Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Virtual Book Tour & #Giveaway for Death at the Paris Exposition by Frances McNamara

Welcome to my stop on the Virtual Book Tour, presented by France Book Tours, for Death At The Paris Exposition by Frances McNamara.  Please leave a comment or question for Frances to let her know you stopped by.  You may enter her tour wide giveaway by filling out the Rafflecopter form below.  You may also follow all of the stops on the tour by clicking on the banner above.  You can read my review of this book here.  Good Luck!

Researching Death at the Paris Exposition
 by Frances McNamara

Most of the stories in my Emily Cabot Mysteries series are set in Chicago, where I lived for a long time. They are inspired by the imprint that the people of the 1890s left on that city. (One of the books, Death at Woods Hole, is set on Cape Cod, where I have a family summer home. When I found out that scientists from the University of Chicago went to the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in the summers I took advantage of that fact to take my fictional characters there.)

My research for the stories often starts with a visit to an actual place and that is true of the new book. A few years ago I did a two-week trip to Paris with an old friend who was working on a doctoral thesis about the north portal of Chartres Cathedral. We rented an apartment on the Left Bank, not far from Notre Dame. While we were there, I realized that my character, Emily, would have felt at home on the broad avenues of the parts of Paris that were rebuilt in the late-nineteenth century. The Parisian world’s fair for which the Eiffel Tower was built took place before the first book of my series but, when I learned that the Petit Palais, Grand Palais, and Alexander IV bridge were all built for the 1900 Paris Exposition, I felt that was a time when she might have visited the city.

Looking for a reason for my character—who is a lecturer at the University of Chicago and a sociologist— to visit Paris, I was happy to discover that Bertha Palmer, the “queen” of Chicago society was the only woman commissioner for the U.S. delegation to the 1900 Exposition. Emily would have known Bertha from her work at Hull House, where society women helped to fund the settlement house’s many activities. Mrs. Palmer hadn’t appeared in any of my earlier books and was someone who I’d always wanted to use as a character. So that sent me off to do deeper background research on her.

At around the time I began working on this novel, the Art Institute of Chicago hosted a traveling exhibit about women’s fashion and the Impressionist painters. This was a beautiful juxtaposition of actual gowns placed beside the Impressionist paintings that portrayed them. The exhibit showed how the growing interest in modern subjects had led Impressionist artists to portray women in the fashions of their day, rather than the traditional subjects of Greek gods and goddesses and classical types of stories. Like most women, I loved seeing the actual gowns with the glorious details and luscious fabrics. I knew that wealthy American women of the time, like Bertha Palmer, would take annual trips to Paris to have gowns made for them at the couture houses. This allowed me to start researching turn-of-the-century fashion and to hone in on the House of Worth. During my research I found lots of wonderful images of the Exposition and the gowns worn at the time. I created a Pinterest board you might want to visit: https://www.pinterest.com/fdmcnama/death-at-the-paris-exposition/

Finally, I’d studied Impressionist art in the past and one of my favorite artists has always been Mary Cassatt. I admire how she went against the conventions of her time and moved to Paris, where she became part of the Impressionist movement. That movement was most active in the 1880s and 1890s, so by 1900 Cassatt was older and working on her own, not affiliated with a group, but she was still friends with Degas and was helping Americans, like Bertha Palmer, to purchase art. I’ve used women journalists (Nellie Bly and Ida B. Wells), social workers (Jane Addams and Florence Kelley) and even a scientist (Cornelia Clapp) as characters in my novels, but hadn’t yet portrayed an artist, so Mary Cassatt became an ideal candidate for another historical figure for Emily Cabot to meet.

The fun part of writing an historical novel is the research you get to do. But then you need to set most of that aside and write the story, focusing on the actions of the fictional characters. I hope that the background research—which provided details that I wove through the story—helps to give the reader a real feel for the city of Paris at that time and the people who were there. Unlike my character, Emily, who leaves with mixed feelings about Paris, I really love that city and hope to visit it again. I hope reading the books gives the reader the same feeling.

Death At The Paris Exposition
By Frances McNamara
Emily Cabot Mystery, Book 6

Release date: September 1, 2016
Genre: Historical Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-9967558-3-2
ebook: 978-0-9967558-4-9
Length: 276 pages
Buy the book:  on Amazon 

About the book:

Amateur sleuth Emily Cabot’s journey once again takes her to a world’s fair—the Paris Exposition of 1900. Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer is named the only female U. S. commissioner to the Exposition and enlists Emily’s services as her secretary. Their visit to the House of Worth for the fitting of a couture gown is interrupted by the theft of Mrs. Palmer’s famous pearl necklace. Before that crime can be solved, several young women meet untimely deaths and a member of the Palmer’s inner circle is accused of the crimes.

As Emily races to clear the family name she encounters jealous society ladies, American heiresses seeking titled European husbands, and more luscious gowns and priceless jewels. Along the way, she takes refuge from the tumult at the country estate of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. In between her work and sleuthing, she is able to share the Art Nouveau delights of the Exposition, and the enduring pleasures of the City of Light, with her husband and their children.


Frances McNamara grew up in Boston, where her father served as Police Commissioner for ten years.  She has degrees from Mount Holyoke and Simmons Colleges, and recently retired from the University of Chicago. She now divides her time between Boston and Cape Cod.

She is the author of five other titles in the Emily Cabot Mysteries series, which is set in the 1890s and takes place primarily in Chicago: Death at the Fair, Death at Hull House, Death at Pullman, Death at Woods Hole, and Death at Chinatown.

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1 comment:

  1. A novel I read which was about an exposition was The Swan Gondola. Thanks for this wonderful feature and giveaway.