Cats of a feather…or something.

All us cat people eventually find one another, even if our cats are a little different. Dana Fredsti’s cats, for example, are a mite bigger than the ones I write about.

Dana is the author of The Peruvian Pigeon Peruvian Pigeon
the first in her Murder for Hire mystery series. She’s funny and smart and so is her book, so I’ve invited her to tell you all about herself and her heroine, Connie Garret. She’s offering a free book to readers, too, so if you’d like to be in the drawing, just post a comment on this blog.

So without further ado, heeee-rrrrrs Dana!


I was walking on the beach Sunday morning trying get my tired brain to shell out ONE more topic for my various posts on this blog tour and decided to call Maureen, my partner-in-crime back in the Murder for Hire days, to see if she had any ideas.   After a thoughtful pause in which she sipped Trader Joe’s Winter Blend
coffee and checked the status of the cinnamon rolls in the oven, she told me she’d like to read about the locations behind the fictional seaside community of Emerald Cove.  

Maureen, of course, has insider knowledge that Emerald Cove is a fictional version of La Jolla, which means The Jewel in Spanish.  If you’re a Chandler fan, you may also be familiar with it under the name of Esmerelda in his novel Playback (which featured in one of the real life Murder for Hire Walking Tours).    We did most of our shows in La Jolla although we did not, unfortunately, live in a Victorian house in the Village (as downtown La Jolla and the surrounding neighborhood is called) as do Connie and Daphne, the main characters in Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon (MFH).   

Maureen and I always wanted to live on Park Row, houses ranging from Craftsman style cottages to Spanish tiled adobe mansions, all ringing a small, circular, grassy park.  One of Chandler’s three La Jolla residences was on Park Row.  We pastiched Chandler’s work so it seemed only appropriate that we should live there too.  Chop logic, I admit, but it seemed reasonable at the time.   At any rate, if you go to La Jolla and wander up on Park Row (and you’ve read Murder for Hire: The Peruvian Pigeon), this is where Connie and Daphne have their fantasy house courtesy of eccentric landlady Mavis DiSpachio. 

Most of the locations in MFH were based on actual businesses and landmarks in La Jolla.  Anyone reading MFH who is familiar with La Jolla will realize I took liberties with the geography and layout of Emerald Cove and say things like “Hey!  The Children’s Cove isn’t right after the Scenic Cliff Walk!  And Sunny Jim’s Cave (called Davy Jones Cave in MFH) is beFORE the La Valencia (aka Emerald) Hotel!”

And they’d be entirely correct if referring to La Jolla in the REAL world.  But La Jolla in MFH is Emerald Cove and I altered the layout to suit the needs of the plot.  It was one of the main reasons I set the book in Emerald Cove instead of just brazenly using La Jolla.  The scenes set in Davy Jones’ Cave and the Gnome Shop, for instance, would not have worked if I’d been tethered by the actual geography of these places.  But I had The Shell Shop (now The Cave Store) and Sunny Jim’s Cave (one of the historic Seven Caves in La Jolla) clearly in mind when I wrote those scenes and I hope anyone familiar with the locations can picture them clearly without getting bogged down by the pesky need for total accuracy.

For those interested in the some of the real locations that inspired the fictional ones, check out the La Jolla Historical Society website at    And here’s a brief list of a few of the fictional locations and the corresponding reality”

The Children’s Cove – The Children’s Pool: 

In MFH the Cove is enjoyed by both children and seals alike, whereas in real life it’s currently being used as a protected area for seals and their pups.  A debate over this has been going on for several years in both the community and the courts. 

The Gnomes Den/Davy Jones’ Cave – The Shell Shop/Sunny Jim’s Cave:

 Back in the day, this store that houses the entrance down into Sunny Jim’s Cave sold shells and other related merchandise.  New owners turned it into The Cave Store, with a little coffee bar (sadly no longer part of the interior) postcards and T-shirts of Sunny Jim’s Cave and other La Jolla landmarks, and products by local artisans.  For four bucks you can walk down the 133 wooden steps to a platform where the cave meets the ocean.    I took some liberties with the layout of the beaches and cliffs on either side of the Caves, as well as with the stairs and platform in the Cave itself. 

Emerald Cove Library – La Jolla Florence Riford Branch Library:

The real Murder for Hire was hired by the head librarian of the newly built Florence Riford Library to perform for the Raymond Chandler Festival.  The actual library is on Draper Street, up a a few blocks from the ocean.  The Emerald Cove Library is on a street right above the ocean for…well, if I say any more I’ll be giving the plot away! 

Emerald Cove Museum of Contemporary Art – Museum of Contemporary Art:

Okay, not too original on that one!  I don’t exactly remember the interior of the actual museum, but they did indeed show movies and have lectures during the Raymond Chandler Festival. 

Emerald Hotel – La Valencia Hotel:

Changed the name, but left the interior alone.  The real MfH performed scenes from Chandler’s PLAYBACK in one of the upstairs rooms as one stop on our Walking Tour shows.   And yes, the concierge was kinda snotty when we showed up to scout the place out a few days before the actual show. 

Scenic Cliff Walk/Cove Street – Scenic Walk/Prospect Street:

Pretty much as portrayed, except back in the days of MFH there was a lot more cliff.   Brass railings and other protective barriers were recently added after a jogger slipped of the path and fell off the cliff to the rocks below.  I think about the times Maureen and I did the scenic walk wearing high heels (it was vanity above sanity back then) and get the heebie jeebies. 

There are others, but I’ll leave some for those locals who haven’t rad the book yet to discover for themselves. 

I like to think of my altering and renaming of locations as the best of both worlds: locals will recognize the landmarks and it’s just enough removed from reality to give me plausible deniability and protect me from possible lawsuits!


11 thoughts on “Cats of a feather…or something.

  1. That was a really interesting post. I agree it’s best to change the names of real places when using them in your writing.

    I love the cover of Murder for Hire. Did you have any say in it?

  2. Thanks Blaize! And thanks Dana! I love Roman-a-clef guides like these to fictionalized real places. Recognizing the La Jolla sites in Emerald Cove was part of the fun of reading Murder For Hire. You’re such a clever writer; I love the way you mix such funny characters and witty dialogue with such a well-crafted mystery.
    Thanks! I want to hear more about this siode project of yours – what did you call it? “A horror-romance-thriller”?

  3. Dana,
    I thought I’d commented here yesterday, but I was wrong. It must have been a fictionalized version of me that did so and was spam filtered out.

  4. Yup, Rell, that’s what I think fiction is too! And funny, your first comment DID show up. It beat the spam filter!

    Carol, I did have a say in the cover of the book, which was one of the great benefits of working with a smaller publishing house. They encouraged me to be hands on and contribute ideas and checked with me on the finished results. The cover photo is an old MFH publicity still.

    Other Lisa, I’m keeping the next book in Emerald Cove, but I definitely have plans for future books in the series to go elsewhere. Naples, Florida will be appearing. Under another name, of course! And with the Hammett tour San Francisco, I’ll have to do one up here too!

    Tattoo, I’m not sure what the specific genre is, but it’s in the same category as Tanya Huff, Laurel Hamilton, CHarlaine Harris. More on that later! Check my blog for future updates. 🙂

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