If you're a regular here at Jen's Book Thoughts, you know that Alafair Burke is one of my favorite crime fiction writers. She's also transitioned in settings between her first series set in Portland, Oregon, to her second series set in New York City, New York. She took some time out to talk with us today about some of the unique elements of New York City:
Hi Jen. Thanks for inviting me to say a few words about place as character. I recently blogged on Murderati about the importance, for me at least, of truly knowing the places I write about. Part of the reason I called my new book 212 was because I thought I had succeeded in highlighting Manhattan as a main character in the Ellie Hatcher series.
One of the ways I try to bring Manhattan to life on the page is to reference actual neighborhoods, landmarks, and businesses. The gal who grabs lunch from the Wafels and Dinges food truck is just not the same woman – or at least not in the same mood – as one who opts for Il Mulino.
Here are some of the spots I’ve mentioned in the Ellie books:
Gotham Bar & Grill. High end call girl Stacy Schecter arranges a dangerous date at this Alfred Portale restaurant, even though it’s “more upscale than the dives she frequented with friends.” Look for real bartenders Jill and Mark.
Molly’s. Ellie chows down while her abstemious partner, J.J. Rogan, picks at his vegetable sandwich, at this “Irish pub two blocks from the precinct with sawdust floors and arguably the best burgers in Manhattan.”
Otto. Ellie and ADA Max Donovan call this Mario Batali wine bar in Greenwich Village their “place.” The actual head bartender, Dennis, makes a cameo, and I can frequently be found there with an open laptop.
Ouest. Rogan follows mogul Sam Sparks to this Upper West Side treat. Ellie’s take? “A restaurant Rogan knew, and she didn’t. Definitely expensive.”
Plug Uglies. This bar is an after-shift precinct standby and one of the few spots in Manhattan where Elllie’s brother, Jess, can afford to pick up the tab.
Royalton Hotel. Living a risky double life, real estate broker Katie Battle “bypassed the hotel lobby’s suede sofas, leather-covered walls, and steel tables and headed directly for the wood-paneled Bar 44.”
Sala 19. Ellie and Max Donovan eat tapas on their first date. As Ellie notes, "I love anything that involves getting to eat seven different kinds of food in a single sitting." (Incidentally, my husband and I were married at Sala’s other location on Bowery.)
Tenjune. Thanks to her connection with the bouncer, victim Rachel Peck breezes past the velvet rope to enjoy her last night out at this meatpacking district club, frequently mentioned in celebrity tabloids.
Mesa Grill - The bad guy finds Rachel Peck while she is bartending at this Bobby Flay standard.
Johnny's Bar. This hole in the wall is the favored hangout for Ellie and Jess. "Johnny's Bar on Greenwich Avenue is roughly the size of a typical suburban closet -- the walk-in kind with enough room to accommodate the typical suburban wardrobe. In Greenwich Village, however, people are not typical, and Johnny's Bar has just the right dimensions for a kick ass watering hole. Ellie wasn't sure how she even knew the bar's name. The sign out front read 'Bar.'"
The upside to all this, of course, is that I can justify my adventurous NYC eating habits as research!
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