Category Archives: The Orphanmaster

The Best Vacation

I came back from Arizona to find that The Orphanmaster had appeared on a Top Holiday Reads 2016 shortlist on line by Co-operative Travel in the UK. The 18 authors included were asked to describe their favorite vacation in 140 characters. What’s funny is I had been spending mine, along with hiking and sunbathing,

Dead Mans Pass.JPG

reading historical fiction, which I cite as the finest kind of holiday in my quote. You can find all the books and writers here.


Filed under Culture, Fiction, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

Kirkus Reviews Savage Girl

Kirkus Reviews Savage Girl (pub. Feb. 15, 2014):

A formal, measured tempo only heightens the tension in Zimmerman’s second historical fiction–cum-thriller (The Orphanmaster, 2012), this one set in the 1870s and concerning a serial killer whose rampage ranges from a rough mining community in Nevada to upper-class Manhattan.

The novel opens in 1876 with narrator Hugo Delegate, Harvard-educated scion of one of New York’s wealthiest and most socially connected families, locked up for the gruesome murder of another New York dandy. He willingly claims his guilt—though that guilt is far from certain—but his expensive lawyers demand he tell them the true story from the beginning. Hugo starts with his family’s visit to Virginia City, Nev., home of his father Freddy’s silver mine. Soon, Hugo’s parents, eccentric liberals interested in the nurture/nature debate raised by Darwin, are eager to adopt a young girl they have discovered in a Virginia City freak show, the owner of which claims she was raised by wolves. Of unknown origins, she speaks Comanche as well as a smattering of English, and her performance involves a set of mechanical claws and a swimming tank. The girl, whose name turns out to be Bronwyn, travels on the Delegates’ private train to New York, where the Delegates plan to put one over on their friends My Fair Lady–style by having her debut as a fashionable young lady. But one grisly murder after another seems to follow in Bronwyn’s wake, the victim always a man who has shown his attraction to Bronwyn’s considerable charms. Is Bronwyn, with her animallike instincts, the killer? Or is it Hugo, with his past mental problems, his capacity to black out and his love for Bronwyn that borders on jealous insanity? Neither Hugo nor the reader is sure right up to the satisfying if melodramatic end.

Zimmerman’s dark comedy of manners is an obvious homage to Edith Wharton, a rip-roaring murder mystery more Robert Louis Stevenson than Conan Doyle and a wonderfully detailed portrait of the political, economic and philosophical issues driving post–Civil War America.


Filed under Culture, Fiction, History, Jean Zimmerman, Publishing, Savage Girl, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

Stop by My Author Page and Say Hi

My Facebook author page has a brand new cover – it quotes Library Journal saying that Savage Girl is “A fanciful and occasionally surreal take on Gilded Age New York.”

And hey, I just reached 100 likes, a figure I’m a little proud of. But I’d like more likes, more! And more visitors. Come see reviews and interviews as they come in, as well as offers for galley giveaways. Savage Girl doesn’t hit stores until March 6 but there’s a lot going on before then.

I’m always trying to put up something fresh, not only about my books (Savage Girl, The Orphanmaster, Love Fiercely and others) but about writing, reading, and living in such a way as to make those things possible. How do you water an idea to make a book come up? Always trying to figure that out.


Something else: please post on my page! I would love to hear what you’re thinking about.


Filed under Culture, Fiction, Jean Zimmerman, Love, Fiercely, Poetry, Publishing, Savage Girl, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

Savage Girl Review in Library Journal

Woo hoo! This just in, from Library Journal, its Feb. 1 issue:

Wealthy socialite Hugo Delegate and his family rescue the “Savage Girl” from a carnival sideshow and bring her back to their mansion in 1870s New York. Reportedly captured as a child and raised by a Comanche tribe, she instantly captivates Hugo with her boldness and energy. The Delegates undergo a campaign to socialize Savage Girl with limited success. Meanwhile, violence follows this young woman across the country, as men she flirts with end up mutilated and dead. In this follow-up to her acclaimed debut, The Orphanmaster, Zimmerman offers a fanciful and occasionally surreal take on a Gilded Age New York that is reminiscent of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist or even Edgar Allan Poe. Most of the novel is narrated by Hugo recounting events in an extended flashback, which feels jarring and out of place. More successful are the action-packed final chapters. VERDICT This is best for fans of Zimmerman’s first novel and readers who like their historical novels tinged with darkness.

