinating time offering a writer many options and ideas. Not to push you…just excited about the prospects.

That book is waiting in a box for me to read it. Did you like it? And, No, it’s not THAT Pope. lol
Thanks for the excitement. You really are a sweetheart.

Recently heard an interview of another fav author, Diana Gabaldon where she was asked how much ‘research’ does she do? Her response floored me, “I research as I write, but most of the time I’ll add a note in the first draft to research X. I could research a subject till I die, so I only do enough to be sure what I’m saying is in the right time period, then move on…
Sounds like I have plenty already for me to ‘move on’ past chapter 1!

I love to research but one thing leads to another and before I realize I am far from topic.
I might know who your pope is but not a word until you have written the book. I’ll say then if I am right. If so, you do have an exciting time ahead I think. Don’t fret if you don’t get all the facts you want. As has been said you don’t intend to write his biography.
Bubble thought—–Wolf Hall aired on PBS last Sun. and so far is true to the book. I want to find out more about Thomas Cromwell but his name brings me nothing in the Pines Library System. I’ll just have to try some other sources.

I do that too, make a note of a detail I need and then only look that up. Otherwise research dominates all your time, particularly for something like you are doing. You need a balance between a broad knowledge of the setting which needs some reading, as I suspect you have already done, and then honing in on needed details.

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