Monday, January 08, 2007

The Happy Looker

Patty here...

Have any of you ever gone to an open house even though you’re not in to market to buy property? Me, too. I love to look at houses, and I love to describe them in my books. In a way, the “telling details” of a house are a window to the soul.

For a somebody with a house fetish, the Sunday "Real Estate" section of the Los Angeles Times is nirvana. Amongst the glamour shots of local real estate celebrities you can find intoxicating examples of truly priceless hyperbole: “Newly Remodeled Spectacular Penthouse with incredible Ocean and Marina views. In ultra luxurious, full-service building, 24-hour valet, security, spa, gym, screening rooms, recreation room and library. $2,295,000.”

Obviously the place is so Spectacular that the paper granted a special capitalization dispensation.

I especially love the listings for ocean property. The heroine of my novels, Tucker Sinclair, lives in an old beach cottage just north of Malibu that she inherited from her grandmother. The house is a tear down that she affectionately calls her “little brown shoebox on the sand.”

In reality even a dump on the beach in Malibu would be worth a fortune these days. Some years back I scouted out the location where Tucker's house might be, an vacant forty-foot lot. A realtor friend of mine told me it had just sold for two-point-four million dollars, a bargain in today's prices.

Touring houses is easier now, because many realtors offer slide shows on the Internet, like this Malibu property offered at a mere $10.5 million. Here’s another place advertised as “seductive.” I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Shortly after my first book came out, Paula Woods wrote a Spectacular article for the "Home" section of the Times about houses and gardens and what part they play in the work of Southern California mystery writers. She was kind enough to include me, but in doing so she was the first to break the news of my dirty little secret.

But sometimes homes we know just won't do, which sends writers like newcomer Patricia Smiley, author of the recent "False Profits," to the L.A. Times' real estate section and to open houses. "But I always hold my breath, waiting for the real estate agent to point his finger at me and shout, 'Fraud! Looky-loo! Writer!' "

Later in the article, she quotes me again:

"It is this diversity [of our homes and gardens] that makes L.A. attractive as a locale for writers. All you have to do is turn another corner, take another freeway exit and you arrive in another L.A. and in another writer's story."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Anybody up for house hunting?

Happy Monday!


  1. I love open houses! Of course it makes me wonder what I can do with my house to make it better.

    When I was writing Secondhand Smoke, I needed a house for a little old semi-retired Mob guy. I thought about New Haven and where he would live. As a result, he lives in my parents' house...a cute little yellow Cape in the Morris Cove section near the tiny airport. It was perfect. And Annie lives in a brownstone on Wooster Square, our "Little Italy." I've had a lot of people look at the picture on the home page of my Web site and ask if I had the picture taken in New York, but those are the brownstones where I imagine Annie living. I had a friend living there at one point, so I've even been inside!

  2. Karen, I thought you had that picture taken on the backlot of Universal Studios.

  3. (Sorry, Patty. 'New' Blogger won't let me log in.)

    All right Patty, I'll bite. I suppose that this means that there actually is a house with a double-doored storeroom for chopped wood next to the fireplace? I bet they don't leave the doors unlocked any longer!


  4. Wow, Jeff, you have an extraordinary memory, but yes there is a wood storage closet next to a fireplace in a house somewhere in L.A. Hope the owners never find out how I discovered it (heh, heh).

    Our J couldn't post on Friday becaue Blogger was acting up. There should be rules against that...

  5. Ahh...better now. But yes, I have an extraordinary memory. Sometimes it unsettles people who haven't seen me in a while, and I pull something out of the distant past. They don't understand that I remember bits about everyone.

    Besides, Patty, you know that your writing is quite memorable. :)

    And I won't yield to the temptation to extend that compliment any further. :D

  6. Jeff AKA Mr. Memory, you'll appreciate this. Recently I met a woman who had read FP and said, "I loved that scene in the woodpile."

    I was crestfallen because I thought she had me confused with some other author. I said, "I'm sorry. You must be thinking of another book. There's no woodpile scene in False Profits."

    She looked at me as if I was certifiable. It wasn't until later that I remembered I DID have a woodpile scene in there. Sheesh! How embarassing.

  7. Hi Patty,

    Sorry to be so late. Bloggger has had it in for me for the last couple of days.

    I almost didn't get all the way through your post. I stopped to click on some of the house adverts you'd linked to, and when I got to the line about Sammy Hagar's old house having "an omnipotent coastline view," I lost it.

  8. Better late than never! It's always good the hear from you. Loved your post on Murderati on Tuesday. Top rate prose.