Saturday, June 4, 2016

ZIZi


I kid you not. There she was behind the fish counter at
Fred Meyers. (Erte fashion print)


Have you ever read about a character in a book who is so extraordinary that you say to yourself, no, nobody like that ever existed. And then you walk into your local Fred Meyer's and there she is behind the fish counter, the exact amazing girl, eloquent with every fiber of her being of sophistication, grace, delicacy, wisdom, in fact, the complete essence of that improbable character from your mystery novel. That's what happened to me with Zizi, the fey, 1920's flapper nymph, helper to detective Pennington Wise in Carolyn Wells mystery novels. If only, I thought, if only I were a movie producer, I'd sign this girl to an immediate contract to play Zizi. She'd be a big star and unforgettable.

"She was a mere slip of a girl, a wisp of humanity, in a flimsy frock of thin black stuff, with a touch of coral-tinted chiffon in bodice and sash. The skirt was short, and her black silk stockings and high-heeled pumps gave her a chic air. Her black hair was drawn smoothly back, in the prevailing mode, and though she had an air of world-knowledge, she was inconspicuous in effect."

(Wells, Carolyn. The Carolyn Wells Mystery Megapack: 17 Classic Mysteries with Pennington Wise, Fleming Stone, & More! (Kindle Locations 2872-2875). Wildside Press LLC. Kindle Edition.)

“And Zizi is my model,” he informed them, “that is, when I want a thin, scarecrow type. I won’t use her for the average peach heroine. Look, Zizi, don’t eat too much of that potato puff! See, if she puts on a bit of flesh, she runs straight back to the movie studios.”

“Ah, a film star?” said Braye.

“Not a star,” and Wise shook his head. “But a good little actress for a brat part.”

Zizi flashed an amused smile from her black eyes and partook again of the forbidden potato puff.

“Zizi! For the love of Mike!” expostulated Wise.

“The love of Mike is the root of all evil,” said Zizi, saucily; “but then, everything is.”

“Is what?” asked Eve, interested against her will in this strange child.

“Is the root of all evil,” was the calm reply.

“Whew! this must be an evil old world!” exclaimed Braye.

“And isn’t it?” Zizi flashed back, her big eyes sparkling like liquid jet.

“Are you a pessimist, little one?” asked the Professor, studying the clever, eerie face.

“Nay, nay, Pauline,” and the small, pointed chin was raised a bit. “Not so, but far otherwise.”

“Then why do you think the world is evil?”

“Ah, sir, when one spends one’s life between a Moving Picture Studio and a popular artist’s studio, one learns much that one had better left unlearnt” The child face suddenly looked ages old, and then, as suddenly broke into a gay smile: “Don’t ask me these things,” she said, “ask Penny Wise. I’m only his Pound Foolish.”

(Wells, Carolyn. The Carolyn Wells Mystery Megapack: 17 Classic Mysteries with Pennington Wise, Fleming Stone, & More! (Kindle Locations 3054-3072). Wildside Press LLC. Kindle Edition.)

Alright, I confess, Carolyn Wells mystery writer is a guilty pleasure of mine. A finishing school writer married to the scion of one of the most famous publishing houses in New York at the turn of the century, Hadwin Houghton, heir to Houghton Mifflin Publishing company. I would imagine her in-laws sent her very few rejection notices. And from her lively, carefree tales of the upper class in the good old days, you can tell that though she had a heart, she very seldom had a care. Still, her books have a charm that is irresistible. She has an effervescent style and clever plots. And she has the unique Zizi.

There are many more of her books available on your kindle for very little. Her stories have provided me with many delightful hours of escape into a somewhat frantic, antic and fascinating world of the upper class. Not the fabulously wealthy, just the well off flapper and her mate. It's all very Art Deco.

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