Savage Girl cover

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Filed under Culture, Fiction, Jean Zimmerman, Publishing, Savage Girl, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

A Grimm Tale

Recently I checked out my reader reviews for The Orphanmaster – not always a good thing for a writer to do, but Amazon makes it so easy – and after the wonderful, wonderful, wonderfuls I was stopped short by this extremely erudite criticism: Yick. One of my readers actually had to put the book down and erase it from her e-reader, she was so offended by the novel’s instances of violence and depravity.

Alright, you got me. Loving, brave Blandine and valiant, dashing Drummond and adorable little Sabine aren’t the only beings in the story. There are bogeymen lurking in the New Amsterdam shadows, crouching in the forest, maybe even hiding somewhere in your house, perhaps inside the groot kamer itself.

O-Master P-Back Cover

No one in The Orphanmaster is entirely safe. It’s our job (through the actions of the characters we adopt as our totems) to crush those towering monsters and let the light shine in for another day. There’s a crack in everything, wrote Leonard Cohen, That’s how the light gets in.

Why do some writers, like me, want to show the monsters, expose them, and crush them? Why are some people drawn to a TV gorefest like The Walking Dead? I know I am. Monsters are with us at the core of our psyches. A lot of viewers are eating up the NBC prime time show Grimm, which puts a procedural spin on nailing fairy-tale creatures.


It’s actually amazing that we manage to find anything remotely more interesting to tell stories about.

Today is the anniversary of the first publication of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. This literary landmark, originally titled Children’s and Household Tales, first appeared in Germany on December 20th, 1812 – just in time for Christmas shoppers, right?


Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were not the first to publish fairy tales, but their versions enshrined the “folk” aspect of the material – the down and dirty part, the cruelty, the yick factor. The brothers went out to the countryside and collected folk tales from peasants, unsanitized, terrifying and utterly compelling.


Many of the details in the original versions of the stories were more ghastly than those we recognize from Disney – for one minor example, in the Grimms’ Cinderella, two heavenly doves help the heroine get dressed for the big ball in a gold dress and slippers – then fly down to peck out the eyeballs of the evil stepsisters.


Yick. But brilliant. The tales have found their way into 160 languages in the last 200 years. A recent translation of 50 of them by children’s writer Philip Pullman manages to be as elegant as it is gory. As far as I know, there is no witika in Grimm, no towering, green-skinned, long-fanged, cannabilistic spirit of the woods such as the being that torments 1663 Manhattan in The Orphanmaster.


Yick. Yum.


Filed under Art, Culture, Fiction, Film, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, Publishing, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

Of Hand Muffs and Weather Masks

Wenceslas Hollar, the finest etcher and printmaker of the seventeenth century, had a thing about fur hand muffs. He had nearly 3,000 prints to his credit, having fled war-torn central Europe for England in 1636 under the patronage of the Earl of Arundel.

sun expelling mask

The extremely fashionable London lady in Hollar’s “Winter” Dress from 1643-44, in the collection of the British Museum, sports a voluptuous muff and is draped in furs besides, but perhaps the most curious thing about her is her facial accoutrement. Beneath the image runs the legend:

The cold, not cruelty makes her wear

In Winter, furs and Wild beasts hair

For a smoother skin at night,

Embrace her with more delight.

She wears what was called a sun-expelling mask, intended to protect her “smoother skin” from the elements.

In America, Dutch settler Adriaen Van der Donck deemed the lustrous coat of the black bear “proper for muffs.”

Fox or mink would do as well.

Another sun expelling mask.

sun expelling 2

In The Orphanmaster, Blandine and Drummond stand on the New Bridge overlooking the East River one frosty morning, each of them with their hands shoved into their muffs – fashionable men made them part of their wardrobes just as women did.

Another woman by Hollar, without mask, looks as though she is wearing her overwarm muff inside.

another hollar muff

Hollar was so infatuated with fur hand muffs that he frequently made them the sleek stars of his work, leaving human subjects out in the cold. These are just a few. The University of Toronto has more in an in-depth Hollar digital collection.

hollar muff

Wouldn’t you like to stick your cold hands in one of these?

hollar muffs 1

Piles of luxurious fur.

hollar muffs 2

Hollar was in London during the Great Fire of 1666. His scenes of the city after the conflagration are amazing. His skills were all the more incredible given an infirmity — Hollar was almost blind in one eye. You feel in these images though that as important to him was his sense of touch.


