Some of you know that I keep a special collection of books set in far off climes, very different from what I write, and even from what I normally read. Authors like Tim Hallinan, Leighton Gage, and Lisa Brackmann all write crime novels that aren’t the usual, nor are their settings. And today we welcome to the blog another wonderful example in this set, Jeffrey Siger.
Jeff, who is just coming off a stellar New York Times review by Marilyn Stasio, can certainly be said to have made it. But as his post will tell you, the real Moments often arrive in much more off-color ways, and with a fair dose of uniquely human humor. Read on.
My “made it moment” occurred on a nude beach on a Greek island.
It was about a year ago and I can assure you I never expected it to happen there. In fact, by then I thought I’d already experienced my “made it moment”—twice. First, when I learned that my debut novel, Murder in Mykonos, was the #1 best selling English-language book in Greece, and second when my international rights agent landed a German distribution deal for Murder in Mykonos with Goldmann Publishing/Random House, and a three book deal with the UK publisher Piatkus Books/Little Brown.
Little did I realize the epiphany awaiting me that day on that beach.
I live on Mykonos where clothing on beaches is largely optional and if you’re on a popular one but want to be as far away as possible from the blasting music of beachfront tavernas, you’ll likely end up among the nudists.
So, on that fateful day my girlfriend and I decided to destroy our skin for a few hours on Paranga beach (aka Paraga), a lovely, sophisticated beach with great beach tavernas. As is my nature I headed away from the music, toward the sans culottes (and everything else) part of the beach.
I’d been coming to Mykonos for decades, which meant I knew most of the regulars. On this beach I was sure to know someone and vice versa. I glanced around but didn’t see anyone I knew. Still, I wasn’t about to take off my clothes in such a public spot. We found our patch of open sand and put down our towels, but kept on our suits.
“Jeffrey, this is a nude beach, take off your bathing suit.”
I looked over at a couple on the towel nearest to us and there lay two longtime friends of mine from Germany. Then more German friends from other nearby towels yelled out similar sorts of greetings. I hadn’t noticed any of them; it was as if they were invisible.
I said, “Sorry folks, I want to be recognized.” We all had a laugh and went about our business of expediting the aging process.
I don’t know how other writers are when they get to a beach, but when I’m in the midst of writing a book (I can hear the cursing now from my colleagues, “Beach! Who has time for the BEACH?”), if I lie in the sun my mind is always running to ideas. That’s why I keep a notebook handy to jot down those brilliant thoughts that more often than not later prove to be evidence of sunstroke. [Luckily, enough thoughts survived that day to turn into TARGET: TINOS, my new book published June 5th by Poisoned Pen Press that The New York Times described as “another of Jeffrey Siger’s thoughtful police procedurals,” Publishers Weekly in a starred review called “superb…a winner,” Library Journal called “Fast-paced, this thriller also serves as a kind of modern travelog and mini-history lesson on Greece rolled into one…interesting and highly entertaining;” Kirkus Reviews described as “A crisp style with a complex portrait of contemporary Greece to bolster another solid whodunit;” and Booklist wrote “throbs with the pulse of Greek culture…engaging series.”]
There I was stretched out on the sand doing my thing—jumping up to grab my notebook when I had a thought to scribble and back down again to baking until the next idea hit. After about an hour of this my very patient and understanding girlfriend decided to take off for a swim. She didn’t even bother to ask if I wanted to come along because she knew my notebook wasn’t waterproof. Besides, without a wetsuit there was no way I’d be going in the water this early in the season.
But I did lean on my elbow to keep an eye on her because she liked to swim fairly far out from shore. At one point I realized I was wearing sunglasses and that some of the folks in my line of vision might be thinking I was staring at their bodies, a definite no-no on a nude beach. Especially if you’re not sans suit. So, I took off my glasses for all to see my naked eyes.
A moment later a woman appeared in my peripheral vision. I turned to see who she was. No, it wasn’t Ursula Andress coming out of the water in Doctor No, but she did get my attention. Especially when she walked right up and stood in front of me (au naturel).
“Excuse me,” she said.
Her English had a decided German accent so for some unfathomable reason I responded with practically the full extent of my German vocabulary. “Ja?”
Big mistake, for she abandoned her English and was off and running in her native tongue, leaving me to “Ich verstehe Sie nicht, I don’t understand.”
My neighbor on the nearby towel started to laugh, “Jeffrey, she wants an autograph,” and then said something in German to the woman, who immediately smiled, knelt down (on my girlfriend’s towel), and handed me a copy of the German-language version of Murder in Mykonos, titled Opfergaben in German.
I’m at a loss as to how I never noticed my book in her hands before that moment.
I took the book and reached for my pen. It was the very first copy of Opfergaben I’d ever autographed for a fan in person, and the very first of any book I’d ever autographed for a naked fan. This was a significant moment, so I wanted to take my time composing my thoughts. She kept smiling and I, being raised as a gentleman, kept smiling back of course.
Suddenly, a new vision appeared in my sight. My girlfriend had decided to come out of the water and return to her towel.
My friend on the next towel—who has a hell of a sense of humor—said, “Shall I make the introductions?”
I said, “Not necessary.”
I turned to my girlfriend and said, “Can you believe that this lovely woman just came over here to ask me to autograph her copy of Opfergaben? What an honor this is for me. I’m world famous!”
My girlfriend did not share my enthusiasm. “She’s on my towel.”
Ahh, how we must suffer for our craft, at times enduring misunderstandings by those we love the most. Then again, I suppose I should be grateful that at my “made it moment” I had, as did ancient Roman Conquerors returning to grand praise from triumphs abroad, one whispering in my ear the warning, “All glory is fleeting.”
And, yes, I’m still groveling before gf.
TARGET TINOS, the fourth novel in Jeff Siger’s Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, was called “superb…a winner” by Publishers Weekly in a starred review, following up on his internationally best-selling Murder in Mykonos, Assassins of Athens, and Prey on Patmos: An Aegean Prophecy. Born in Pittsburgh, Jeffrey practiced law at a major Wall Street law firm and established his own New York City law firm before giving it all up to live and write on the island of Mykonos. Jeffrey blogs Saturdays on Murder is Everywhere, and his website is www.jeffreysiger.com.