by Casper Silk
Hospitality was never like this.
Welcome to the Hotel Noir, peerless gem of hospitality and sole holder of a Michelin star on the island of St. Germaine.
When the controversial American author Francis Stein is stabbed to death on the remote island of St. Germaine the search for his murderer takes islander Bat Manley north to the other half of Stein’s double life, south to St. Germaine’s vice-ridden slums, and finally into the realm of the psyche, where the blind see and the dead speak.
A kaleidoscopic striptease of the human soul, Hotel Noir will make you sweat.
“I’m thoroughly intrigued by this novel, though not necessarily for straightforward reasons. I think what has hooked me is that it doesn’t seem like anything else. Casper Silk has a wholly unique voice. It’s an entirely bizarre one, too, and Hotel Noir is a dark yet evocative portrait of an island quickly changing, a hotel of another era, and a man caught in the midst, still suffering over the long-ago death of his wife, trying to help a young girl, and falling through the cracks that society allows to widen as the times change.”
“A noirish combination of F. Scott Fitzgerald and early P. D. James on steroids, what stands out the most in this literary endeavor is the evocative writing, the author’s ability to capture a moment in time and take us there, to capture a character entirely in a few phrases, to infuse the reader with a sense that she is right there, participating in a story as it happens, as told by a narrator who knows how to weave a web and pull you in without your realizing that you are caught. A bizarre and at times challenging read, Hotel Noir is nonetheless an intriguing literary crime novel filled with wonderfully zany characters Agatha Christie would have killed for.”
Sam Millar, “Ireland’s most controversial author”
“Compellingly readable throughout… the whole book is a delight.”
Jack Chapman, author of Watching Marilyn
“From the opening page, I was captivated by the writing style and to prove my eagerness, I read forty percent of the book in a single sitting. I was not far into the book when I drew the comparison of Hotel Noir to Death in Venice. This time, the similarity to a classic novel ended with an affirmative nod instead of a ghastly shriek. St. Germaine, like Venice, is a decaying island plagued by an epidemic and both tales have male leads who become obsessed with exquisite, flawed and much younger characters. They question what is love, what is taboo, and are equivalently and beautifully doomed. Hotel Noir focuses on dignity and reputation, as well as social and economic inequality. It is a very well-written and studied work that I’d recommend for leisure, book club or comparative paper. It reads easily enough to hold interest, but yet, has layers of depth that can offer discussion and debate.”
Bitsy Bling Books
“Like all really fine mysteries, this gem of a novel goes far beyond the age-old question of whodunit. It explores–in lush and moody prose–such abiding themes as the power of place, the ache of unrequited love, and the stranglehold as well as the ambiguity of memory. The Hotel Noir and the weird island of St. Germaine where it is situated end up seeming less like geographical locations than like mileposts on the tortured but occasionally ecstatic journey of the human heart.”
An Interview with Casper Silk
Hotel Noir is not your typical whodunit and yet this is a murder mystery—or is it?
I prefer to think of it as a whydunit. Hotel Noir is many things: a portrait of an island in flux, an intergenerational love story, a dress rehearsal for the apocalypse…
What inspired you to write Hotel Noir?
A well-intentioned friend, familiar with my prior career in hospitality management, kept urging me to write about a hotel. I came to the keyboard without a defined plot and began to tinker. The first pages were light, playful, and then, without warning, I found myself writing about a congregation setting themselves ablaze and dancing as they burn. The shift was terrifying, and yet I willed myself to let go and follow wherever this strange turn might lead.
A decade later, I watched a BBC documentary about the Doomsday Cult that had recently swept through Africa and learned that a congregation in Ghana, fearing they had displeased God, did indeed lock themselves in their church and strike the fatal match. I don’t claim to understand the connection, but I suspect that writers, as well as others who listen to the still, small voice, do occasionally tune-in to these dark undercurrents.
You set the story on the island of St. Germaine. I’ve searched an atlas and can’t find this island anywhere.
St. Germaine exists in the realm of the imagination where heaven and hell converge and the bartender never forgets to add that second olive to your martini.
Your protagonist, author Francis Stein, is no alpha male or paragon of success. Why expect readers to care about him?
Francis Stein serves as a mirror for his generation—a generation of idealists and dreamers whose lives have fallen short, but who still struggle, against a growing tide of social apathy, to make a difference. Why did audiences care about Rick Blaine or Oskar Schindler? Such characters remind us that the true measure of a person is his or her courage in the face of adversity.
Hotel Noir brings together a bizarre cast of characters—a failed politician, an Oxford anthropologist, a blind soothsayer, a pimp…
A renegade saint, a drug-dealing ex-convict…
And yet the story has an almost lofty tone.
I still believe in the moral compass. My protagonists may wrestle with doubt and temptation, they may be weak and flawed, but ultimately someone in the story will rise above the pack and do something inspired, heroic. Those moments of illumination and grace are, for me, the mark of great fiction.
Your other books, written under your own name, have been well reviewed and even won awards. Why adopt a pseudonym for Hotel Noir?
Hotel Noir is fundamentally different—in tone, genre and perspective—from my other books. Readers and critics have come to expect certain qualities from my directly authored works. By adopting a literary alter ego, I free myself to experiment, to take my own dares, in the hope of creating something without precedent.
What’s next for the enigmatic Silk?
My novel Echo Year, another genre-bender, debuts Spring 2013. If you have dreamed of a life in the perfect French chateau, if you prefer your brimstone with truffles, you won’t want to miss Echo Year.