Filed under Art, Culture, Fashion, Fiction, History, Jean Zimmerman, Publishing, The Orphanmaster

Hudson River Haunts and Hustlings

For my whole life I’ve lived up and down the Hudson River, in Hastings, in Ulster Park, in Ossining. New York City crouches on its shoreline, and I lived there for twenty years. The Hudson happens to be my favorite river in the world – although to be precise it is an estuary.

I’ve written about its history, in both nonfiction and fiction — about the rubble-stone house of Margaret Hardenbroeck, in Yonkers, about Blandine berry-picking on a Manhattan bluff, and other people whose lives I placed against this magical backdrop. But I haven’t just told stories about a place. I’ve lived it.

I was thinking about some of the things I’ve actually done along the Hudson’s reaches. What helped me in my imaginings. How the Hudson Valley has informed my life.

I’ve taken a canoe out through ancient marshes at the river’s edge. Had picnics along its shores. Dined in fine restaurants. Rode a bike. Collected beach glass.


Kissed. Thrown sticks for a swimming dog. Gone swimming myself. Taken the train, that glorious route down the river’s eastern flank. Snoozed on that train and missed my stop.

Watched fisherman pull out catfish. Careened along the Henry Hudson Parkway above the river in a series of second-hand cars. Visited a yacht house in winter, warmed by a wood stove. Hitched a ride on a tugboat.


Walked the George Washington Bridge–it sways terrifically. Learned to hula hoop.

Peter hula

Heard blasting rock and roll concerts on ancient piers. Wandered a factory ruin from the nineteenth century. Did I mention throwing a stick for the best cattle dog in America?


Saw fireworks explode up from every little Catskills town down the river’s length one Fourth of July. We sat on an escarpment far, far above the river coursing below.

As an adolescent, I read classic books in a library overlooking the water.


Later, bought paperbacks at library sales. Talked about my own books in library all-purpose rooms.

Watched my three-year-old get gleefully wet under a sprinkler at a city park in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Devoured garlicky Dominican mofungo at a lunch counter a block from the water in Sleepy Hollow.

Hiked the Breakneck Ridge Trail, which rises 1,250 feet in a three-quarter mile stretch and hovers over the river as it winds. Experienced vertigo and rapture at one and the same time.


Admired thousands of sunsets.

Praised the mighty Palisades. Daydreamed. Considered the water’s surface, olive green, deep black, cobalt, covered in crashed-together ice floes. Seen eagles ride the ice floes (an untruth – I’ve always wanted to, it’s in my bucket, but I never have managed it).


Admired art on walls with river views. Experienced the unicorn tapestries, in awe. Taught children to make art. Touched cattails. Bought hanging plants from Garden Club ladies. Watched my teenager kill it in soccer games on a field watched over by the Palisades. Stood on the porch of Washington Irving’s stucco cottage, Sunnyside, imagining the 1840s river the way he must have seen it, appalled when the railroad went through.

sunnyside_and_hudson-300x225Skipped stones, clumsily. Never could master that. Threw a stick for a dog. Considered the white-tailed deer swimming across to New Jersey – diaries describe the phenomenon in the seventeenth century. A long time back, but a drop in the bucket for the old, bountiful Hudson.

What have you done along the Hudson–or your own personal favorite river? Leave a comment, will you?


Filed under Art, Cooking, Culture, Dogs, Fiction, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Music, Nature, Publishing, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

The Spirit of Sinterklass

The Orphanmaster offers a glimpse into Christmas on Manhattan,1660s-style. Or, since the preponderance of colonists hail from the Netherlands, a glimpse into Sinterklass, the Dutch festival of St. Nicholas, which arrives on December 6th. Because we’re talking about The Orphanmaster, everything in this particular holiday season is not all sugar cookies.

Here is a passage from the novel:

Sinterklass—Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas—came to New Amsterdam in early December, arriving with a ship that sailed all the way from Patria laden with toys and other gifts. Children laid out their shoes on the hearth the night of December 5th. The next morning, they would find them filled with nuts, sweets and, for a fortunate few, gold coins.

Sinterklass himself rode slowly down the Broad Way and along Pearl Street on a stolid white mare, fairly gleaming in his long, draping robe, pearly beard and tall red bishop’s hat and mitre, brandishing a golden crosier with a curled top. He had apples for everyone, hard candy, frosted nuts.

Sint op het paard

But these treats were only a precursor to the grand feast celebrated the following day, December sixth, when wealthier colonists served roast goose and potatoes and kool slaw drenched in vinegar and melted butter. Sinterklass was the patron saint of children, doling out gifts to the well-behaved, though everyone got their fair share regardless of how naughty they had been.

