Today we welcome Renee Patrick, a.k.a. Rosemarie and Vince Keenan, authors of the Lillian Frost and Edith Head mysteries!
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Our perfect day would have to include a late breakfast, then a walk to the movie theater for a matinee followed by a stop at the local doughnut shop to talk over the film we’ve just seen. In the evening we’d meet friends for cocktails at our favorite Seattle bar, the Zig Zag Café.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
Our signature meal is a pepperoni pizza from the restaurant on the corner. When you’re both writers, who has time to cook?
Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
Vince has long called Lawrence Block his spiritual father (or at least uncle) and has been especially influenced by Block’s Matt Scudder series. Rosemarie loves P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books. We like to think of Renee Patrick as the extremely unlikely combination of the two.
Do you listen to music when you write?
While writing the novels we wanted to be steeped in the sounds of the 1930’s, particularly the early big band singers like Bing Crosby and Kate Smith. They sang the popular songs that our characters would have heard on the radio every day. We played them so much they became part of our vocabulary.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dangerous to Know the novel tells stories of emigres who fled the danger of pre-World War II Europe for an uncertain future in Hollywood. Dangerous to Know the chocolate would be a European-style candy bar full of fruit and nuts, rich enough to recall memories of a far-away home.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
While researching our first book, Design for Dying, we stumbled upon a real-life Hollywood scandal in which George Burns and Jack Benny, two of Paramount’s biggest stars, found themselves brought up on smuggling charges. It was a story neither of us had heard before – a real shock considering how much we both love Hollywood history. We decided it would be a wonderful jumping off point for Lillian and Edith to explore Los Angeles in the years before World War II.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Reinvention is key to any Hollywood story, so it’s always a theme in our books. In Design for Dying we showed the tragic cost Lillian’s friend Ruby paid for trying to become something she wasn’t. Of course, there’s a lighter side too. Lillian has attempted to reinvent herself as an actress, a department store salesgirl and a social secretary. We’re starting to think crime-solving is her true calling.
Tell us about your main character.
We fell in love with the idea of Edith Head, legendary costume designer, as a detective but we knew she spent her days—and nights, and weekends—working at Paramount. She didn’t have time to track down clues. So we took a page from Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels and gave Edith her own Archie Goodwin. Lillian Frost can follow leads, interview suspects and deliver the information to Edith at the movie studio.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Lillian Frost is Rosalind Russell playing Archie Goodwin with a dash of Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
We’re picturing a catered affair in the private room of an elegant restaurant in Manhattan, one with a bartender who knows how to stir a mean martini. On the guest list would be Dorothy Parker, Billy Wilder, Patricia Highsmith, P.G. Wodehouse, Joe Keenan (no relation) and Donald Westlake.
What’s next for you?
We’re working on a third adventure for Lillian and Edith, tentatively titled Script for Scandal, set during Hollywood’s greatest year, 1939.