Guest Chick: Laurie R. King

Lisa here, delighted and honored along with my fellow Chicks to welcome New York Times bestselling, Edgar/Creasey/Agatha/Anthony-award winning author Laurie R. King to the blog today.  Read about RIVIERA GOLD, her latest novel featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes–and a particularly nefarious real-life villain!

Real-Life Fictional Characters

One of the first things I look for, when I’ve chosen a time and place to set a historical novel, is what interesting folk were hanging around. After all, when writing a book about Venice in the summer of 1925, I would no more ignore the presence of Cole Porter than I would the canals.

In part, it’s verisimilitude: in Twenties Paris, your characters can smoke and drink and zut-alors with the natives, but if they don’t encounter Man Ray or Ernest Hemingway, your reader wonders what city they’re really in.

It’s also a way to show a new dimension to a setting. Two Bedouin tent-dwellers inhabit a different 1919 Palestine from that of General Allenby; an encounter with Dashiell Hammett opens up a whole new San Francisco; and honorary pirate and self-proclaimed poet laureate of Portugal, Fernando Pessoa, gives a wildly tilted, insider’s slant to a Lisbon visit.

Of course, a writer can also bring in some more or less fictional folk (copyright law permitting.) Being a card-carrying member of the Baker Street Irregulars, I have to take the position that Sherlock Holmes was (is?) a real person, not some fictional creation, but there are other characters too good to pass up. Like Kim, from Rudyard Kipling’s book. If I send my characters to India, why not let them meet Kim as a middle-aged man? And as for Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, and Professor Moriarty…

The new book (Riviera Gold) takes Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes to the South of France and the principality of Monaco. Here, too, I began by looking into who was there, in the summer of 1925. And what do you know? Right away I find the most perfect villain a crime writer could ask for, a nightmare of an arms dealer who built one of the world’s greatest fortunes by manipulating Europe into World War One. (Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers in telling you that Basil Zaharoff is a villain.)

At the opposite end of the spectrum from crooked arms dealers, we find the American expatriates who discovered the joys of summer on the Riviera during the early Twenties. Brown with the sun and madly creative, these were the men and women who shaped the century: Ernest Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel and Serge Diaghilev, Archibald MacLeish, Dorothy Parker—all brought together by a pair of Americans who had fled the stifling atmosphere of Prohibition America to live on the cheap in France.

Sara and Gerald Murphy wove a family out of these disparate personalities. They cheered on the efforts of their friends, listening to stories and admiring new works. They painted sets and sewed costumes, encouraged costume parties and childish games, hosted dinner parties and made introductions.  The Murphys provided their friends a shoulder to weep on, a muse to follow, and a backup when checks from home were delayed. Half the Americans in Paris were in love with Sara, and for a few years, the Murphy house in Antibes was the American heart of France.

What else could I do, but settle my own characters into that home and watch what happens?

Readers, please say hello to Laurie in the comments–and let her know which historical characters you would have loved to meet!

About the Book:


Riviera Gold (excerpts and more here) comes out June 9, and is available for pre-order (signed) from Bookshop Santa Cruz and Poisoned Pen Books—or from your local Independent bookshopBarnes & Noble/Nook, Amazon/KindleCD, or audio.

About the Author:


Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling, Edgar/Creasey/Agatha/Anthony-award winning author of 28 novels, including 16 in the Mary Russell–Sherlock Holmes historical series.  The new Russell “memoir,” Riviera Gold, is set on the 1920s Riviera, but it is based on long-time housekeeper Mrs. Hudson’s unexpectedly racy Victorian past. For more information on Laurie and her books, go to



40 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Laurie R. King

  1. How fun! I have never written a real person into my books, but I can see how that sort of thing might work better for a historical novel. After all, someone who is no longer here can’t complain about the words you put in their mouth. If I could meet someone from the past, I would probably choose a suffragette like Susan B. Anthony or Emmeline Pankhurst. The hardships they must have endured for a right I take for granted thanks to their efforts is hard to imagine.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I read today that at Susan B. Anthony ‘s criminal trial, she was repeatedly told to sit down, lol. And she never paid her fine (they never pushed her for it, either).

      Liked by 5 people

  2. I’d always be a bit intimidated to write a real person into my fiction. Sure they can’t complain, but what about other people?

