You’ve been hearing me talk about this book for years now, and finally Hold Me Down* will be released next Tuesday, Oct. 19. Thanks to the pandemic, it doesn’t look like I’m going to have any in-person events. However, I’ve paired with three very cool independent bookstores for online events, and I hope you’ll join me at one (or all). Yes, my book is now up for pre-order at Amazon – and, believe me, I appreciate all sales! – but if you find you can order from one of the hosting indies below, it will support them, as well as me. (The buy links are on the events pages.)
Some of these are watchable through Facebook and Youtube, as well as each bookstore’s own site or Zoom channel. They’re all free.
As an added incentive, I believe I’ll be able to sign/personalize any books ordered from Harvard Book Store. We’re still working out the details, but put a note in your order that you want a SIGNED copy. (And, yes, they all ship!)
Hope to see you soon – and thanks so much!
Hold Me Down virtual book tour (all times Eastern)
Murder by the Book Oct. 18, 8 pm (I’m being interviewed by Sara DiVello, Facebook’s Mystery and Thriller Maven)
Harvard Book Store (in conversation with Caroline Leavitt) on Oct. 28, 7 pm
I’ve embedded the links, but if you prefer:
Murder by the Book: https://www.murderbooks.com/MTM-Simon
Harvard Book Store: https://www.harvard.com/event/virtual_event_clea_simon/
*Here’s what readers and reviewers are saying about HOLD ME DOWN:
“Lyrical, layered, and full of surprises. Simon has penned a raw and emotional thriller with a heartbeat, about lost dreams and missing friends, regrets and buried memories, the final note reminding us that it’s never too late to start again. Provocative, moving, and suspenseful.” –Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Last Girl Ghosted
“Gripping and intense, a darkly suspenseful dive into friendship, fame, murder, and the thrilling power of rock music. I couldn’t put it down.” ―Meg Gardiner, author of the UNSUB series
“This devastatingly powerful mystery hits like a punch to the heart.” ―Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of With or Without You
“Simon perceptively illustrates the sacrifices one makes for art. Simon’s tour of the Boston music scene will make readers wish Hold Me Down included a link to iTunes.” ―Oline Cogdill, Sun-Sentinel
“A mystery that explores character motivations … For fans of Alexander McCall Smith and Janet Evanovich.” ―Library Journal
“Simon draws on her career as a journalist, in particular her reporting on Boston’s music scene in the 1990s, for the setting, concert scenes, and flashbacks, bringing a gritty reality to this dark suspense tale.” ―Booklist
“A flat-out, stoked-up, red-alert blistering justice-gets-done story that you can’t put down.” ―E. Jean Carroll, author of What Do We Need Men For?
“This exquisite novel is not the one in the story but the one in the way Clea Simon tells it. We hear music that never existed, pine for memories we couldn’t have, and mourn for the survivors. …Simon is a wizard.” ―David Hajdu, author of Lush Life and Positively 4th Street
“This pitch-perfectly dark psychological suspense underscores the price of fame, the price of friendship, and the temptations of success. Sharp and insightful, and written with exquisite detail, this story has a soundtrack that will linger long after the final page.” ―Hank Phillippi Ryan, USA Today-bestselling author of Her Perfect Life
“Hold Me Down is a joyous novel about friendship and survival, but what dark, bitter joy. Simon has gone deep into a world many women know all too well, where pride, guilt, and pain do battle inside the stories we tell. A cracking plot in a rich setting round out this important, timely book to perfection.” ―Catriona McPherson, Edgar-nominated author of A Gingerbread House
“Powerfully written and compulsively readable. Part murder mystery and part wistful history of a one-time rock star and her deeply buried secrets.” ―Dave Zeltserman, award-winning author of Small Crimes, now a Netflix film
“A hard-rocking riff of a novel, Hold Me Down explodes with a passion for music while also probing the intimate betrayals buried under a haze of alcohol and pills. Simon expertly explores how music seeks to embody truth, even when musicians hid their own pain behind the melodies.” ―Joanna Schaffhausen, winner of the MWA/St. Martin’s Minotaur first crime novel award for The Vanishing Season
Somerville Times arts editor (and poet) Doug Holder took time to chat with me about writing, our shared city, and my upcoming Hold Me Down. I’ve pasted the Q&A below. (To read the full article in the Somerville Times click here.)
