For my Father
Photo credit: “Overcast Field II” by Jennifer Lamb
You were gone by the time we dropped your grandson off at college, but I remember how you made the bed in my dorm room when you dropped me off forty years earlier. You probably hadn’t made a bed since you were single—and definitely not one with patterned sheets. You put on the top sheet facing up, so the pattern of poppies was hidden by the blanket, and I couldn’t see them when I folded back the covers to get into bed, but I kept doing it that way because it was like having you close by.
Once, when I was in first grade, you gave me a little extra lunch money so I could buy ice cream for dessert. I used it to buy ice cream for some girl who was mean to me, to bribe her into being my friend, and lied when you asked me about it later.
“I’d rather know the truth, no matter what you did,” you said, and you meant it.
But when you felt your mind slipping and you couldn’t trust your body, you started lying to me about when you’d last eaten, or how long it had been since you’d been to the doctor. I’d visit you in Florida and there would be rotten stuff in the refrigerator, leftovers from the last meal I’d cooked for you weeks earlier. Grapes you’d asked me to buy at Publix, brown and shriveled in their Styrofoam tray, the plastic wrap intact.
You had a car accident, and you didn’t tell me about it. I learned about it from one of your friends. He was afraid you’d hurt yourself the next time.
“Your father’s gotten careless behind the wheel,” Alan said. Had you? Or did you want to die?
You had a fall and broke your shoulder—a blessing, really, because it meant you couldn’t drive. I remember driving you somewhere in your car, listening to Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, “A Taste of Honey.” You loved horns, from New Orleans jazz to Cuban Rumba. Anything with a syncopated beat.
You resented me for loving you too much and trying to hold you to the earth when you wanted to leave. At the end, all we did was argue.
I’m sitting on the esplanade in the Chicago Botanical Gardens, listening to Spanish guitar as the sun goes down. Streaky clouds, their grays deepening to purple where the sky meets the treetops. The guitarist plucks a series of chords in a minor key, notes ascending, descending, against the steady cha cha of the percussion. There’s a couple dancing all by themselves on the stone patio behind the band, legs and hips moving in synchrony. Wordless communication.
You were as afraid of losing yourself as I was of losing you. Of course you were.
“For my Father” appears in Issue 10 of Reservoir Road.
A Fond Farewell
A bittersweet occasion, bidding goodbye to my friends in Sisters in Crime New England. You can read a write-up of the event HERE and watch a little video they made for me HERE. Thanks to everyone who attended for a glorious day.
Thoughts on Mystery and Loss
Read my post HERE
December 15 Workshop
Ruins and Redemption: Two Takes on Postwar Berlin
I just published an essay in a special issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room devoted to Billy Wilder, one of my favorite directors. READ IT HERE
August 5 Interview
The multi-talented Linda McHenry interviewed me for her podcast, The Writer’s Voice. We talk about my nostalgia for the fabulous places I’ve visited in the course of writing my historical noir mystery series. Come along to learn more about this charming pair.
A Great Night Out
Watch Replay Here
Lovely Article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
All the time she was writing academic books and essays about the history of post-war Europe, Lisa Lieberman really wanted to be writing mysteries — noirish mysteries — that might plumb the same settings.
That’s a stretch, actually. But Lieberman, who taught history at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania for many years and has now retired in Amherst, has in recent years found a new outlet for her writing: mysteries narrated by a young actress with a Hollywood pedigree, Cara Walden, who finds herself caught up in tumultuous events in the 1950s, from the blacklisting of communist sympathizers in Hollywood to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution to the growing civil war in Vietnam.
All three of her books are also inspired in part by films and literature of the era, evoking the sensibility of work by Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, Graham Greene and others, such as Vera Caspary, the American author whose 1943 detective novel, “Laura,” was made into a film noir of the same name in 1944 that is now widely regarded as one of the best mystery films ever made.
“Part of the fun of this series is thinking about all the other trouble spots around the world at that time and then figuring out a way to get [Cara] there,” Lieberman said with a laugh during a recent phone interview.
Launch Party at Amherst Books
I’m featured on Art Taylor’s blog, The First Two Pages
Audiobook Now Available
I’ve just released the audiobook of the first Cara Walden mystery. It comes free with an Audible trial. Download your copy today!
Fall 2019 Events
Author Panel at the Jones Library, 2:30-4 p.m.
Did you ever wonder where mystery authors get their ideas? You don’t need to be an international spy to write a page-turning thriller, or a law enforcement professional to write a police procedural. This panel shows how authors put new twists on old plots, research facts and settings, and discover potential stories right in their own neighborhood.
Join Sisters in Crime/New England authors Sharon Healy-Yang, Leslie Wheeler, and Lisa Lieberman for a lively discussion. There will also be a presentation of the SinC “We Love Libraries” award to the Jones Library.
Boston Book Festival Workshop: Jump-Start a Story, 3-4 p.m.
