The Prisoner of the Riviera
Prisoner of the Riviera, the second volume of my mystery trilogy featuring that campy bon vivant and artistic genius, Francis Bacon, debuts December 10.
The war is over, but Francis, the gay and irrepressible hero of Fires of London, is unhappy with the privations and boredom of a post war world. His long time lover, Arnold, promised him Monte Carlo during the war, and that promise and the sale of an important painting convinces Francis that a trip to the Rivera with Arnold and Nan, his old, half-blind nanny, will be just the ticket.
Coincidently, the trip will enable him to pay off his gambling debts with the delivery of what is supposedly the last letter of a murder victim to his wife. Francis regards this commission as distinctly fishy and postpones it as long as possible, but not long enough to avoid entangling himself with French gangsters, old Resistantes, a mysterious night club singer, and a very fetching young bicycle racer.
Francis’s pursuit of business and pleasure is interrupted when he is accused of murder. The painter winds up assisting, first, the French police and then some former members of the Underground, charming eccentrics with complicated histories and – just possibly– revenge on their minds.
Booklist says: Law’s crisp, wry humor, surreptitious revelations of France’s deep partisan wounds, and great affection for the marvelously resourceful, suave, and irreverent Francis make for a delectably clever tale.
More about writing the novel
Surprisingly, since I rarely plan anything in fiction, I knew from the start that I wanted to do three novels with Francis, a character whom I found irresistible if rather foreign to my own experience. The fact that he served as a ARP ( Air Raid Preparedness warden) during WW2 opened up the possibility of a novel set against the Blitz. I felt this would get the trilogy off to a good start.
I also had a pretty good idea of the third novel when, set on the cusp of real success, ( a success that continues to this day, given the stratospheric heights his works have reached at auction) Bacon embarked on his great erotic passion with a dangerous ex-RAF pilot. In Tangiers, the exotic height of romance. How could I go wrong with that?
There remained only the dreaded middle. Fortunately, some ancient literary history came to my rescue. Years ago, I wrote The Countess, a novel which borrowed some of the exploits of a real WW2 SOE agent. I did a lot of research. I read a lot of books. I visited the Imperial War Museum in London. I even made an attempt at beginning Polish.
But just as sometimes a piece one dashes off turns out to be very good, so sometimes one’s heart’s blood is not enough. The Countess was published to small acclaim and smaller sales, but I was left with a working knowledge of the French Underground and SOE circuits, plus the toxic politics of Vichy and the right-wing Milice. What better environment for Frances, especially since we had spent a number of holidays in the south of France, and the sights and sounds of the Riviera had lingered in my mind?
The French setting of The Prisoner of the Riviera also enabled me to add one of my passions to the story, the Tour de France, still the world’s most glamorous bike race. Handsome young men in bike shorts seemed to me to be just the ticket for the Francis. And since in the best mystery novel fashion, he’d survived Fires of London only to go on vacation and find himself in the soup, it seemed only fair to let him indulge in a little romance.
My guest blog at Poe's Deadly Daughters about The Prisoner of the Riviera
More about the historical Francis Bacon
The Website of the Francis Bacon Estate
Wikipedia, Francis Bacon
record breaking sale of Lucian Freud triptych