Your new book is a step away from your cat mysteries. What compelled you to write a mystery about a middle-aged rock star?
I’ve always had a dark side, Doug. Even some of my cat books have been dark (“The Ninth Life,” which kicked off my Blackie and Care series, was a dystopian fantasy set in a ruined future.) But HOLD ME DOWN is really revisiting familiar ground for me. The music scene, for sure – I spent most of my 20s as a rock critic, writing for everyone from Boston Rock and Sweet Potato Magazine to the Boston Globe and Rolling Stone. But HOLD ME DOWN also mines my own past, including some trauma and the resulting PTSD that in some ways I’ve only recently come to terms with.
My 2017 mystery, “World Enough” (a Massachusetts Book Award “must read”) also took place in and around the music scene. That book dealt with the fallibility of memory, really – or how as we age we have to reevaluate our nostalgia for our youth. I guess one of my recurring themes is how we need to revisit our visions of the past and grapple with our illusions, if we’re going to grow and move on. HOLD ME DOWN certainly involves Gal, my protagonist, taking some hard looks at her past, particularly her time in the clubs leading up to her fame, and finally coming to terms with her own evasions and the half-truths she’s convinced herself are the whole story.
I’ve always enjoyed my cat “cozies,” as those gentle mysteries are called, and I plan on writing more. But this is a different side of me, and it needs a slightly different format – psychological suspense rather than traditional mystery. I still enjoy working within the confines of crime fiction, but a writer needs to stretch.
You started out as a rock critic–can you talk a bit about your stint? Any memorable anecdotes about the clubs, and musicians in the Boston milieu?
Sure, I loved it! The music was visceral and strong, and the scene became my tribe – where I found my people. I could tell you about hanging out with the Butler brothers of the Psychedelic Furs, or the time I got a little lost in my notes while interviewing Johnny (Rotten) Lydon, and he started teasing me, “Earth to Clea!” But what really stays with me are the shows at clubs like Jumpin’ Jack Flash, TT the Bears, the Channel, and the Rat – especially the Rat, which felt like a second home for a few years. I got the Boston Herald to let me write a local music column for a while back then, because I wanted to let the world know what was being done by innovators like the Zulus and Throwing Muses and garage rockers like the Prime Movers, the Blackjacks, and the Outlets. I met several lifelong friends there – fellow music writers like Ted Drozdowski, Brett Milano, and Paul Robicheau, and through them their partners and families – and then through them my husband Jon.
It wasn’t an easy way to earn a living. I had a succession of largely crappy part-time jobs to supplement my writing, which was largely freelance. And so when I started getting full-time journalism jobs, I cut back. Times change, and I didn’t have the energy after a while. But there’s still nothing like live music to get me going.
Is your protagonist Gal, a composite of people you knew on the scene? Was she developed with a particular person in mind?
She’s me and she’s also purely fictional in that I was never an addictive type (for which I’m grateful) and never been involved in a murder. Gal, for example, was a real rock star for a few minutes back there, even though she’s been off the road and out of the spotlight for a few years by the time of the book. I’ve played in bands, but I’ve never gone beyond the club level – and I certainly never enjoyed the stardom (or the craziness) that Gal does. For me, the idea of a performer, the tension between the private and the public self, and the dysfunctional nature of the industry were key – not that this is a book about the music industry, but it gave me a way to explore personal issues that interest me.
