Paradise Can Be Deadly: Former NYT columnist puts Naples front and center in her second novel
January 8, 2014
By: Katie Egan
Things are heating up in Southwest Florida as Naples transplant Jazz Billings suspects foul play after discovering a secret society.
While this sounds like it could be the next big piece of breaking news that graces this newspaper, it is actually the plot of “Naples: Paradise Can be Deadly,” the second novel by award-winning former New York Times columnist turned Naples resident Diane Ketcham.
After seeing how well her first book, “Vanishing A-List,” did in Southwest Florida, Ketcham decided to set the scene for her second novel in Naples.
“There are times when I walk down Fifth Avenue and the air is balmy, and the sun is shining and the shops are so picturesque, and I think, ‘I can’t believe I live here.’ That’s when the city speaks to me,” Ketcham said.
On a recent Monday, Ketcham set up shop in the lavish lobby of the La Playa Hotel off Gulfshore Boulevard near Vanderbilt Beach, to promote her new book.
“A little murder. A little sex. A little La Playa,” is what Ketcham playfully shouted to entice guests who hadn’t heard of “Naples: Paradise Can be Deadly.”
Ketcham’s sales pitch was enough to earn a Google search by Laura Finkelstein.
“I Googled it and it looked like a great read,” Finkelstein said on her way out after she purchased the book.
Abby Kenigsberg thinks “Naples: Paradise Can be Deadly” would make a great movie. The part-time Naples resident thinks it could be one of those movies that could launch a young starlet’s career.
“Someone like Miley Cyrus,” Keningsberg said. “It’s something that zigs and something that zags.”
Some came specifically to meet Ketcham and get a copy of their book signed.
Julie Held came to meet Ketcham and take a picture with the author. But the part-time Bonita Springs resident doesn’t plan on hanging the picture on her wall or putting it in a picture frame. She has a tradition. She plans on pasting the picture onto the inside cover of her signed book because she wants to make it special.
Held, along with everyone else, left smiling.
“Anytime I can get out and introduce people to my book or meet people who have bought the book and love it, it’s a success. And the hotel staff have invited me back for a signing in March, so they think it was a success too,” Ketcham said.
Ketcham spent 15 years reporting hard-hitting news for the Times, but she always dreamt of writing a novel.
“You might have fiction in you,” Ketcham said. “You never know if you don’t try.”
Ketcham says that after doing a lot of research, she found her own formula for writing a murder mystery novel.
“I write the beginning and I write the end, but sometimes the characters take over and write their own stories,” Ketcham said. “Characters that you introduce and think will be some minor part — it’s as if they don’t want to be left behind. Take for example, my character Tess, a DEA agent. She just became this gorgeous funny gun-toting star who winds up playing an important part in my ending — who knew? I didn’t. Maybe Tess did.”
Ketcham says there are two hard parts to writing fiction: keeping the bad guy a secret and keeping the mystery alive for as long as possible.
And Ketcham certainly kept the mystery alive for Jim Hammond from North Naples because he says he’s usually pretty good at predicting what happens next, but this time he couldn’t figure it out.
What appeals to Naples residents is the fact that it’s set up right in their backyards. La Playa, Naples Daily News, Ave Maria, Port Royal and many other familiar places show up in Ketcham’s new novel.
And Diane isn’t done writing about Naples just yet. Ketcham is already planning a third book and she says she definitely plans to continue her focus in Naples.
“What I learned (after writing “Vanishing A-List”) is keep it simple. You don’t have to have this grandiose plot with so many locales. People just want a good story,” Ketcham said.
Ketcham will be signing copies of her books again at North Bay Business Center at 13500 U.S. 41 North in Naples on Saturday, Jan. 18, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then at the chalk art event on Fifth Avenue South from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 25.