Texas prosecutor writes Paris-based mystery series
Feb. 12, 2015
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Mark Pryor was inspired by a bookseller as he was strolling along the famed Seine River in Paris with his wife.
"For some reason, my mind just thought: 'How quaint. How can I make this deadly?'" said Pryor, who works as a prosecutor in Austin.
"I had the inklings of an idea and we went straight from there," he said, adding that he popped into a shop for a pen and paper and then he and his wife settled in at a cafe. "I tell people that we sat in the cafe for 20 minutes or so while I jotted down notes. She'll say it's more like two hours. I would probably trust her."
That idea became "The Bookseller," which begins with the kidnapping of an elderly bookseller who works on the banks of the Seine. The novel sparked a series featuring the character of Texan Hugo Marston, who works as head of security at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
"I'm very interested in putting people in situations that are unusual, either to them or to the general public. So, for example, you have Hugo who is a Texan wearing cowboy boots in Paris. I love that image," said the cowboy boot-wearing Pryor, a native of England who is an assistant district attorney in Travis County.
Scott Montgomery, crime fiction coordinator for BookPeople, an independent bookstore in Austin, said Marston is a bit of a throwback, which readers enjoy.
"I think we've kind of gone with crime fiction and thrillers to very brooding, damaged characters, and Hugo is kind of more traditional," he said. "He's kind of in that square-jawed, very decent, very heroic kind of vein."
The first three books in the series are set in Paris. "The Button Man" is a series prequel that takes readers back to when Marston worked at the U.S. Embassy in London. In the fifth book, "The Reluctant Matador," set for release in June, Marston travels from Paris to Barcelona, Spain, to investigate the disappearance of a friend's daughter.
A stand-alone book, "Hollow Man," about an Englishman who is a prosecutor, musician and psychopath living in Texas, will be published in the fall.
"I think when you read 'The Bookseller,' you definitely want more Hugo," said Dan Mayer, editorial director for Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books, adding that the character "just seems very, very believable."
"There's nothing really over the top. There's nothing in Mark's writing when I'm reading and editing that I want to pull back. It's just a very sort of relaxed, comfortable character," Mayer said.
Pryor, 47, has no plans to abandon Marston. "I love writing them. I'll keep going as long as my publisher will continue to put them out and as long as people will continue to enjoy them."