Each child knew the story of the three little orphans during a terrible famine, how a malicious butcher lured them into his house, slaughtered and carved them up, then placed their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Saint Nicholas resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers, bringing the orphans magically back alive through the power of faith.

The spirit of the season ruled New Amsterdam between the Feast of Sinterklass on the sixth and Kerstydt, Christmas, on the twenty-fifth. Director general Peter Stuyvesant, who made clear his disgust with any drunken carousing during the holidays, yet made his Great House ablaze with candles and invited colonists in to dance in the entry hall.

But the mood this year was on the whole muted. Murder dampens the spirit…


Filed under Cooking, Culture, Fashion, Fiction, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, The Orphanmaster, Writing

Thank You for Reading

I am thankful.

This is a post about this blog.

At Thanksgiving, in a lot of families, a blessing is performed before the turkey comes on in its golden, crispy glory. The blessing consists of going around the table with every guest sharing some thing they are especially grateful for. On the occasions I’ve taken part in this ritual, I’ve sometimes had to squelch the urge to say something slightly comical or snarky. I don’t know why, perhaps because the whole thing seemed so self serious. Real thanks seem quieter, more internal, perhaps.

Now, with a few days before us until we’ll be stuffed with stuffing, with a clear head, I want to be serious.

I am grateful, deeply grateful, to those of you who read this blog.

When people ask what my site is all about, I say different things. It’s called Blog Cabin, and it’s about living in a circa 1800 home in a thoroughly modern world, and the time travel that allows for. Sometimes I call it a personal magazine. A diary. A cultural commentary. It’s about the past as a living, breathing entity. All about history and art and nature and literature… An author blog, as I have one novel about to come out and one just in the rearview.

What it really is, is playtime. Writing books, of course, is hard work. (If you’re doing it right.) Writing this blog has given me a chance to dabble in the things that absorb me in my book writing life, but on a more finite scale, with pleasure at the foremost – yes, history and art and nature and literature and… a pogo stick championship?


It was hot July and the contestants soared. You could taste the adrenaline.

Writing for you has given me a reason to go on adventures that you might not take, even if you had the chance. Or perhaps you would, like my search for an infant saguaro cactus at a botanical garden in Scottsdale, Arizona, with a beaming guide, but you couldn’t get there that day.


I’ve taken myself to a Victorian waltz class and tea.


To a Broadway disco-play, and to a euphoria-inducing Brahms recital. And to a dramatic dance performance en plein air, at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center.


I’ve plumbed the depths of the 20-something psyche, because I have a young adult close to my heart. Instagramming is their life.


They’re fascinating animals, as are husbands, and mine hitchhikes along with me from time to time.

As are dogs. Mine is inscrutable, but adds flavor to the mix.


And writers.  I’ve loved writing about Gertrude Stein.


I’ve shared many favorite recipes, like the one for Marcella Hazan’s braised pork in milk.

Observed motorcycle pirates on the loose in NYC. With some history about pirates intertwined, of course.


A rowdy pig festival in upstate New York.


Explored a local farm on an enchanted evening, just as dusk fell.


Learned about the power of graffiti at the late, great 5Pointz. Got my leg cast tagged there, too.


And witnessed the unlikely beauties of slime mold in a pristine nature preserve.


It’s been my pleasure to gather these treasures and offer them to you, and your great generosity has been receiving them from me. So thank you. I’m looking forward to many more adventures.


Filed under Art, Cooking, Culture, Dance, Dogs, Fashion, Fiction, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Music, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Publishing, Savage Girl, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

Dam It All

Friends in the audience, new and old. We met together upstairs at The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, New York.

golden notebook

It was a warm autumn day outside, and everything had that sun-burnished appearance. In the middle was a sign that beckoned: come inside, come inside, come inside.

store sign

Afterwards I wondered just what it was that made me so fascinated by beavers that I hold forth about them in every talk I give about The Orphanmaster.


True, not enough has been said about beaver.

New York was built on the foundation of the shaggy, rotund rodent with the frying pan tail.

The animal was easily trapped by Native Americans in their winter dens. The pelts were then traded with Europeans for copper, guns, rum, which was called “English milk.”

Cartographers dressed up their work with the animals.

Fur_Trade map

Everyone wanted to know where the beavers were. In the 1600s, traders sent hundreds of thousands of pelts back to Europe. The sole reason for this huge trade? Beaver hats.

