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Monday 2 April 2018

ℚ Alice and the Assassin: Alice Roosevelt Mysteries [1] - R.J. Koreto

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Alice and the Assassin (, Crooked Lane Books, 500 pages), a Historical Mystery, book one in the Alice Roosevelt Mysteries series.

“Alice and the Assassin is a great debut in a new series for fans of historical mystery. I loved spending time with feisty Alice Roosevelt in her role as a sleuth, and in the company of her sharp young Secret Service Agent, Mr. St. Clair. It’s a delightful read and left me wanting more.” ―Linda Fairstein, NYT bestselling author of the Alexandra Cooper mysteries

"R.J. Koreto gives us a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the Roosevelts in this intriguing whodunit. Alice is a feisty, independent woman of her time, and her bodyguard, Mr. St. Clair, is a perfect foil with his calm demeanor and dry humor. Smooth writing and an eye for detail adds to this captivating mystery."
―Kate Kingsbury, national bestselling author of the Pennyfoot Hotel mysteries

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || The Series || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Richard J. Koreto; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

What was the inspiration for Alice and the Assassin?

"My publisher found out I was a fan of Theodore Roosevelt, and then suggested I start a series based on his lively daughter, Alice, who was one of the most outrageous celebrities in Washington over her long life. I figured I'd have to exaggerate her in order to make for entertaining fiction. In fact, I had to play down her antics or she wouldn't have been believable!"
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"Even though Alice Roosevelt really spent most of this time in Washington, I decided to set "Alice and the Assassin" in New York City—because of my grandfather. He was born into a poor family in New York in 1896. When I was a boy, he was full of anecdotes about life at the time my book takes place.

I also grew up in NYC and loved those stories about the way my city used to be. My grandfather told me that his father walked across the Brooklyn Bridge the day it opened to the public, and I have an important scene take place on this bridge. I see my grandfather's New York as almost a character in this novel.

The book is dedicated to my grandfather."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for Alice and the Assassin - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"The book cover is by Craig Polizzotto and it came out of discussion with my publisher.

I love the silhouette of Alice Roosevelt in the elegant dress and hat of a wealthy young woman—I emphasized to the designer that Alice was known for always being well-dressed.

And, of course, we have the Brooklyn Bridge, where the book's final chapter takes place.

The daggers in the margins lend the air of menace.

The pistol woven into the name "Alice" is a reference to her bodyguard, a fast-draw cowboy and former Rough Rider."
Why should we read Alice and the Assassin and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"I put real history in my historical fiction! The plot is fictional, but the book is full of real-life characters: Alice, her Aunt Anna, her father Theodore, her future husband Nicholas Longworth, and anarchist Emma Goldman were all real people. Even fictional Secret Service agent Joseph St. Clair is based on real Rough Riders.

The background of McKinley's assassination by a crazed anarchist is also true-to-life. Sometimes readers have told me they weren't sure where history ended and fiction began in this book—and I think that a great compliment!"
Can you tell us something quirky about Alice and the Assassin, its story and characters?
"Many years ago, my wife and I lived in a rather old-world neighborhood in Queens, New York. Needing a haircut, I went to the neighborhood's old-fashioned male-only barbershop. There was a man in the back who had quiet conversations with patrons and then wrote things down. I suddenly figured out what was happening—the man was a bookie!

Alice Roosevelt was known to "play the ponies," and so I recreated that barbershop, and that bookie, for Alice to visit in the first chapter of the book."
Who would you recommend Alice and the Assassin to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"I'd recommend it to history buffs, mystery lovers, and the many people who are fascinated with the Roosevelts.

The plot may be a little more political than is typically found in a cozy mystery, but I observe a lot of the cozy conventions: very little sex and violence (although there is romance), no offensive language and an amateur sleuth. So I think cozy fans will like this one too.

A few readers have been mildly alarmed that Alice, although only 17, likes beer and cigarettes, but it's true to life. And attitudes on drinking and smoking were different then."
If you could / wished to turn Alice and the Assassin and the Alice Roosevelt Mysteries series into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"That's a tough one!

For Alice Roosevelt, I like Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies. I think she could really bring out Alice's strong ego.

For her bodyguard, ex-Cowboy Joseph St. Clair—that's a little harder. If I could go back in time, I might choose a young Paul Newman, who could do Westerns and could handle comedy—St. Clair has a wry sense of humor.

I'd love to work with Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. What a wonderful sense of time he creates. But I also think about one of Stanley Kubrick's odder movies, an adaptation of a William Thackery novel called "Barry Lyndon." It's a long, slow movie, but Kubrick really makes you believe you're in the 18th century."
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I've always liked historical mysteries, and so that's what I've written. In addition to the Alice Roosevelt mysteries, I've written the Lady Frances Ffolkes mysteries, featuring a turn-of-the-century suffragette sleuth in London.

As a reader, I've been absorbed by a wide range of mysteries, in addition to historicals: I'm a huge fan of Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, the Nero Wolfe mysteries and the Inspector Maigret mysteries. Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, John le Carre also impressed and influenced me. So I'm not confined to one genre, but I think one thing they all have in common is an interest in character. For me, as a reader and writer, character is everything.

Since I stretched myself as a reader of mysteries, I'm stretching myself as a writer too. I published a modern-day mystery story in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine featuring an easy-going journalist and his "sort of" girlfriend, a distinguished lawyer. I saw it as a homage to Christie's "Tommy and Tuppence" mysteries.

An upcoming EQMM story of mine goes in a completely different direction, a noir-flavored piece involving a murdered millionaire, his jealous wife and his mysterious mistress, set in New York's Adirondack mountains.

I'm also trying a new twist on historical mysteries: I'm working on a novel that takes a police officer from the Victorian era until the 1920s, as he spends 35 years trying to exonerate a wrongly hanged man and find justice for the young woman he was accused of murdering."
What is your writing process?
"Like most novelists, I have a day job. I'm a journalist specializing in business and finance. So I write in the evenings, weekends, or on vacation. Most nights you'll find me by our fireplace—I'm writing and my wife is knitting.

I try to be efficient about it. I devise a "theme" for each novel, and work out the essential puzzle. I outline each character one by one and give them backstories. I decide in advance what happens in each chapter—what cliffhanger does each one end with?"
What is in store next?
"As noted above, I'm working on a new novel, a police procedural stretched out over 35 years.

I hope to come back to Alice Roosevelt, though. Her father sent her as part of a large delegation to the Far East, where she met the Dowager Empress of China (who gave her a dog) and the Emperor of Japan. Just think about the possibilities for mystery and adventure with the headstrong Alice and her sardonic bodyguard Agent St. Clair in the "exotic Orient.""
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"BELOW: photo of me from a trip to Paris last year. I am standing in front of 36, quai des Orfèvres, headquarters of the Police Judiciaire de Paris. This is where one of my favorite fictional detectives, Inspector Jules Maigret, had his office."

Thank you for sharing it with us! :-)

Alice and the Assassin
Available NOW!

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CMash said...

Great interview! This book just went on my TBR list! Thank you for sharing this post.

Richard Koreto said...

Thanks so much! This was fun.