Sleuth sidebar: An interview with Martin Walker

January 29, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

Note: Journalist and mystery writer Martin Walker’s annual appearance on the island – this one a virtual talk on global issues pertaining to Europe – courtesy of the Friends of Boca Grande will be rescheduled to Friday, February 12. If you have tickets to this livestream event, your current tickets will be valid for the new date. Check the Friends’ website for more information about the event.

Susan Hanafee sat down with Martin Walker in a question-and-answer session recently. Here are the results of their conversation.

Q. Do you remember the initial contact from Rosemary Bowler about speaking to the Sleuths and your thoughts at the time?

A: Yes, I remember it well and was pleased to have the opportunity. When one writes, one is wholly alone, so it’s always a pleasure to meet readers and get not only feedback but a sense of them, what they like about my novels. And it was a great evening, in a house on the beach with drinks and snacks, a wonderful sunset and a warm welcome. I also really enjoyed getting to know Rosemary, a wise, self-confident and naturally ebullient woman whom I liked from the first.

Q.: It’s amazing that you agreed to come to this little island. I’m sure you had never heard of Boca Grande. Do you recall your first impressions of the island and the people?

A: I had heard of it from people in Sarasota, where I had been doing annual SILL (Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning) lectures since the early 1990s. One year I was asked also to give a talk on Sanibel and then to go on to Boca Grande where the welcome was extraordinarily kind and generous with people opening their homes to us. I really liked biking along the island, the club and Marta and her crew at the Friends. And the weather was lovely. It was a great place to write; every year, a chunk of my annual novel was written in Boca Grande.

Q.: They tell me that right away you invited the attendees at the cocktail party to come to your home in France for a visit – and they did that same year. The tradition has continued, except for this year. Do you anticipate your visit here and the Friends visit to France to continue in the future?

A: I really hope so. I love to introduce people to the Périgord, a very special region with so much pre-history, medieval history, great wines and legendary good food. The Boca people are terrific guests and my French friends enjoy meeting them and the generosity with which you have supported our local kids’ sports teams.

Q.: What are your favorite memories of Rosemary or of your visits, in general?

A: Sitting at Rosemary’s knee while she enjoyed a cocktail and talked of books; seeing old friends at my talks for the Friends and at Sleuths and hearing people saying how much they had enjoyed visiting the Périgord and tasting Julia’s cooking; above all, the sense that Boca Grande is an unusually happy place, with warm-hearted people. It feels like the America I had first known as a student, a hospitable country and people that always wanted to do the right thing and felt that life would steadily improve for everyone. In much of the USA, I don’t get that feeling anymore, and I can hardly believe the scenes we all saw on TV of people invading the Capitol, so it’s grand to be reminded of the kinder gentler America each time I come back to Boca.

Q.: Everyone will want to know the latest on Bruno. Do you have another book coming out and, if so, when? Can you provide us with a teaser?

A: The new Bruno, “The Coldest Case,” comes out at the end of April. Here is a teaser: An anonymous skull, an unsolved murder, sinister rumors about Cold War espionage – Bruno’s investigation into a long-standing cold case takes him into the tangled inheritance of a Bergerac vineyard and into the patchy archives of Communist-run regions of Paris as a fierce heatwave threatens the region with forest fires, and Bruno must find a new use for medieval catapults.

I have just finished the first draft of the novel for next year, “The Troubadour’s Song,” and Knopf has just signed the contract to publish the Bruno cookbook in English, hopefully in October.

Best wishes to all our friends on the island for a healthy and happy new year …

– Martin