The Surrealists used to pool their money and buy a one-way ticket to the furthest destination they could afford. They’d send one person off on an adventure and they’d have to make their way back somehow, and tell the others all about it when they returned. Along they way, they’d collect talismans that helped them navigate the dark places they encountered.
In this workshop, we’ll be sending each of you off on an adventure and when you get back, you’ll have the outline of a short story.
Author Panel: Mystery Making, 11:30 a.m.
In this interactive workshop, four mystery authors representing different sub-genres, including cozy/traditional and thriller/suspense, will brainstorm on their feet to create a brand new mystery using suggestion provided by the audience. Fun, fast-paced, and fascinating, this improv game offers important insights into mystery writers’ minds and the conventions of the genre.
New England Library Association Annual Conference, 2-3 p.m.
Sisters in Crime Vendor Demo: How Sisters in Crime Speakers Bureau Can Attract a More Diverse Group of Library Patrons – Connie Johnson Hambley, Lisa Lieberman & Leslie Wheeler
Panel: Defining Your Novel, 11 a.m.
Genre labels may be useful as marketing tools, but how much of a role should they play in the creative process? Do authors of police procedurals have anything in common with authors of suspense fiction or historical mysteries? What can you learn from reading outside your chosen genre? Join five authors who represent a cross-section of mystery genres for a freewheeling discussion with ample space for audience participation.
Author Speed-Dating, 7 a.m.
Whirlwind breakfast pitch session with my partner, Canadian thriller writer Rick Mofina. Forty authors making the rounds, introducing ourselves to prospective readers in two minutes or less.
Panel: A Dig of Researchers, 3:10-4 p.m.
What do historical mysteries based on old movies, missing artwork worth over $500 million, a social activist in Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th century, apple orchards, County Cork pubs, and a Philadelphia museum have in common? Lots of research! You’ll learn the tricks and techniques these authors use to write stories set anywhere, any time, about any and all things.
Coming in December
Saigon, 1957: Banished from the set of The Quiet American, actress Cara Walden stumbles onto a communist insurgency—and discovers her brother’s young Vietnamese lover right in the thick of it. A bittersweet story of love and betrayal set in the early years of American involvement in Southeast Asia, Lisa Lieberman’s tribute to Graham Greene shows us a Vietnam already simmering with discontent.
THE GLASS FOREST will be released on December 10th, just in time for the holidays.
I’ll be signing books at the Sisters in Crime table on Friday, July 26 from 3-5 p.m. and reading from my latest Cara Walden mystery on Saturday, July 27.
My essay “Asian Exotica: The Far East in Film Noir” appears in a special issue of the Film Noir Foundation’s NOIR CITY dedicated to international noir
Fall 2018 Events
October 13: Boston Book Festival
Signing books at the Mystery Writer’s of America booth in Copley Square from 10 – 11:45 am and at the Sisters in Crime booth from 2-3 pm.
November 9-11: New England Crime Bake
Session on “Clichés Remade” on Saturday, November 10, 1:45-3:00 p.m.
December 2: Holiday Party with Sisters in Crime New England
December 5: Mystery-Making Panel
Improvisation on mystery plots suggested by audience members.
December 6: Mystery Night Gala at New England Mobile Book Fair
Summer 2018 Events
June 30: Barnes & Noble Book Signing: Hartford, Connecticut
July 19: Noir Night at New England Mobile Book Fair: Newton, Mass
Three pinot noir wines and three noir mystery authors: the perfect pairing!
September 4: Author Talk at Curtis Library: Brunswick, Maine
How Cool is This?
Burning Cold on Sale until April 21
Cara and Gray venture into Budapest during the 1956 revolution in search of their half-brother Zoltán, the forgotten son of their father’s first marriage. They track him to Mád, a small town in the Tokaj wine region on Hungary’s eastern border—a place I chose simply because of the potential for wordplay. Then I learned the fate of Mád’s once-thriving Jewish community.
Some three hundred men, women, and children were locked in the town’s synagogue when the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944, deprived of food and water for three days, then herded into cattle cars with the help of the Arrow Cross (Hungarian militia). Most perished in Auschwitz.
–From Mystery Scene magazine
Upcoming Events for Spring 2018
It’s a Mystery to Me
Wednesday, May 16 at 7 PM
The Northborough Library is pleased to present three local mystery authors from the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Join Sharon Healy-Yang, Lisa Lieberman, and Leslie Wheeler as they discuss how they craft mystery stories. Each author will discuss her process: coming up with that first idea, creating characters, doing research, and the daily writing schedule where the job gets done. Whether you’re a fan of mysteries or an aspiring author, you’ll be sure to pick up some clues from these Sisters in Crime! Copies of the authors’ books will be available for signing at the program.
