Saturday, June 15, 2013

Showcase: Black Venus by James MacManus

Book Description

May 7, 2013
A vivid novel of Charles Baudelaire and his lover Jeanne Duval, the Haitian cabaret singer who inspired his most famous and controversial poems, set in nineteenth-century Paris.
For readers who have been drawn to The Paris WifeBlack Venus captures the artistic scene in the great French city decades earlier, when the likes of Dumas and Balzac argued literature in the cafes of the Left Bank. Among the bohemians, the young Charles Baudelaire stood out—dressed impeccably thanks to an inheritance that was quickly vanishing. Still at work on the poems that he hoped would make his name, he spent his nights enjoying the alcohol, opium, and women who filled the seedy streets of the city.
One woman would catch his eye—a beautiful Haitian cabaret singer named Jeanne Duval. Their lives would remain forever intertwined thereafter, and their romance would inspire his most infamous poems—leading to the banning of his masterwork, Les Fleurs du Mal, and a scandalous public trial for obscenity. 
James MacManus's Black Venus re-creates the classic Parisian literary world in vivid detail, complete with not just an affecting portrait of the famous poet but also his often misunderstood, much-maligned muse.

James MacManus was born in London in 1943, educated at Westminster School and graduated from St Andrews University in 1966.He broke his Guardian reading parents’ hearts when  he joined the Daily Express in Manchester as a trainee reporter that year. He redeemed himself  when he moved to The Guardian in 1972, working first as a reporter in the London office  and then as a foreign correspondent in France, Africa and the Middle East for twelve years. The bulk of this time was spent in what was then Rhodesia where he was based as the Guardian’s Africa correspondent from 1974-80. In 1985 he joined the Diplomatic staff of the Daily Telegraph in London.
He joined the Times in November 1992 as Assistant Editor (Home) and took over as Managing Editor of The Times in September 1996.
He became Managing Director of The Times Supplements in April 1997, a company that published the Times Educational Supplement, the Times Higher Education Supplement and the Times Literary Supplement (TLS).
Following heart surgery in 2009 James relinquished many of his Corporate Affairs duties to concentrate on speech writing and managing the TLS.
In 2006 after a gestation of almost 20 years a film script  James had written finally made it to the screen under the title The Children of Huang Shi. The film takes place at the height of the Sino-Japanese war in the 1940s and tells the story of 65 Chinese school children who were recued from certain death by George Hogg, a young Englishman who had been caught up in the conflict. To escape the advancing Japanese forces in the bitter winter of 1944 Hogg took the children in a convoy of mule carts  over the highest mountains in China  to Shandan in the remote North West. There he died in 1945 of tetanus aged 30. MacManus heard about Hogg’s brief and heroic life while working in Beijing as a reporter in 1985 and his subsequent news story in a London paper attracted the attention of Hollywood. The film starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and directed by Roger Spottiswoode was released in 2006. James MacManus has also written a book about Hogg’s life called ‘Ocean Devil’ which was published in March 2008.
In 2010 James’s first novel was published by Harper Collins in |London. On the Broken Shore won critical acclaim and is to be published by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St Martins Press in New York. The book will be re-titled the Language of the Sea. Thomas Dunne is a senior and widely respected publisher in the US and he said of On The Broken Shore: "What an odd, brilliant, shocking, moving, clever, perceptive book."
James MacManus has been married twice and has three children. He is currently separated from his second wife.

Q. What inspires your writing?

A.  The desire to tell a good story in the hope that readers will find the book hard to put down.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being an author?

A.   Reading through yesterday’s draft pages and realizing that actually those hours of hard work produced words that a reader might really enjoy.

Q.  What is the toughest part of being an author?

A.  Reading through yesterday’s draft pages and realizing  that hours of hard work had  produced words that needed to be rewritten – again.

Q.  If you could not be author, what would you do/be?

A. farmer

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A. It is never too late

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

A. A tough, indeed impossible question. When I was a teenager it was Gone with the Wind; as a young man I loved  Chandler’s The Long Goodbye ;when I was a foreign correspondent in Lebanon I took refuge in Wodehouse and the Jeeves books,;when I was a father of very young children we all loved  the  Beatrix Potter stories. But now I return to the one classic that still captivates me: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.It is a wonderful story in which young Pip grows up to show us how love can redeem the sins of pride and snobbery.

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A. There is a bit of Hamlet in us all is there not  ?– uncertain of ourselves, indecisive, questioning the  way forward and then leaping into action –but not always in my case, so far, with the tragic consequences that befell Shakespeare’s hero.

Q.  What character from all of your books are you most like?

A. My characters are based heavily on people I have known and loved or disliked , in fact or fiction, but very definitely not on myself  so I am I hope unlike any of my characters.

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?

A. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote. A romantic comedy set in New York of the 1950s .It was a time when that city was at its dazzling best as indeed was Capote’s witty, frothy writing. I  would have insisted on meeting Audrey Hepburn of course because the book and film have sort of merged in our cultural consciousness

Q.  What is your favorite season?

A. Fall: Bright  russet coloured days,  shivery silver nights and fireside poems of Keats and Shelley when the wind and rain rattles the windows. It is essential throughout the nights of this season  to have a bottle of Californian Pinot Noir  on hand to make one forget the coming nightmare of Christmas shopping..

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?

A. The cover of Black Venus is a huge tribute to Thomas Dunne and his designer Lisa Marie Pompilio. I have never in my life seen a book jacket that so vividly captures the  time, the place and the mood of a book. It is a brilliant work with the lady in a red dress seen  against the beautifully created black and white backdrop of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. Everyone who has seen the jacket here in London has had an almost identical one word reaction : Wow !
Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A. Just as I was about to speak to an audience of some 100 people at the Boston Book fair the year before last year my phone pinged me with a text message from my daughter in London. Foolishly `I opened the text and read that she had just got engaged to her long term, boyfriend. I was so happy that I  announced the news from the platform and everyone clapped !

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A. Do not live the life you are given –make the life you live.

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