Seated on a banquette in a corner of the Savoy Hotel’s iconic American Bar, sipping one of Priscilla’s Buck Fizzes, the celebrated ghosts of the hotel’s legendary past swirl around. The 2022 Savoy is a sleek modern, beautifully run hotel in the midst of 21st Century London. Yet reminders of its glamourous past are everywhere present. Lining the walls along the corridor outside the bar are autographed photos of various celebrities that include Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall. Noël Coward peeps out from a glass case. A bronze bust of the famous playwright and longtime Savoy habitué is also on prominent display.
Off the Front Hall, in the Thames Foyer, beneath its dramatic glass-domed atrium, the Savoy’s traditional afternoon tea is served as a pianist tinkles the ivories in the gazebo that dominates the room. Patrons nibble at a selection of dainty sandwiches and homemade scones—with clotted cream, naturally— surrounded by lush portraits of Ava Gardner, Alfred Hitchcock, Marlene Dietrich, and Frank Sinatra, long-gone guests of the Savoy—the past very much a part of the hotel’s present.
That dazzling past is what fascinated us writing Death at the Savoy and now in its successor, Scandal at the Savoy. One of the pleasures visiting the contemporary hotel is discovering that the era in which we have set the novels has not been forgotten but is in fact celebrated, the ghosts of the Savoy linger on.
Even so, after spending time in the 2022 Savoy, it is difficult to imagine this Savoy as the hotel we have created in our novels. And that’s fine—as it should be. Our Savoy is a place of luxury, glamour, celebrity and, oh yes, the occasional murder.
It is the Savoy out of our creative imaginations. Is it the real Savoy? Of course not. Not any more than Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles was the real Los Angles of the 1930s. Or that Julian Fellowes’s Downton Abbey resembles a real-life estate in turn-of-the-century Britain.
Prudence and I do nudge against the reality that she is able to provide, having worked for five years at the Savoy, beginning in 1968. But then we use that reality to allow our imaginations to run wild. Thus, the real Richard Burton becomes a drunk character in our novel making a pass at our heroine, Priscilla Tempest, in a Rolls Royce. In the upcoming Scandal at the Savoy, Priscilla can even sleep with a certain Canadian prime minister (remember, it’s 1968).
It’s all part of the real-but-unreal universe we have created for ourselves. This playing with reality turns out to be great fun. In our daily lives, Prudence and I control nothing. In the world we have created, we control everything. What a joy!
Back at the ultra-swank 2022 Savoy Hotel, in the American Bar, the small circular glass-topped tables, ornamented with tastefully shaded lamps, are occupied by the early evening, pre-theatre crowd. The murmur of conversation fills the room as white-coated waiters serve cocktails on silver trays. There are no signs among the patrons of the rich, famous, and aristocratic who once crowded the bar—the sort of people who can always be found lurking in the pages of our novels. However, in the subdued light of the American Bar at night, the ghosts of the Savoy are very much present. They exist on the walls and in memory.
Captured forever in the pages of Death at the Savoy and Scandal at the Savoy.
Death at the Savoy is now available in the United States as a print, audio, and e-book. You can find the novel at Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.
Scandal at the Savoy will be published March 18, 2023.
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