Monday, April 15, 2019

Americans in Paris and Notre-Dame Cathedral

Adam and Even and the Forbidden Fruit
(stained glass detail)
Hearing of and watching the horrific devouring fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral today reminded me of a post (linked here) which I made at The Passing Tramp over four years ago, about crafty real life thief and crime fiction lover Asa Guy Gurney.  Evidently the American once strolled the streets of Paris with his wife browsing for tomes at the bookstalls.  His personal book plate commemorated this (see the link), with Notre-Dame Cathedral looming magnificently in the background.  The great cathedral could not help but make an indelible impression.

I was also reminded of some reading I coincidentally just did over this weekend, while helping plan a new edition of short crime fiction by Hugh Wheeler and Richard Webb.

Nearly seven decades ago, in 1950, Wheeler and Webb published a novelette, titled "Mrs. B.'s Black Sheep," about a murder which takes place in Paris over Easter, which impacts a group of visiting errant American society debs who are chaperoned by the eponymous Mrs. B..  The dignified chaperone, who has her capable hands full with these tempestuous young ladies, happens personally to discover the murder victim, under most inconvenient circumstances. 

Notre Dame is mentioned:

Laura Black sat opposite Paul Merton at the long nightclub table, feeling happy and at peace with the world, a suitable mood for Easter Saturday in Paris.  At first she had been dubious about bringing Mrs. B.'s Tour for Girls--all four of them--to so Bohemian an establishment as Les Caves.  But everything had been going swimmingly....These cellar nightclubs, where intense aesthetic types danced and argued to the hot strains of American-style jive, were as essential a part of the Paris education as Notre Dame or the Sacre Couer....

At noon she was to take the girls to Notre Dame for Easter Mass....

Paul Merton was waiting outside Notre Dame.  While the majestic Easter Mass had taken place, Laura definitely decided to tell him everything....


  1. This is wonderful news about the new Wheeler / Webb book. I found at least three of the four tales in 'The Puzzles of Peter Duluth' to be an absolute delight (whereas, apart from the fine title novella, the tales collected in 'The Ordeal of Mrs Snow tend to be rather grim and heavy on the irony, as far as I recall). Any idea when the new collection will be ready?

    1. There's one new collection coming soon, others in planning stage. Posting on this soon!