Praise for BURNING COLD
“In 1956, newlywed Cara Walden is enjoying singing with husband Jakub’s jazz trio in Paris when they learn of the Hungarian revolution. Cara has little interest in the events until her older brother Gray mentions they have a half brother, Zoltán Szabo, living in Hungary. After Jakub impulsively announces that they should make an effort to try to rescue Zoltán, the trio head to Budapest. In the span of a week, they encounter spies and set one on their trail, witness murder, escape capture, and discover how far they will go to rescue a man they have never met. VERDICT: Lieberman follows up All the Wrong Places, which reimagines the 1950s Red Scare in Hollywood, with this account of spies and the Hungarian uprising. Readers of Alan Furst’s spy novels may appreciate this fast-paced story.” -Library Journal
“Lisa Lieberman, Queen of the Hollywood noir!” -Jeffrey Keeten, Goodreads Top Reviewer
“A book you cannot put down. These are people easy to adore and an exciting story.” – Bonnye Reed, NetGalley
Set during the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and the immediate Soviet response, this is a beautifully written piece of historical narrative fiction. Budapest and the surrounding country are so perfectly described that I could visualize them and found myself swept away by the pace and plotting.
It’s rare to find an author who is so gifted writing descriptive prose. I really felt completely immersed in the story. I was engaged with the characters and really hoping everything would work out in the end. The juxtaposition of brutal, even casual, violence and art and culture, love and humanity, living side by side were heartbreaking.
It’s a relatively short book and is a quick but very profound read. It’s not very often that I find myself finishing a book and having the desire to go back and re-read it. This one did it for me. I really enjoyed this book so very much.
It’s listed as the second Cara Walden mystery, but works perfectly well as a standalone book. I intend to go buy the first book, and have added the author to my future TBR list as well. Exceptional book. Five stars. – Annie B, NetGalley
“Vividly atmospheric with a fine consciousness of place, be it war-torn Budapest, desolate and dilapidated Mad village or the seedily sophisticated Left Bank of Paris, Burning Cold teems with memorable characters, the narrator, starlet, chanteuse Cara Walden, her activist violinist husband Jakub, her hard-drinking playwright brother Gray, a cast of Hungarian heroes and villains, and her new-found revolutionary half-brother Zoltán, on the run from state arrest. The brilliantly evoked setting is the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and the doom-laden expectation of Soviet retribution. Life under dictatorship, with its AVH secret police, terrorised informers, homicidal agents, and bestial soldiery has been deeply researched by Lisa Lieberman. In this sinister world, no one can be trusted; arrest, torture, imprisonment, forced labour or sudden death menace every life. The plot adds to our sense of fear and excitement. The ingénue Cara Walden has been thrown into the murky intrigue of the cold-war Balkans, and emerges from her adventures a self-confident and decisive actor. All in all, this is a worthy successor to All the Wrong Places.” – Roger Thompson, Professor of American History Emeritus, UEA, Norwich, England
Upcoming Events for 2017
July 29: Bookstock Literary Festival, Woodstock Vermont
I’ll be signing books in the morning at the Sisters in Crime Booth
August 4: Brown Bag Lunch, Framingham Public Library
Noon panel with fellow Sisters in Crime authors Susan Oleksiw and Carolyn Wilkins
August 26: Hollihock Writer’s Conference, New Bedford, MA
Teaching a beginner’s workshop, “Jump-Start a Story,” at 5 p.m.
October 6: Launch party for Burning Cold at Amherst Books
Celebrate the release of the second Cara Walden mystery with champagne
October 12-15: Bouchercon 2017
Panel on “Mysteries Steeped in Different Cultures,” Friday, October 13 at 2 p.m.
October 28: Boston Book Festival
Signing books at the MWA booth, 11:45-12:30 and the Sisters in Crime booth, 4-5
New Story out in WINDWARD
“Yemayà’s Revenge,” my first crime story, was selected for the the fourteenth Best New England Crime Stories anthology.
Reading at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, New York
Praise for ALL THE WRONG PLACES
“Old Hollywood glamour comes vividly to life in historian, novelist, and film blogger Lieberman’s series debut, highlighting the effects of the 1950s Red Scare on the movie industry and the tragedies that happened off the silver screen. Aficionados of Alfred Hitchcock and Hollywood-themed mysteries will find this historical noir right up their alley.”– Library Journal
“All the Wrong Places weaves in historical events and controversial politics with remarkable subtlety. Like recent Philip Marlowe tribute The Black-Eyed Blonde, this goes way beyond mere period pastiche. The Cara Walden setup has a lot of promise, and indeed, Lieberman is halfway through a sequel. . . Settle in with some popcorn and a stack of DVDs: I predict plenty of nostalgic viewing–and reading–ahead.” -Rebecca Foster of BookTrib.com
“Yes, there is a death, and a mystery, and danger. But there is so much more to enjoy in All the Wrong Places. Open the novel and step into the time machine that Lisa Lieberman has created for you. Prepare for a magical ride back to the Hollywood of the 1940s and international film community of the 1950s. The coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953? Check. The marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956? Check. Enjoy.” -Michael Kahn, award-winning author of the Rachel Gold mystery series