It’s Peggy Blair week. The Ottawa author’s debut mystery, The Beggar’s Opera, is now in book stores across Canada. On Thursday evening, she’ll celebrate with a gala book launch party at Ottawa’s Orange Art Gallery. Another launch will follow on Feb. 29 at Toronto’s Mambo Lounge.
The novel’s outstanding feature is its Cuban setting. Peggy got the idea for the book while she spent a Christmas in Havana. Readers will think she spent years there. She gives the sights, sounds, smells, even the moods of the city with insight and accuracy. Havana is more than a backdrop; it’s this novel’s soul.
One of Peggy’s triumphs was getting The Beggar’s Opera published. I first met her in Harrogate, England, in July 2010. We were the only Canadians to be shortlisted for Britain’s Crime Writers’ Association’s Debut Dagger, a prestigious award for the best unpublished crime novel written in English. That year it was conferred at Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. Neither of us won, but we counted ourselves lucky to be finalists. That year, there was a bumper crop of submissions — about 1,100 from all around the world.
At that point, Peggy had already received more than 100 rejections from agents and publishers. Then her luck changed. On her last evening at Harrogate, she found herself in the bar at the conference hotel with author Ian Rankin. They started talking and the upshot was that Ian referred her to his British agent. The agent, Peter Robinson, took her on and the rest is history. How cool is that!
Peggy is proof that persistence pays off. And in the past year or so since signing her contract, she’s made it her business to know everything possible about the current publishing world. You’ll find her almost every day on Facebook and Twitter. She also has an amazing blog. She’s worked hard and deserves every success.