Beaver felt

Not made from the fur proper, but from felt made from the fur, an extraordinarily complex process that involved a heavy dose of mercury, the chemical that made the Mad Hatter mad.


The felt was waterproof in an era before umbrellas. It was glossy, sturdy. The beaver – so the beaver hat was called – was the essential accoutrement for men and women of Europe. Everyone who could afford one had one, or two, or three. Beavers were bequeathed in wills.

painting of hats

In The Orphanmaster, everyone would have worn a beaver, even the women. All kinds of styles were available. Blandine, the protagonist of the story, is bent on getting rich buying and selling beaver pelts to Europe, venturing out into the woods to make her trades with Indian trappers.

Later, my friend Lloyd led us on a beaver hunt. Not to capture the animals but to see their impressive lodges.

Lloyd at his pond

Down the hill from his house was a magical if uneven path.

magic if uneven

Far in the distance, across the pond, we could glimpse the rodents’ handiwork. More sun-burnishing.

distant lodge

A ways down the road,  the ruins of an ancient lumber mill.


So much history of this area, the Catskill region of upstate New York, is a stumbleupon away. Like the antique bottles Lloyd’s daughter Alice excavates from the woods behind their house. Also in those woods, black bears rumble around, tearing open rotted logs to get at the creepy crawlers within.

old bottles

We saw one more lodge at Yankeetown Pond — to the right, below. David Bowie owns the mountain above. Probably has befriended a few of the beavers over the years. Like to come up for a drink? I’m Bowie.


The finest specimen of the afternoon stood just to the side of the water, a gnawed tree that had clearly been someone’s snack.

beaver post

The beaver population was hunted out in the seventeenth century in these parts and is only just coming back today in earnest. They found one at the Bronx Zoo a few years back. No one could understand where it came from. Its name, they decided, was not Ernest, but Jose.


Filed under Culture, Fiction, History, Home, Nature, Photography, Publishing, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

The Golden Notebook in Golden Fall

Tomorrow will be a perfect day to take in the leaves upstate as they color up. If so much natural beauty wears thin and if you happen to be near Woodstock, New York, consider coming to The Golden Notebook for my 2:00 talk on The Orphanmaster. Signing copies, too. I know there are excellent lattes down the street and I’m pretty sure the nice people in the store will allow you to nurse one in in a  paper cup while you sit back and enjoy my slide show — lots of nuggets about the way people, places and things looked in 1660s Manhattan. The raging beaver trade. The fashion of men in red-heeled pumps. What was it actually like, anyway? New York before it became New York. Imagine.


Please do come. I’ll be up on the second floor.


Filed under Art, Culture, Fashion, Fiction, History, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, Publishing, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

Blurbs for The Asylum

Blue Rider Press has come out with a book trailer featuring fashion insider Simon Doonan talking about getting blurbs for his his forthcoming book The Asylum.

the asylum

There is actually a series of very brief videos, including the blurb one but also one about designer Thom Browne and one about Michael Kors and one featuring “career advice for young people,” among others. An original approach to promoting a book through a video, well suited to such an original guy.


The one about blurbs, “those wonderful little comments on the back of the book,” is pretty honest and funny enough, and hits home as I am wading into the waters of asking people to read and comment upon Savage Girl. Publication isn’t until March 2014, but quotes are needed long before that to be printed on the book jacket. And publishing pros say they are critical to getting a book noticed.

Savage Girl cover 3

Doonan says that when he is asking for blurbs “I am in a permanent pretzel of cringing, shame and self loathing.” Then he reels off some of the glowing comments he got from Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang and others.  “Don’t even think about becoming an author,” he warns, “unless you’re prepared to go through the torture, the torment, the challenges of getting some blurbs.” The Asylum: A collage of couture reminiscences…and hysteria is out Sept. 3.

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Filed under Culture, Fashion, Fiction, History, Jean Zimmerman, Publishing, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

Captive Audience

Millbrook, New York is a quiet town, a town of well-behaved dogs on leashes and potted flowers.

box of flowers

A town of rice pudding with cinnamon at a cute bakery called Babette’s Kitchen.

rice pudding

The last notable murder in Millbrook took place a century ago – a nanny named Sarah Brymer was strangled when her employers, of the Barnes Compton clan, left their estate for a New York City visit during a January snowstorm. The coachman, Frank Schermerhorn, did it – though he first tried to pin the blame on the Japanese butler – then cut his own throat with a straight razor when he was apprehended.

That was a long time back and everybody’s forgotten about it.

