Archive for August, 2011

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Interview: Sarah R. Shaber, author of Louise’s War

August 1, 2011

Sarah R. Shaber

I’ve long been a fan of Sarah R. Shaber’s novels, beginning with the first book in her Simon Shaw mystery series, Simon Said, which won the St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Award. Four other books followed, each following the adventures (and misadventures) of a distinguished history professor at a small college in Raleigh, NC: Snipe Hunt, The Fugitive King, The Bug Funeral, and Shell Game. (These books have recently been made available as e-books, for those needing to catch up.) This summer, Shaber debuts a second series with the book Louise’s War. While the new novel still has a tangential connection to the North Carolina that Shaber calls home (the book’s heroine reflects frequently on her past and family in coastal Wilmington, NC), the setting now is the big city: Washington, DC. And here the characters aren’t just looking back on history; they’re living it—with Louise working in the fledgling OSS during the height of World War II.

A launch party for Louise’s War is scheduled for Tuesday, August 9, at 7:30 p.m. at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh—and Shaber promises cake! In the calm before that first bookstore appearance (and in the final days of wrapping up the second book in the series), Shaber indulged a few questions about Louise Pearlie and the various wars she’s fighting.

Art Taylor: The title of your new novel, Louise’s War, seems to work on a number of levels. In the most straightforward reading, we’re getting the title character’s view of World War II itself, of life on the homefront, and of the budding OSS operations. What drew you toward writing about this era and about the OSS? And where did Louise herself come from, this coastal NC native discovering herself in the big city?

Sarah Shaber: When I decided to write a new historical mystery series, World War II immediately came to mind. I’d done some reading on World War II for Snipe Hunt, the second book in my Simon Shaw series, and I remember thinking that was an era I’d like to write about again. World War II was a true battle between good and evil. It took the combined strength of the United States, the British Empire and the Soviet Union to defeat the Axis. Coming right after the Depression, too, the challenges were enormous.

Washington became a boom town. Thousands upon thousands of people migrated there for jobs. The social set from Paris, London, Rome, and other capitals under siege filled hotels and apartments. Con men, criminals and spies followed. OSS was perhaps the most interesting agency in Washington. The Director, Wild Bill Donovan, didn’t care who you were or what your politics were as long as you could help defeat the Nazis. It would take pages to list all the real characters who worked there; Julia Child, Sterling Hayden, and Moe Berg, the baseball player, are just three!

Louise comes from Wilmington as a sentimental homage to Snipe Hunt. Fans of my earlier series might notice that her last name, Pearlie, a common name on the North Carolina Coast, is also the name of the fictional beach — Pearlie Beach — where Snipe Hunt takes place.

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