Sara Paretsky in Glasgow

Willow Tea Rooms

I looked forward(s) and left and Hope Streeted it up to Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, just as per my email instructions from Julie Bertagna. Before getting even that far, I had crawled out of bed at an insufferably early hour, muttering to myself ‘why do I get these stupid ideas?’ and I had enjoyed an upside-down film on the train, where well-groomed American actresses drank coffee from upside-down cups and I was most impressed with the little dog running up (or down?) some stairs without falling off.

Mitchell Library

Sorry, getting sidetracked there. Anyway, I had decided that the best place to catch up with Sara Paretsky this time would be to hotfoot it north to the home of the Ned (non-educated delinquent). That’s why Julie very kindly offered to meet up, so she could protect me (she’s smaller than I am…), and generally believing that I’m useless at navigating (I’ll have you know the broom comes with satnav), she sent me careful instructions on how to get to the Mitchell Library, and it’s doomed roof. Sorry, domed.


This is where the Resident IT Consultant started talking about the motorway and how I just had to know it was there. Can’t miss it. Well, I have always thought of it as ‘a big road’. It still is. And it is a motorway but not up in the air. Here is the proof. It’s down below. So is the rather sizeable hole in the pavement. The Mitchell is nice, though.

Mitchell Library

I had several minutes in this lovely building before the fire alarm went off. (Maybe it wasn’t that Norwegian’s fault back in October? Maybe it’s me?) All out. So rather than meet in its café, Julie and I rendez-voused outside in the street, followed by super-fast tea once we were back in, before sitting down to hear Sara Paretsky and Denise Mina talk about Sara’s new book, Body Work. Sara looked wonderful, and as Julie pointed out, Sara ‘can do the scarf thing’.

Sara Paretsky and Denise Mina at the Mitchell Library

They sat in those kind of armchairs that look as if their hind legs have been sawn off. Very fashionable. Sara thought Denise’s introduction was so nice it made her speechless, but said she wouldn’t be ‘speechless for long’. And then she read from her book, a very good excerpt, where the bad guy slips on V I’s vomit. As you do.

Sara Paretsky reading from Body Work

Denise moderated as beautifully as ever and she asked just the right questions. We now know just how well Sara is acquainted with President Obama (there’s nothing like using the same supermarket for food shopping). And I believe my prayers have been answered, because from now on Sara’s characters will not age. They are old enough, and they need to be allowed to get on with what they do best.

V I is Sara in as much that she is Sara’s voice, but takes risks where Sara is too shy. On a recent visit to her old family home in Kansas Sara came face to face with the fact that her old cellar harboured not just the spiders she always avoided, but it’s also home to snakes. Currently the tally is 42 snakes.

Sara Paretsky

I’m glad the first question from the audience dealt with V I’s clothes. There’s nothing like getting your priorities right. Sara is about to insert her grandfather and his sewing skills into her next novel, so we’re looking forward to that. I think we also expected Sara to be suitably peaceful in her outlook on life, but she’s ‘always wanting to deck people’.

Sara has tried writing about new people and places, but finds she can’t leave V I and friends, and she can only write when she cares about something. She won’t ‘write by numbers’, because in that case she might as well go back to selling computers to insurance agents. Sara likes her characters because of their flaws, not despite those flaws. There is a difference.

Her New Year’s resolution was to stop trying to be perfect, because ‘it really does slow you down.’ One of her displacement activities before sitting down to write is making the perfect cappuccino, which involves throwing out all the not so good ones. At least this means the poor coffee farmer will earn more money. And chocolate solves any other problem.

Sara Paretsky and Denise Mina at the Mitchell Library

There’s a question on the ever longer acknowledgements in the books, and I have to say here that I feel I need a mention next time. It’s only the first-time writer who gets away with just ‘thanking their mother for having given birth to them’.

A guide dog in the audience caused Sara to feel homesick, because she misses her own dog so much. This is something she always mentions. It’s a shame Callie can’t come on tours.

Sara Paretsky

When the hour with Sara and Denise was up, Denise sprinted away in her Glasgow goth pixie outfit, in a hurry to get to the next point of call for the day, while Sara sat down to sign books in the magnificent corridor. And that’s where I found Hodder’s Jack, Sara’s minder ‘up north’.

Hodder's Jack

Prior to the day I’d been having problems telling my Hodder men apart, but now I can truthfully say I’ve never met Jack before. For such a non-stop talker he was surprisingly shy about photographs. Hence the hiding in the window with the light behind him. Between you and me, I think he liked Julie. And they discussed where she should take me to feed afterwards. Though he did say I was welcome to tag along to Peebles with Sara and him. That’s after Sara got her allotted nine minutes of Glasgow museums. Mean man.

Or was it a joke?

Jack and Sara went off, and Julie accompanied the only partially hobbling witch to an Italian restaurant within spitting distance of my train. Very handy. Would that count as lunch, between three and six? I’m not sure. It was good. Very Italian. Marble-y. Wood panelling. Gorgonzola. Unlike the place that has Italian lessons in the toilets, this one just caused someone to get lost. And it wasn’t me. Just saying.

I wasn’t even allowed to catch my train by myself. Do I look incompetent, or something?

If you’re wondering why after all those other photos, there is not a single one of Julie, don’t blame me.  I’ll get her. One day.

If Julie’s next book is delayed, it’s nothing to do with me. Julie offered to waste her day on me. And all that publishing gossip we covered? You won’t find it mentioned here. I think the Gorgonzola sealed my lips, somehow.


9 responses to “Sara Paretsky in Glasgow

  1. Lovely post! I adore Paretsky and was (I think) the first British jounralist to interview her, back in the 1980s. She’s always a must-read.

  2. Thank you, Amanda! I believe Sara is the kind of ‘girl’ the rest of us want to worship, sitting by her feet (if I could get down there) and just admiring away. Nine hours of travelling is just insane. But I always feel that if Sara can cross the Atlantic, then I can cross something, too.

  3. Great post. You do have a lot of adventures with transportation, don’t you?

    I’ve never been to Glasgow, except via crime shows on television.

  4. Crossing the Atlantic is easy peasy compared to crossing the Scottish Border AND that lethal motorway.

    Mulling over whether to do a scarf thing, goth pixie thing or maybe a balaclava thing, next time. ; )

  5. Balaclava, so I can get the camera out. Some goth, maybe, with Sara’s temporary tattoos.

  6. You always get to see Sara! I’m so jealous. She and I live on the same continent, for heaven’s sake!
    (but it tickles me pink to think of the two of you talking about me, really it does….. as long as it’s nice talk!)

  7. Well, you see, if you too got up at the crack of dawn and travelled… (What do you mean, you always get up early?)
    We are always nice, Sara and I. Except for her wanting to hit people all the time.
    Continents aren’t always what they should be. Maybe you need to aim for an event in the UK. Bring a calf. Or two. The other ladies (why only ladies?) in the signing queue looked sad that they themselves were so ordinary; neither bloggers nor dairy farmers.

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