As far as the setup – a lot of what Gal goes through I knew just from being around music and covering the industry, radios, record labels, and the like. But to make sure I got the details right I did interview a few friends who were much more successful musicians. They provided some great anecdotes about life on the road as well as certain insights, which inform the book. For example, my buddy Lisa Susser (who sang with Vision Thing) mentioned one day about how you can see so much from the stage and so I used that – it becomes a motif, in a way, for what Gal, my protagonist sees or thinks she sees. That was just a coincidence: a fun fact that suddenly unlocked something in my protagonist’s psyche – and gave me a way to show it.
“Hold Me Down” is the title of the book, and also the title of a hit song by the protagonist.. How did you come up with this–how is it related to the theme of the book?
“Hold Me Down” is Gal’s big hit but it’s also her cri de coeur, her appeal to the universe. Through flashbacks we see her writing that song and learn what it means to her. It came to me like it came to her – in a flash that just felt right. Over time, I came to understand it as, I believe, does Gal.
You moved from Cambridge a few years back to Somerville. How has the writing life been in our city, compared to the Republic?
I adore Somerville! Right away, I loved the availability of city services, but I’ve also found a real community here. No offense to Cambridge – I still have great friends across Beacon Street and, really, I consider myself a citizen of Greater Camberville. But, for example, Somerville poet (and Pulitzer winning critic) Lloyd Schwartz and I are planning a joint reading event, probably for next spring. Poetry and punk-rock fiction. How cool is that?
****Simon has an event scheduled with Harvard Book Store for Oct. 28 (which will be online).
“You don’t have to be a cat lover to appreciate this cozy mystery…”
When I heard that Publishers Weekly had included my A CAT ON THE CASE in a roundup of cozy mysteries, I was thrilled. Then I SAW the piece – four cozies, all due early next year, all with some paranormal or supernatural element – but not only is A CAT ON THE CASE the only mystery from a small(er) press, it’s the lead book, with the longest write-up that includes praise for the entire witch cat series. I’d have been honored to be listed with heralded newcomer Valerie Wilson Wesley, Traci Wilton, and Lucy Ness. But like this? I’m beyond thrilled! Thank you, PW!
“Simon’s pleasing third Witch Cats of Cambridge mystery,” begins the review in Publishers Weekly, which winds up by concluding “Fans of feline cozies will be charmed.” Well, I’m charmed – and grateful – that my upcoming A CAT ON THE CASE is already winning such praise! You can find out yourself in January (and pre-order it here)
Clea Simon. Polis, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-951709-26-6
Simon’s pleasing third Witch Cats of Cambridge mystery (after 2020’s An Incantation of Cats) finds Becca Colwin working at Charm and Cherish, a New Age shop in Cambridge, Mass. It’s the perfect place for the aspiring witch detective, even if she doesn’t really have magical powers, as her three talking cats—Laurel, Clara, and Harriet—know. One day, a woman stops by the shop and accidently leaves behind a violin case containing a “very old instrument.” The search for the violin’s owner leads Becca and her coven of two other aspiring witches, along with her skeptical best friend, into a complicated case involving theft and other crimes. Meanwhile, Becca is in danger of losing her apartment when the building goes condo. The three witchy cats, each with its own distinct personality, do what they can to help Becca, in addition to discussing such matters as how they fit into Becca’s life and their own hierarchy. Fans of feline cozies will be charmed. Agent: John Talbot, Talbot Fortune. (Jan.)
That’s the premise of my short story, “The Inside Job,” which will be featured in MASTHEAD: The Best New England Crime Stories 2020, coming Nov. 25 from Level Best Books. The story takes place post-pandemic, but my heroine – a homebody anyway – finds it hard to venture out. That doesn’t mean she can’t see when something isn’t right, or work to see justice done.
I don’t often write short stories, and I’m particularly proud of this one! I’ll be posting links as soon as I get them! We may not be able to celebrate Thanksgiving as usual this year, but that means more time for reading. And with short stories, there are no leftovers!