Editor’s Note: Long-time TKE bookseller, book group leader and mystery maven Wendy Foster Leigh, organized a magical mystery tour of San Francisco last month. Here’s Wendy’s take on the adventure.
The Armchair Travel Mystery Group meets regularly at The King’s English in that dark little mystery room upstairs. We are constantly asking, “What do you think the author was thinking?”…and then we guess. We wanted to ask Cara Black what she was thinking when she began her Murder in Paris series and since she couldn’t come to Salt Lake City, we went to see her in San Francisco! Because the books are set in Paris, we chose the Hotel Triton in the French area of Bush and Grant streets near Union Square. The hotel has a French feel to it complete with its hotel dog, Romeo, and the sound of French spoken in the lobby. Bush Street is filled with French food and the trip suddenly became an eat, read, and talk event.
On Friday, local artist Eleanor Burke joined us for a tour of the Mission District. She is the author of Sketching San Francisco; book club member, Roxy Nakamura called it “a love letter to San Francisco…the color sketches evoke memories of favorite spots and offer endless ideas for future exploration.” Eleanor led the group down Mission Street to Balmy and Clarion alleys for a discussion of the many murals (including some about books!) which reflect the passions of the District. Then it was off to lunch at El Delfin, followed by the Humphry Slocombe ice cream parlor for Thai Chili Sherbet. We even made a stop at Dave Egger’s Pirate Shop at 826 Valencia, a writer’s workshop for young people which is also a wonderful mixture of kitsch for old and young alike.
Saturday night arrived and off we went for a busman’s holiday at Bookshop West Portal and a discussion with Cara about the adventures of Aimee Leduc and the Leduc Detective Agency. Roxy pointed out that our book club “couldn’t help telling Cara the ways we hoped the story would progress.” Cara smiled an enigmatic smile that meant…“you don’t know how the books will end and I do! So there.” Luckily, Cara doesn’t seem eager to end Aimee’s adventures. (Latest hardback Murder in Passy is at TKE, but we talked about Murder in the Latin Quarter, #9 in the series.) West Portal is a friendly neighborhood and Bookshop West Portal is an independent bookshop comparable to TKE. Owners Neil and Kevin set up the back room for our group and some other PALS (Parents of Alumni of Lick-Wilmerding High School), where I used to teach in SF). The guys even had copies of The King’s English by Betsy Burton for our San Francisco hosts. PALS group members drove us to the home of Stuart and Deborah Oppenheim for a Mediterranean feast and mixer. One day, perhaps we can host the PALS group and Kevin and Neil in Salt Lake at TKE.
Planning this trip began months ago with only members of the Armchair Travel Mystery Group, but it “grew like Topsy” until there were 14 of us. Thanks to everyone for being so much fun: Rachel, Robert, Paula, Linda, Mira, Jeanne, Debbie, Roxy, Jim, Michelle, Rhonda, Josh and my truly helpful husband, Larry.
Each participant probably has a favorite moment to share with the group. Mine was a quiet one at the Chinese Culture Center painting with my 90- year-old teacher, Mrs. Fu, and shopping at The New Unique Company for Chinese brushes and inks. Sometimes the silent times mean as much as the busy ones and creating a plum blossom can be as mysterious as reading a novel.
—Wendy Foster Leigh