Zelda hears a burglar! 

As I recount in “Zelda, The Queen of Paris,” there were indeed burglars in our communal cellar -- and not just any burglars, wine burglars! And they were breaking into our neighbors’ lockers and stealing their most treasured Bordeaux and Burgundy wines! Shocking! But thanks to Zelda and her street-smart instincts, French cops quickly arrived and arrested the culprits -- and Zelda, the pariah from India, instantly became the toast of the town! And when I wrote up the episode, for international reading, the zany little beast promptly ascended to her rightful station in life, as The Queen of Paris!
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I wrote my first book when I was 7. 

It was summer time, and I can still remember sitting out in our backyard and writing, writing, writing. I was doing my own personal portrait of Babe Ruth, and I must have filled a dozen of those flimsy blue notebooks, the kind we used in school to take tests or practice our handwriting. To my young eyes, The Babe was a giant, a man who had the skills, the passion, and the raw determination to break free, to transcend all the usual standards of excellence and to place himself, forever more, among “The Best of The Best.” Of course, at the tender age of seven I could not comprehend or articulate much of that, but I was sitting there, pouring words onto the page in an effort to search, to learn, to try to understand, to see if I could somehow locate and capture the very special spirit The Babe had inside.

That was the beginning of my Writing Life and I’ve been at it ever since. At Johns Hopkins University, I was drawn to their writing program, and soon I began writing about the lives and work of Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, with some Matisse, Manet, Rodin, and Bob Dylan thrown in too -- heaven! And before long I was in the foreign service of the Associated Press, with postings first in New Delhi and then 12 years in Paris, complete with eight kick-back summers on the island of Sardinia, watching our young sons Justin and Ethan learn to play tennis and swim and snorkel and hunt for baby octopus hiding in the rocks. Who could ask for more?

Early in my tour in India, a scruffy little street dog began begging at our back door. She was grungy and bone thin, and I was worried she might be carrying rabies or some other dangerous malady. But this little beast had a definite sassy charm and we simply had to take her in and we simply had to name her Zelda, after Scott Fitzgerald’s zany wife. When we were later posted to Paris, of course we had to bring Zelda with us. At first our stuffy Parisian neighbors turned up their noses at this uncouth intruder -- until the night Zelda heard strange noises down in our communal cellar...
Now, folks, I’m a serious guy. A professional journalist. A writer who tackles difficult subjects: an intimate biography of the brilliant French actor Gerard Depardieu. The history of that revolutionary tool, the Visa card. The memoirs of Robert Mondavi. Those books took years to research and write. By contrast, when I sat down and dashed off a little book about Zelda and her escapades, it took me all of five weeks to write, and guess what? That little charmer from India won more fans and applause than most of my other books combined! Imagine that! I was enraged! Then the little beast delivered me yet another blow, winning a silver medal from the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Awards! The raves from those judges still make me blush! And here is the unvarnished truth: much of the credit for the book’s success belongs to the whimsical drawings of my old pal, the late J.C. Suares. Rest in Peace, mon ami...

The Journey
            The Reader,
 by Isabelle Saint-Guily