Boston Based author, Clea Simon, has written mystery books for years centered on cats, but for her latest book “World Enough,” she revisits her own past. The music and arts critic drew inspiration for the book from years spent in Boston’s rock club scene, telling the story of a mystery taking place in the clubs. Simon joined WGBH's Henry Santoro for Henry in the Hub to talk about about “World Enough,” blasts from the past, and mixing reality with fiction.
Henry Santoro: Like me, Clea, you lived in the clubs back in the day. What prompted you to dust off those memories and dive into “World Enough?”
Clea Simon: Well, I think I've finally had enough distance from the club scene. I mean, "World Enough" sort of alternates between 1986, ‘87 and 20 years later when my protagonist is looking back on those days and revisiting them, and actually revisiting a central mystery that happened in the clubs in those days. And I think that I needed that much distance, as well.
Santoro: And connecting with some of the people that she connected with back in the early days.
Simon: Indeed. In fact, the book opens with a scene of her going out to see one of those old bands — like so many of us do — and they're no longer chasing fame and fortune, they’re now married and settled down and have day jobs. But they still play, they still love the music and, you know, the fans do, too.
Santoro: With all that said, did you change the names to protect the innocent?
Simon: Yes. One of the things that keeps coming up when people ask me about “World Enough” is am I writing about their band, or who are the real bands that I'm really writing about. And I have to stress, “World Enough” is fiction. All the incidents are true or probably true, but the bands themselves are fictionalized, as are most of the clubs, although I do refer to The Rat and The Channel and Jumping Jack Flash.
Santoro: You credit Kate Mattes, who used to own Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, with getting you into mystery writing. And as I said at the top, this is your 23rd book of which I would say what, 20 of them are probably mysteries, right?
Simon: Actually, if you don't mind me correcting you, this is my 23rd mystery. I had three nonfiction books before I started writing mysteries.
Santoro: There we go. That's a lot of mysteries. How was it that that Kate got you into this genre that you absolutely fell in love with?
Simon: Well, I always loved mysteries and that's how I got to know Kate, because Kate had Kate's Mystery Books up in North Cambridge and I was a regular there, but I'd been a journalist for years. I'm a music critic, as you noted, thank you. And also just covering all the all the arts, and so my first three books were nonfiction and I think that writing nonfiction sort of feels like you have an excuse to write, because you're conveying information to people. So what you're writing has some inherent value besides your writing, but it was Kate who said that I should write a mystery. And by doing that, I feel like she gave me permission.
Santoro: Publishers of mysteries love series. Is there a follow-up coming to “World Enough?”
Simon: Well, you'll have to read it to see exactly what I mean. I'm not sure Tara is going to become your typical amateur detective. I do have another Boston rock noir in mind. Yes I do.
Santoro: Will there be a cat in it?
Simon: If there is a cat in it, I can promise you the cat will not be solving the mystery.
Santoro: OK. Will you name it Henry?
Simon: Henry, for you, I will. There will be a cat named Henry.
Santoro: Clea Simon is the Somerville-based author of “World Enough,” a novel set in the grungy Boston rock club world of days gone by. Clea, so great to see you. Thank you so much for coming in.
Simon: Thank you so much, Henry.
Author Clea Simon is appearing at Brookline Booksmith on Monday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. To listen to the interview, click the audio player above.