    I’d love to sit down and have a conversation with Winston Churchill. So many interesting events in his life.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Laurie! With the ash raining down over our Santa Cruz neighborhood this morning from all the fires, and the orange-gray sky, it’s lovely to wake up to your post about those halcyon days in the south of France with Coco Chanel and Mary Russell.

    As for which famous person from the past I’d have loved to meet and hang out with, I’m going with two: Julia and Paul Child, when they lived in Paris in the early 1950s.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. No, Julie will always big that big woman with the booming voice I used to watch on TV with my mom when I was a kid. (Though yes, Paul will probably always be Stanley Tucci–which is fine, since he’s such a doll.)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much for visiting Chicks today, Laurie—and Riviera Gold sounds fabulous. I think I might go with Josephine Earp for my real-life character. She was determined to keep her early life a mystery, with allegedly suspect recollections in her memoir, I Married Wyatt Earp. We’re on to you, Josie. And we want the good stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Love your Mary and Sherlock books, Laurie! Thanks for visiting today with the Chicks! I’d love to have tea with Agatha Christie — I have questions!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Many people had questions. About the kinds of things she didn’t even put into her autobiography. Funny to think that the disappearance was such a huge thing even though she only had a few books out, and was hardly a household name–beforehand!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Wow – having tea with Agatha Christie would be fascinating! Perhaps she could give me a few pointers on how she scatters clues throughout her narratives, and buries them or misdirects readers into paying attention elsewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the Russell/Holmes books. I started rereading the series in March as I have trouble concentrating on new books now. I’d rather revisit old friends. I just finished Riviera Gold and loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for being here today with us, Laurie! Congrats on Riviera Gold! I’ve always admired how historical fiction writers can weave in real-life personalities. That Murphy house with its exciting guests sounds like a great setting!

    I would love to meet Emily Dickinson since her poetry moves me and because so much of her life happened in isolation.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for visiting us today, Laurie! For me, I’d like to hang out with Dorothy Parker at the Algonquin. When we were in NYC I made sure to go have a drink there and toss off bon mots. I also wouldn’t mind bandying about a few zut alors in twenties Paris. Sigh.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think I’d like to be at the next table from Dorothy Parker, maybe not across from her razor tongue. Although she was the most incredibly helpful and supportive person when Sara and Gerald Murphy’s son was so ill, she helped them close up their Antibes house, did all kinds of things for them. Not what you’d imagine, from a lady known for her unwillingness to suffer fools. Clearly, she would suffer a lot for the non-fools in her life. My kind of lady.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I loved “Saving Mr. Banks.” Mark, going on the Disney lot is a total trip. You get directions like, “Make a left on Goofy Lane.” And there are mouse ears everywhere. I had a lunch meeting in the exec dining room and even the butter pads were shaped like them!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Laurie, thank you so much for visiting. The book sounds fantastic and like it ticks off a bunch of boxes for me – the first being that you wrote it! I’m fascinated by the Murphys. For all their gay abandon in the 1920s, their lives were fraught with tragedy, losing both their sons to illness. In lighter news, can’t wait to read this!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Hi, Laurie,

    I’ve followed Mary and Sherlock’s adventures for years and always enjoyed them. I’m so appreciative that you include real people in your books as it allows me to learn about them as well. I just looked up the Murphys; they had quite a life. I’m amazed they lived into the 1960s and 1970s, respectively. I think about the changes the world has seen in that time (and even since then!). I’d pick Eleanor Roosevelt because I have so, so many questions for her. Some, I confess, are prurient – was she a lesbian or not? How did she reconcile dealing with FDR’s first known affair and how on earth did she deal with her mother-in-law? Then, what are her best memories of her work as the First Lady? What did she think about her U.N. work? What is her greatest achievement? So many unanswered questions. (Agatha Christie would be a close second and Katherine Hepburn would be third for me!). Ruth

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, so many questions when it comes to someone like Eleanor Roosevelt, aren’t there? Who are the people of 2020 who will intrigue a future generation, do you suppose? I doubt it’ll be the people we’re fascinated by now….

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I haven’t read the latest book yet, Riviera Gold, but can’t wait. I know it will be just as fine as the rest of Ms. King’s works. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are pure magic, and of course, with the writing skills of the author, it makes for wonderful literature.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Welcome, Laurie and thanks so much for being here!

    What a great post and fascinating question. It’s tough to pick just one famous person from the past, but right now my answer is Bill Shakespeare. As Vickie said, I have questions!

    Liked by 2 people

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