By Ethan Cross
Buenos Aires 1945: It is the most dramatic and tumultuous period in Argentine history. Colonel Juan Perón, who had been the most powerful and the most hated man in the country, has been forced out of power. Many people fear that his mistress, radio actress Evita Duarte, will use her skill at swaying the masses to restore him to office.
When an obscure young woman is brutally murdered, police detective Roberto Leary concludes that the murderer mistook the girl for Evita, the intended target of someone out to eliminate the popular star from the political scene. The search for the killer soon involves the girl’s employer, who is Evita’s dressmaker, her journalist lover, and Pilar, a seamstress in the dress shop and a tango dancer.
The suspects include a leftist union leader who considers Perón a fascist and a young Lieutenant who feels Perón has dishonored the Army. Their stories collide in a book described by author Carolyn Hart as “A compelling mystery and a passionate and empathetic portrayal of the endlessly fascinating Evita Perón.”
Describe your typical writing day. How do you balance your writing with marketing, editing, plotting, and all other commitments?
I research and write in the New York Public Library’s marvelous Stephen Schwarzman Building and have the enormous privilege of working in one of its writers rooms. I am there four days a week from ten until close to six. I do most of my writing and editing in its precious silence, away from family responsibilities. Marketing and promotion are things I can do at home, and I try to spend some time on them every week. Right now, with BLOOD TANGO about to launch, I am in heavy-duty marketing mode. When I am writing against a deadline, I confess I don’t do all that much about promotion. Drafting and editing take most of my work time and energy.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Cook, be with my family and friends, go to the theater, watch movies. AND READ! AND READ! AND READ! And listen to books, too.
If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would it be?
Donna Leon, and I would like to do it in Venice, please.
As a reader, what are some of your personal pet-peeves? In other words, what’s your list of writing dos and don’ts?
I cannot bear it when a person important to the story does something completely out of character just because the writer needs him to, to serve the plot. Real human beings can act out of character, but fictional ones must be held to a standard of plausibility or I shout at the page, “Aw, come on.”
What kind of research did you conduct for BLOOD TANGO?
Because I write historical mysteries I do a great deal of reading, usually concentrating on eye witness accounts of the background history. I read about thirty books about Argentine history and politics leading up and during the events of BLOOD TANGO’s setting. Also, pro and con biographies of Evita and Juan Perón. And I spent ten days in Buenos Aires, visiting the locations of the story. Not a hardship at all, that last part.
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books/authors and who has had the greatest influence upon your own work?
I majored in literature in college so I am used to reading three or four different things at the same time. Right now I am rereading Anne Perry’s THE CATER STREET HANGMEN, and enjoying Charles Todd’s A DUTY TO THE DEAD, THE PRAGUE CEMETERY by Umberto Eco, and Michael Stanley’s DEADLY HARVEST. And a bunch of books on British East Africa as research for my next book. I love the books of Elizabeth Peters, the aforementioned Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, and I read the classics. But I never think I could write like the them or other people whose work I most admire: such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Kurt Vonnegut. I just stand in awe of them.
What’s something that you’ve learned about the publishing business that you weren’t expecting?
I wrote five nonfiction books before I published my first novel. It is a whole lot harder to get publicity for fiction than it is for nonfiction.
Do you have any advice for aspiring (or struggling) writers out there?
Do not give up. It took me ten years to get my first novel published. But then I got a two-book contract for the next two, and the fourth was already sold before the third launched. And my first, CITY OF SILVER, came out when I was sixty-eight years old.
Can we get a sneak peek at your next book?
I turned in the manuscript on May 1. I am really excited about it. STRANGE GODS is the first of series of historical mysteries that take place in British East Africa (now Kenya), beginning in 1911. It is set against huge social changes with the recent influx of English colonists. The doctor at the Scottish Mission hospital is murdered, and solving the crime falls to a young English policeman and his African tribal constable. The suspects include a Kikuyu medicine man and the manager of a British bank. It is an OUT OF AFRICA meets Agatha Christie tale, with treks through the wilderness and all the dangers and romance that go with that.
Annamaria Alfieri is the author of BLOOD TANGO, which takes place in Buenos Aires in 1945 and imagines the murder of an Evita Perón lookalike. KIRKUS REVIEWS said of her INVISIBLE COUNTRY, “Alfieri has written an anti-war mystery that compares with the notable novels of Charles Todd.” DEADLY PLEASURES MAGAZINE called her CITY OF SILVER one of the best first novels of the year. The WASHINGTON POST said, “As both history and mystery, CITY OF SILVER glitters.” A world traveler, Annamaria takes a keen interest in the history of the places she visits. She lives in New York City.