So it was interesting to be invited to Millbrook’s warm and comfortable Merritt Bookstore for a discussion/book signing today where attendees could “discover the art of mystery.” I was joined by another novelist, Koethi Zan, whose book The Never List was published earlier this month.


Koethi is a former entertainment industry lawyer who makes her debut with this riveting book. She knows everything there is to know on the subject of girls and women taken captive by craven men, then tortured and imprisoned for years. She is also an authority on the subject of the women who eventually escape these men. And she has worked this knowledge into a thriller which has received strong acclaim from people like Jeffery Deaver and Tess Gerritsen.

It was great to meet Koethi.

Jean and Koethe

She brought her husband, Stephen Metcalf, a critic-at-large at Slate who has a nonfiction book on the 1980s in the works. I brought Gil – yes, Gil Reavill, whose speciality is also crime and whose recent book is Mafia Summit.

All the great minds were present. The only thing lacking was an audience.

It happens sometimes. When you make appearances as an author, you don’t know whether to expect 120 people or three. When it’s three, you still have to be mentally present, be on your game, because these wonderful people made the effort to come out and see you, after all. Amazing!

In this case, nada. So, with two of the book store’s staff, we sat around in the cozy garrett upstairs and had a very stimulating talk about writing books.

We talked about creating a bad guy. How do you get inside his head? Koethi said that for The Never List it was more about her characters trying to ascertain how her bad guy ticked. For me, with The Orphanmaster, I said it was partly about figuring out what he would think and do that was completely the opposite of what I would think and do.

How do you discipline yourself when you don’t feel like working? Five hundred words a day, said Koethi. That is my minimum.

We talked about fact-based prose. About research. (One of my favorite subjects.) I told them about how I had based my protagonist in The Orphanmaster on a real person I had written about for an earlier work, The Women of the House, and how I had all my research practically done when I started my novel. Stephen talked about the book he is working on, about the plenitude of letters regarding the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, one of his central figures. Koethi, as I said, has absorbed everything on captive females.

She told us about some of the recent high-profile cases, and said that while it seems some of these young women are coming back to a semblance of mental health it’s not always what it seems.

We talked about captivity narratives, about the classic John Wayne film The Searchers, about an article that has recently been published in The New York Review of Books on the subject, about Ride the Wind, a historical novel based on the Cynthia Parker story. The subject interests me historically because in Savage Girl, the central figure spends some time with the Plains Indians.

A lot to chew on. All of this and a full cheese platter too.

We meandered home on the back roads, through soccer fields and corn fields and gently curving horse meadows.


There was only one exception to the bucolic charm of the open road: the ruin of an abandoned complex that was Wingdale, a mental hospital which operated upstate from 1924-1994 and is said to be haunted by ghosts. With its crumbling brick and busted windows, it looks like the perfect set for a horror film.

No visitors allowed.


There’s always something behind the happy façade.


Filed under Culture, Fiction, History, Jean Zimmerman, Savage Girl, The Orphanmaster, Writers, Writing

Il Rituale dei Bambini Perduti

Italy has weighed in.


My Italian publisher’s visual interpretation of the drama of The Orphanmaster is not perhaps what I would have expected. It’s baroque. It’s scary.

It’s amazing to think of people sitting down with a copy of Il Rituale dei Bambini Perduti, so far from the island of Manhattan in 1664.

If you can read the language, check out a book blog.


Filed under Culture, Fiction, Jean Zimmerman, Publishing, The Orphanmaster, Writing

Le Maitre des Orphelins in Bookstores

I opened a plain brown packing box and saw something beautiful.

It is so exciting to see The Orphanmaster translated into French, published by the publishing house 10/14.

French O-Master Cover

It’s a great company that has introduced such English-speaking authors as Khaled Hosseini, Haruki Murakami, Bret Easton Ellis, Jim Harrison and Colum McCann, not forgetting Nobel laureates such as Toni Morrison. The house has always had a particular reputation for its detective literature.

And yes, this is the second time I’ve announced a French edition – it came out already as a book club offering from France Loisirs. There’s also De Weeskinderen, from Holland. And I’m eagerly awaiting the Hungarian version.

Hungarian Cover- Elhagyatva copy

And the Italian and the Taiwanese.

Holding it in your hand, the 10/18 edition is the chunkiest version so far – fully 500 pages!

Very fulfilling to think of Blandine and Drummond making their way around the world.


Filed under Fiction, Jean Zimmerman, Publishing, The Orphanmaster