Tuesday, September 22, 2015

An Evening With Author Francine Mathews

Kerry Hammond is here today to tell us about an evening out at the Tattered Cover bookstore with author Francine Mathews.

I have been reading Francine Mathews’ books since I discovered The Secret Agent, a wonderful spy thriller that spans the globe, chock full of international intrigue and foreign locales. I have read and loved her Nantucket based mystery series, featuring detective Merry Folger. She even writes the Jane Austen mysteries under the pen name Stephanie Barron, a historical series featuring the famous author as amateur sleuth. 

Using real life historical figures in her novels doesn’t stop with Jane Austen. She has recently written two standalone books whose main characters are also famous people. In Jack 1939, 22-year-old John F. Kennedy is featured as a spy. He travels through Europe appearing to research his Harvard senior thesis, while actually working behind the scenes for FDR against the Germans.

The author’s research while writing Jack 1939 caused her path to frequently cross that of another famous person from WWII. This year she published an exciting thriller based around the real life Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond. In the Second World War, Fleming was employed as a code breaker. In Too Bad to Die, the author takes a real life plot and makes a fictional story of a “what if” situation. It’s the story of the real life Nazi plan to kill the top leaders of the Allied Forces: Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The book transports the reader from Cairo to Tehran, where Fleming works undercover to foil the assassination. It is here that Mathews weaves her fictional story using this well-known and loved man. Bond fans will be pleased to know that Fleming manages to meet beautiful women and drink martinis, just like his own fictional character.

The author’s presentation at the Tattered Cover bookstore was chock full of information relating to the man featured in the book. Ms. Mathews showed slides of photos of Ian Fleming during the war and told stories about his exploits. Fleming was the assistant to the director of Naval Intelligence and an associate of Alan Turing (famous for cracking the German Enigma code machine) at Bletchley Park. It’s no surprise that Fleming went on to write James Bond. During the war he invented several schemes to confuse the Germans, one he called Operation Mincemeat, which involved a dead body stuffed with false information and planted on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea for the Germans to discover.

The backstory of the author is just as interesting as the characters she writes. Francine Mathews is particularly qualified to write spy novels, since she worked as an analyst for the CIA for four years before beginning her career as a writer. She has written 25 novels, and lucky for us she doesn’t seem to plan to stop anytime soon.

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