I don’t where I got my love of perfume from.
My mother never wore fragrance, though she had a little cart with mini perfumes that my father brought back from the war. She never opened one of the bottles, ever. That little cart is now on my dresser, still unopened.
But I always loved fragrance. I remember one of my grandmothers occasionally wore it, as did one of my aunts. But I am from a farming background, and perfume wasn’t high on the list.
But in high school I started wearing it, spurred on by the teen fashion magazines I read. I doubt I would ever wear those fragrances now that the teenage me loved.
And many thanks to author Denise Hamilton for re-triggering my love of perfume in her books.
Fragrances can mean many things to the wearer—a memory of an evening, a historical note, a feeling.
Kelli Stanley uses fragrances to establish a mood or a character’s personality in her Miranda Corbie novels, which are set in San Francisco during 1940, the time when war was raging in Europe but the US had yet to enter the battle.
In City of Sharks, private detective Miranda is interviewing potential client Louise Crowley, who is the assistant to ruthless publisher Niles Alexander. One of the first things Miranda asks is if Louise wears perfume.
Louise answers, “Mr. Alexander prefers me not to. He said—he said it distracts him when I take dictation.”
Miranda: “What about when you’re not taking dictation? Shalimar? Joy? Shocking, perhaps?”
Louise: “I wear Fleurs de Rocaille.”
So based on that short exchange, I had to know more about Fleurs de Rocaille.
According to Lucky Scent (my go-to site for all things perfume), Fleurs de Rocaille de Caron was created in 1933. It is a “a joyful, floral, impulsive perfume, which remains one of High Perfumery's great successes.”
Its notes, Lucky Scent states, are rose, jasmine, violet, lily of the valley, Aldehyde, musk, cedar, sandalwood, oak moss.
Later in City of Sharks, Miranda attends a party where “her nose wrinkled at the unholy amalgamation of Shalimar, Joy, and Tabu.”
This isn’t the first time Stanley has used fragrance in the Miranda Corbie novels.
In City of Ghosts, Miranda worries that she is down to her last bottle of Vol de Nuit, and she knows that there will be no more shipments of the perfume until the war is over.
Vol de Nuit is an apt perfume for WWII. Produced by the house Guerlain, Vol de Nuit was created in 1933 as a tribute to flight, celebrating the novel of the same name by pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Air France. The fragrance Vol de Nuit celebrated courage, according to Guerlain.
Back in 1990, author Paul Levine introduced readers to Miami Dolphin-turned-lawyer Jake Lassiter in To Speak for the Dead.
To Speak for the Dead was notable not just because it was a tightly plotted novel with a good swath of humor, but also because it was one of the novels that ushered in a new wave of Florida mysteries.
Jake was smart—with a smart mouth. He had a self-deprecating sense of humor that also included the law profession. He was fond of saying, “They don’t call us sharks for our ability to swim.”
Now, Bum Deal, the 13th novel in this series that has been spread over 28 years, will be the finale for Jake.
As Levine said, “That’s right. I’m bidding farewell to my old pal Jake, the second-string linebacker who trudged through night law school and became a combative Miami trial lawyer.”
The reason for Jake’s departure makes perfect sense—it’s his health.
“Jake’s been having these problems—fights with prosecutors and judges, memory lapses, confusion, headaches—and it’s time to say goodbye,” Levine stated in a newsletter.
“Dr. Melissa Gold, a neurologist who treats Lassiter during office hours and spends sultry nights with him in his Coconut Grove house, fears he may have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of all those concussions on the football field,” Levine added.
Or as Jake has said, “The past clings to me like mud on rusty cleats.”
With CTE in the news a lot lately, it’s also a timely topic.
Of course, Jake will not take retirement quietly. In Bum Deal, Jake undergoes experimental treatments, and makes a major career change. He switches sides in the courtroom and prosecutes a surgeon accused of killing his wife. Jake probably should have paid more attention to the law part of Law & Order. The case seems impossible with no forensic evidence, no witness, and no body. Add to that, Jake’s best friends, lawyers Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord, are defending the surgeon.
“Drained of his mental edge just when he needs it most, my old courtroom warrior faces the possibility of losing the case,” added Levine.
One of the hallmarks of the Lassiter series was Levine’s look at South Florida.
Now it seems everyone knows how weird Florida can be—hey, I live here, folks, and I know how odd it is.
In the early 1990s, Florida was still uncharted territory as far as weirdness went.
But those of us down here knew that Levine was not making up these details such as the courthouse steps being cleaned daily to remove chicken parts and goats’ heads used in Santeria rituals.
Jake would sometimes lose his way in Little Havana because numbered streets were renamed to honor heroes favored by the Miami City Commission, such as General Maximo Gomez Boulevard and Jose Canseco Street.
In an interview with me years ago, Levine said, “The problem is you've got to tone it down. If you re-create what's really going on, people won't believe it.”
Happy retirement, Jake. You were great fun.