In the years before the war, Sylvie Charlot was a leading light in Paris fashion with many friends among musicians, artists and writers. Now she is largely forgotten. Spending time in Paris during a break in his acting career, Colin Mallory sees a striking portrait of Sylvie. Some think it is a late work by Édouard Vuillard but there is no signature or documentary evidence to support this view.
The picture has some unusual qualities, not least the presence of a shadow of something that cannot be seen. Perhaps the picture was once larger. Colin feels an odd sense of connection with Sylvie, who seems to be looking at him, appealing to him, wanting to tell him something. Despite a warning not to pursue his interest in her portrait, he is determined to find out more about the painting, who painted it, and why it was rt this view.hidden for many years.
Colin’s search takes him back to the film and theatre worlds of Paris and London in the 1930s – and to a house in present-day Sussex. As he uncovers the secrets of Sylvie’s past, her portrait seems to take on a life of its own.
When and where do you prefer to write?
On computer at my desk in the afternoon and evening. I’m not a morning person!
Do you need peace and quiet when you are writing?
Yes. No noise, music or other distractions.
If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
It wouldn’t work! I don’t know, when I start, what I’m going to write or where it will lead so trying to write with someone else sounds like a recipe for disaster. For me, writing is intuitive and organic and not planned in advance. No writing by numbers!
Say someone asks if they can use your name in a book. Would you rather be the ‘good one’ or the ‘bad one’?
Bad sounds more fun.
Who would you like/have liked to interview?
I did in fact interview the author J.I.M Stewart (aka the crime writer Michael Innes) many years ago. And now? Perhaps Barbara Comyns, from beyond the grave (in her case).
Where can I find you when you are reading?
If I’m reading, I’d prefer not to be found! But it could be on a train, in the garden, or somewhere warmer.
Where can I find you when you are not writing/reading?
You’d have to be persistent. It could be in a theatre, cinema, gallery, a bookshop or even in the garden.
What goes through your mind when you hold your new book in your hands for the first time?
A sense of achievement and satisfaction – in the best sense – as it makes its way into the world. And much more real than seeing the same words on a computer screen or in a typescript.
How do you come up with a title for your book?
All my books have colours in the title. First the primary colours, then the secondaries. Having chosen the colour – in this case, purple, a secondary – I then want a word that feels and sounds right with it. ‘Shadow’ seemed to offer a lot of possibilities. This led to the idea of the book’s main character coming across a painting in which there was a curious purple shadow – but nothing in the picture to cast it.
How do you pick a cover for your book?
I ask a photographer to come up with a selection of images (working to a brief related to the plot or location of the book) and narrow them down to the one that works best, as an attractive image in its own right and imparting a sense of mystery. In the case of The Purple Shadow, the image was taken in Paris, specifically in the Place des Vosges in the Marais where much of the action takes place.
Thank you, Christopher Bowden and Zooloo’s Book Tours
About the author
Christopher Bowden lives in south London. He is the author of six colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay.
Website – http://www.christopherbowden.com/