E J (Jim) Simon author of the best-selling Death Never Sleeps and Death Logs In, talks to French Book Worm about his love for France, travel, great cuisine and a whole lot more.
Jim, whose books are inspired by his love for travel and gastronomy, visits Paris every year and French Bookworm caught up with him in the city. His books, Death Never Sleeps and Death Logs In are murder, mystery thrillers that are a world away from his previous roles as CEO of GMAC Global Relocation Services (a division of GM) and the Managing Director of Douglas Elliman, the largest real estate company in NY. Fast paced, innovative, full of twists and turns and incorporating computerised intelligence Jim’s first book was a run-away best seller and his second just published book (December 2014) looks set to go the same way.
“I’ve been fascinated with the concept – and the potential – of artificial intelligence since I saw the movie, 2001 Space Odyssey. It took me forty years to come up with how to treat it in a novel” Jim says. “The expression that we rarely regret what we did in life – but what we didn’t do – kept echoing in my mind”.
He doesn’t get much sympathy from me when he tells me that for research purposes he is “forced to continually dine out at restaurants all over the world. There are so many great restaurants and bistros in Paris so each evening I’m challenged to select one. This causes tremendous stress, adding to the burden of being a writer” he says with a grin.
A man with a sense of humour and feet firmly on the ground he freely admits that the editing process for him is not fun. “That’s when an objective professional tells you what you’ve done wrong – or what could be done better. It’s where you’re forced to recognize that every word you write is not God’s gift to literature and that, in fact, some of your most treasured phrases or chapters are best deleted, permanently”.
Jim says one of his favourite French literary characters is Georges Simenon’s Chief Inspector Jules Maigret.”I love his laconic manner; he is such a classic character. Best of all, despite his presence in seventy-five of Simenon’s novels, I never am quite sure that I know him”.
He looks hopeful when he confesses his favourite real life French character is Catherine Deneuve, “a beautiful, strong – yet nuanced – actor and an independent spirit. I based one of the characters in my novels after her”. When I ask him where he would take her in Paris he says he’d resist the temptation to take her to the swish and swanky L’Arpege or L’Astrance and, instead take her to Chez Dumonet on the rue du Cherche-Midi. “It’s a classic bistro with excellent food and a lively yet civilized atmosphere.”
As far as Maigret, says Jim, “well, he drank mostly beer, brandy and white wine and was a good eater. I would take him to Les Papilles in the Fifth Arrondisement, one of my favourite little bistros. There are maybe twelve tables. He could select his drink from the bottles on the shelves. There is no choice on the menu but each dish is exquisitely prepared. The atmosphere is convivial and comfortable.”
St Tropez and Paris both figure in his books and Jim says he prefers Paris in the winter and St Tropez in the summer. “In St Tropez, we stay at the lovely Hotel des Lices in the heart of the town. It’s family-owned, quiet with a beautiful yet intimate swimming pool and a great bar just two steps away from my chaise lounge. We’ve been going to St Tropez each summer for twenty-five years.
“With Paris I know it’s a cliché but there is a magic there. First, it’s a beautiful city. I love the food, the architecture and, perhaps most of all, the history that it represents – from the French Revolution to its occupation by the Nazis in WWII. So many great writers have thrived there. I become absorbed in its history. My wife and I spend about six weeks in Paris each year.”
He walks for miles and likes to spend time in the English bookshops like the iconic Shakespeare & Co, feeding his thirst for knowledge and finding inspiration.
We’re pretty sure that we’ll be seeing more of EJ Simon in Paris and more of Paris in his books…
About Death Logs In…
Not many books start with the death of one of the central characters unless they’re looking backwards, this one starts with the demise of a main character taking a central role going forward, and he’s not a ghost.
Science has made great leaps in the field of artificial intelligence; Stephen Hawkins has said that he believes computers will take over the world. Because of the advances being made, computers are learning, they can reason and are capable of making judgement because of it. EJ Simon’s AI “character” has been fed the experiences of a dead man, it can understand his logic and reasoning and is able to make decisions based on how he would have reacted.
The second central character, like the author, is a globe-trotting business man who is left with the fall out of the first character’s death. His adventures take him to France, to Paris and St Tropez, Italy and around the US, supported, advised and guided by the dead man’s AI.
A tale of corruption at the highest levels of the Catholic Church, sex, murder, illegal bookmaking make this an ambitious, hugely enjoyable story with potential for a series.
Death Logs In is the Sequel to Death Never Sleeps, which introduces both central characters in a tale of fast cars, faster women and friends in all the wrong places, a whodunit with a real twist. A terrific hit with readers it rapidly gathered a network of fans achieving hundreds of reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star rating.
The next eagerly awaited book, Death Logs Out should be released summer 2015. As with the first two books, it will be a free-standing sequel – with all the same characters, “or at least those who’ve survived” says author EJ Simon.