We can’t bring you an in-person Festival experience in 2020, but we can stay connected by bringing you literary news, interviews, and dispatches that will hopefully help alleviate the loneliness and tedium of social distancing for our beloved Bay Area community.

Cara BlackNew York Times bestselling author of the  Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series, has been called “the doyenne of the Parisian crime novel.” Her latest,  the standalone novel Three Hours in Paris, masterfully reimagines a pivotal moment in the City of Light’s history:  the mysterious three hours Adolf Hitler spent in Paris in 1940, only to leave suddenly and never return. The Los Angeles Times deemed it a “deft” thriller on par with the best of Tom Clancy and Jack Higgins.

At the 2020 Fest, Cara was slated to speak on “We’ll Always Have Paris,” a panel of authors who write about the City of Light; and “She Keeps us Guessing: Women Writing Suspense.” Here, she takes the guesswork out of what’s sustaining and comforting her as she shelters in place: visions of mouthwatering Sicilian meals and cranky Italian detectives; videos of Parisian solidarity during quarantine; and, of course, the process of writing her next book.

BABF: Are there “comfort books” you have in rotation for times like these? What do you find yourself drawn to, books-wise, right now – whether for escape, inspiration, or strength?

CB: My comfort reading has been Andrea Camilleri’s wonderful “Inspector Montalbano” series set in Sicily. It’s an armchair escape to this island in the Mediterranean with quirky characters, lush settings, and oh, did I mention food? Not only does it awaken my taste buds, but encourages me to try dishes in the kitchen. The inspector dines at a beachside trattoria every day, where the chef’s wife cooks him the freshest caught seafood. The details make my mouth water. He’s solving crime, drinking espresso in the lemon light drifting in his 19th century office, and smoking. Montalbano often gets cranky. He doesn’t suffer fools. I love him. I laugh outright at his insightful take on uniquely Sicilian situations where there’s a ‘code of honor’ not everyone understands to often a comical effect. I’d read several of the Montalbano series, moved on to read other books but when the latest book popped up in a feed, I started listening – great audio reader – and got hooked again.

In this sheltering in place time, these books appealed to me in a stronger way. They convey the routines of daily life: how Montalbano swims every morning in the sea outside his bungalow on the Mediterranean; the moral compass Montalbano follows despite a conflict warring inside him; how he faces crime with a seasoned take on humanity; his appetites.  Camilleri brings Montalbano’s voice so close that I identify with this cranky, seasoned detective who I’d like to share an espresso with at his beachfront bungalow.

BABF: What’s one thing you’ve seen or witnessed or experienced since this whole situation began  that strengthened your faith in humanity or made you feel hope?

(Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP)

CB: In Paris every evening at 8 PM, the Parisians go out on their balconies or stand at their windows and CLAP for the medical workers, the cleaners, the emergency crews and fireman who do the unsung, dangerous, necessary jobs.

My Parisian friends send me videos of this and it makes me feel that not only is Paris a village, but now, the whole world that is suffering and dealing with this, is a village. It gives me hope that yes, we will get through this. And we will.

BABF:  Is there a favorite local indie bookstore or local small business you’d like to namecheck for people to support during this time?

CB: Bookshop West Portal is one of my favorite independent book stores in San Francisco. The booksellers there have become my friends, and I shop there. My new book, Three Hours in Paris, comes out on April 7, and I was going to do my book launch at Bookshop West Portal with champagne and French treats. Please support them and they are set up for online ordering from their website. I’d love you to think about purchasing my book, or any book to support this wonderful local and family run bookstore. Happy reading in the time of hunkering down.