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February 26, 2018

A Boston Book Club Invades Historic New York


Last fall, I was lucky enough to do an author talk and signing for the Club RED book club (short for “Read, Eat, Drink”) located just south of Boston. The minute I walked in, the leader of the group, Christine Powers, who exudes the relaxed authority and wicked wit of Tina Fey, gave me a huge bear hug. I knew right off that these were my people.

As an author of historical fiction, there’s nothing better than a lively book discussion over wine, and we had a ball. At the end of the evening, Christine announced that she was organizing a tour to New York City to visit of some of the locations mentioned in my books. I was touched and also slightly skeptical. How many members would sign up for a long haul to New York and back in one day? In January, no less.

Thirty-one, to be exact. On a bright Saturday morning, Christine sent me photos of the whole gang smiling and laughing from the road. Turns out that for Club RED, chartering a bus to New York City is no big deal: last year, 26 members of the group flew over to London to meet with their sister book club across the pond. Which I suppose makes a day trip to Manhattan a breeze.

First stop was the Octagon, the remaining structure of what used to be Blackwell’s Asylum and a crucial setting for my second book, THE ADDRESS. The place is now a condo, but Christine, of course, sweet-talked her way into the lobby, where they met one of the property’s sales associates who gave them a full history of the building and let them take photos on the circular stairway.

Then it was off to the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street, the basis for my character Daisy’s family apartment, followed by a detour to the Battery and the 9/11 Memorial. I met up with the gang at Grand Central Terminal, which is the setting of my upcoming book, THE MASTERPIECE. We visited the Whispering Gallery, the Campbell Apartment and the Main Concourse, where I pointed out the information booth as well as the small rectangle of black on the ceiling that shows just how filthy the terminal was before being renovated to its current glorious condition.

On the bus uptown, I answered questions about the books, the city and the writing process, and before we knew it we had arrived at Strawberry Fields to see the John Lennon memorial. A quick walk led us to the Dakota, the main setting for THE ADDRESS. Then something unbelievable occurred. As we gazed up at the building from across the street, a beautiful young woman who was the spitting image of my main character, Sara Smythe, appeared in one of the upper windows. I have lived in NYC for 30 years now and have never seen anyone in the windows of the place. Leave it to Club RED to conjure up a ghostly cameo.

Finally, we trotted off to the aptly named Dakota Bar just down the street for drinks and thanks all around. I sent them off with three dozen cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery for the ride home. But not quite done yet, Christine directed the bus driver to head east so they could stop by the former Barbizon Hotel for Women, the setting for my debut novel, THE DOLLHOUSE.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time alone, and the payoff of such a solo career is meeting book clubs like Club RED, whose members are enthusiastic beyond belief --- smart readers who want to learn more and enjoy every minute of their time together. I headed home with a huge smile on my face and a load of inspiration in my heart.


Photo #1: Club RED posing with the bus driver before heading to NYC
Photo #2: Club RED in the Octagon of what used to be Blackwell’s Asylum
Photo #3: Fiona Davis (center, in blue) with Club RED in Grand Central Terminal
Photo #4: Selfie with Christine Powers (l) and Fiona Davis (r)