Of Cover Girls, Jazz, and A Game of Lies
by Rebecca Cantrell
Thank you, Hilary, for loaning me your spot today to celebrate today’s paperback release of “A Game of Lies,” complete with a bright, shiny new cover. Yup, that it’s over there. For the first time, the books have a recognizable face on them. But who is that mysterious woman on upper half? Is it Hannah Vogel herself? Over at “My Book, the Movie” I cast Hannah Vogel as Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, and Carice Van Houten (if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing three times!).
The new cover is gorgeous, but it never occurred to me that I’d ever find out the secret identity of this latest Hannah Vogel, until…
Out of the blue in twitter, I received this message “@rebeccacantrell I’m the girl on the cover of Game of Lies: lovely to be associated with you. Does that make me Hannah Vogel?”
A little bit of tweeting back and forth later, I’d discovered that the cover model for “A Game of Lies” is known in real life as Boo Paterson. Like Hannah, she was a journalist. Like Hannah, she collects 1930s memorabilia (Hannah bought it new, Boo not so much). And, like Hannah, Boo has some pretty amazing stories to tell.
To celebrate the new release of “A Game of Lies” with its gorgeous new cover, I’d thought we’d spend some time talking to the cover girl herself.
Thanks for joining us today, Boo! First, I’m dying to know how you ended up in a gorgeous 1930s dress and necklace, on a lovely Art Deco chair, looking so very much like Hannah Vogel right when she steps into the Monte Carlo casino?
I’m friends with the great fine-art photographer Laurence Winram and we occasionally dream up photos we’d like to create using the vintage clothes I collect: everything from portraits to weird and fantastical stunts.
In this case, it was actually a 40s film noir scene we were faking; the result of which has ended up as the cover of Simon Tolkien’s new book, Sombre Eclat, funnily enough.
At the end of the shoot – which was done in my Georgian flat in Edinburgh – I suggested we do a quick photo with my favourite white 1930s dress, sitting in one of my Deco easy chairs: so the picture on “A Game of Lies” is really the result of an afterthought.
I’m definitely glad you had that afterthought! Like Hannah, your life has been shaped by the World War II era. Why was this time period a childhood obsession?
Not so much an obsession, as a necessity, really. My dad was a very intimidating alcoholic, prone to outbursts of rage, which is incredibly frightening for a child.
I found that the only safe subject I could talk to him about without him shouting at me was the Holocaust, as it was his great interest. His bookcases were crammed with tomes about the war and he used to encourage me to read them, even whilst very young. One of my bedtime stories was “The Wooden Horse” and, aged eight, I had already read – and been horrified by – the post-war British propaganda book, “The Scourge of the Swastika,” complete with nauseating photos of Mengele’s experiments and the Allies clearing up bodies from Belsen-Birkenau.
|Photo by Lauren Winram|
Because of this, I grew up so absorbed by WWII I almost felt it was my duty to discuss the atrocities as an act of remembrance. This lead to the following conversation between my friend and I a couple of years ago:
Me: “I love the story of the Scottish Enlightenment – it’s my favourite subject.”
Friend: “Your second-favourite subject.”
Me: “What’s my favourite subject?”
When I was about 25, I was staying overnight with my parents and my dad was so horrible to me that I finally confronted him over the fact that he had never once said he was proud of me. The next day, outside my room, was the gift of a book entitled: “Never Again – The True History of the Holocaust.”
Because, apparently, nothing says ‘I’m sorry’ like the mass murder of millions.
Ouch, that sounds really difficult. How about we move on to something more recent, and hopefully less painful. The first book in the Hannah Vogel series deals with the cabaret and jazz nightclubs of 1920s Berlin. I think you might have spent more time there than Hannah. What is your attraction to that world and music?
As well as being a journalist, I’m also a music manager and I lived on the jazz scene in New York for two years, not long after the ‘Hannah’ picture was taken. I have a particular love for Manhattan’s speakeasies; blank doors of boarded up shops and hidden alleyways leading to an alternate world of old-time luxury, hot jazz, gin bennets and hushed conversations.
That scene is secret and feels slightly forbidden – one feels one can hide from the cares of the day amongst the artists, musicians and hedonists that populate it.
Billy Strayhorn’s jazz classic, Lush Life, sums up the attraction for me:
|Photo by Laurence Winram|
I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come-what-may places
Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life
From jazz and cocktails
There is nothing like it – ‘relaxing on the axis of the wheel of life’ in that easy-going late-night bohemian culture. But if you go all the way through that song, you realise it’s really about alcoholism, despair, regret and dread, which I can also relate a lot to.
You’re even busier as a writer than a model. What’s your latest writing project?
I’ve just finished writing “Blue Notes From New York,” which is a narrative non-fiction book about a time when I was so poor that I was forced to work undercover for a professional gambler in a squalid and dangerous underworld, where I had to keep my identity secret.
I then made one last gamble by withdrawing thousands of pounds on credit cards before escaping with my singer to New York, where we experienced the starry sophistication of Manhattan’s nights and the crushing disappointments and dark reality of life outside the spotlight.
The book – which is threaded through with the lyrics of classic Tin Pan Alley songs – pulls back the curtain on the world’s greatest jazz clubs and exposes the players and liars on and off-stage in a city steeped in music.
Though I don’t shy away from grim realities, I think it’s ultimately a hopeful book about the gambles we all take in life – whether one’s metaphorical horse comes in or not.
That sounds fascinating! Would you mind giving us a sneak peek?
Certainly. Here’s an excerpt:
In the nine o’clock darkness, the hot wind rustles litter across a non-descript street as we search the building numbers, but the only one matching that which we have is a block of flats. An old Chinese man laughs and points to the battered grey door of a boarded up tailor’s and says: “Bussa! Bussa!”
He reaches past us to press a hidden buzzer half way down the wall.
The door opens and we grope our way through two sets of black velvet curtains into a long, dark, corridor bar with booths down one side, tea lights guttering on their zinc-topped tables.
As our eyes adjust to the lightlessness, a very glamorous redhead sashays out of the dark towards us.
“Hello, I’m Karla.”