Rue de La Pompe by James Earl McCracken

Paperback: 244 pages
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (May 20, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0595485057
ISBN-13: 978-0595485055

Book Synopsis:

Celebrating his thirtieth birthday alone in Paris, American businessman Michael Whyte realizes that it’s entirely possible to live an unglamorous life in the most glamorous city in the world. But an unexpected gift of formal wear followed by a party invitation from his eccentric neighbors lands him in a curious search for the first French franc—a coin said to be incredibly valuable and wickedly dangerous.

Guided by a deaf-mute and mentored by an epistemologist, Michael careens across the city in his quest for the coin. From the Chateau de Vincennes and the Musée d’Orsay to the sewers of Paris and the base of the Eiffel Tower, he braves the city for an answer to the perplexing question of the franc’s true nature.

Assisting, thwarting, or simply confusing him along the way is a bizarre collection of lunatic personalities, including a Castilian hit man, a Zen Buddhist Swiss jeweler, a flatulent statue of Benjamin Franklin, a foul-mouthed rhinoceros, the Concierge from Hell, and an enigmatic beauty named Chione.

Unforgettable characters and vivacious details make James Earle McCracken’s debut novel sizzle with expectation. Both hilarious and introspective, Rue de la Pompe is a fast-paced ride through the City of Lights with a hapless American who is caught in an exhilarating journey of discovery.

I got to ask James some questions about himself and the book. Here are his answers.

Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?

There has been no single individual, but rather a series of people throughout my life that have influenced my writing, directly and indirectly: David Harley, my social studies teacher in high school, Vicki Mahaffey, my favorite professor at Penn, Jeff Schneider, a terrific writer and great friend whom I met in London in the 1980’s, Mark Acey, my boss when I was writing greeting cards twenty years ago. Those are a few. The greatest influences while I was writing “Rue de la Pompe: A Satiric Urban Fantasy” were my wife, Mirella, and my daughter, Jamie. That’s why the book is dedicated to them.

Do you write everyday?

No, I don’t write every day. My goal is to write five or six days per week during the first draft. I found when working on “Rue de la Pompe” that one or two days off was refreshing and allowed for perspective. In general, I think many writers struggle to find the balance between creativity and discipline. You can force yourself to sit in the chair at your desk for so many minutes per day. You can even force yourself to fill up pages with a certain number of words. But you might find that blind insistence on a schedule can result in creating more work when you have to go back and rewrite large sections of your manuscript.

What has been your greatest achievement as a writer?

Seeing my novel all the way through from germinal idea to published work. And having the end product come pretty damn close to what I originally intended.

Have you always wanted to be a writer, or did you aspire to be something else growing up?

My misfit tendencies were latent. As a kid growing up in the 1960’s, I wanted to be an astronaut. The back-up plan was major league baseball player. I was in college, on track for a business degree from one of the best undergrad programs in the country when the light bulb came on (or the booze kicked in), and I decided to become a novelist. A mere 28 years later, I published a novel.

Are you currently working on anything?

I am supposed to be working on the sequel to “Rue de la Pompe.” I started the research and began taking notes earlier this year, but then my time in Paris ran out, and I had to get ready to move back to the U.S. My wife and I arrived back here in August, but we’re still waiting for our furniture. When my desk arrives, my excuses for procrastination will depart.

What authors do you enjoy reading?

I’ll read anything and everything by Nail Gaiman and James Morrow. I appreciate that both are prolific so that I don’t have to go through extended periods when no new books are available.

Is there a particular author/s (yourself excluded) who you feel don't get the recognition they deserve?

I would say Walter Tevis, the author of “The Hustler,” “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” and a handful of other books. Tevis, first and foremost, was one hell of a storyteller. Beyond that, his depiction of the desperate loneliness of social isolation is always moving, never maudlin. He deserves greater recognition. Then again, he’s dead, so it’s not like it would be much consolation to him at this point. Among the living, I like Rudolph Wurlitzer in this category. “Slow Fade” is a classic.

What is your favorite book?

“Homer Price” by Robert McCloskey. It was my favorite book as a child, and nothing that I have read since has permanently displaced it. My elementary school library had a huge folio copy of the book. It took three 2nd graders to lift and carry it from the shelves to the table. I read “Homer Price” and then immediately went back to the library and checked out “Centerburg Tales.” When I finished “Centerburg Tales”, I returned to the library to look for the next Homer Price book only to discover that McCloskey hadn’t written another one. For years, I would check libraries and bookstores to find the Homer Price book that didn’t exist. I can’t say that “Homer Price” made me want to become a writer, but it made me a reader for life.

What is a book that has been highly acclaimed but you haven't liked?

Here we go. I have two. The first is “Catcher in the Rye,” the most overrated book in American literature. It’s absolute crap, and I can’t believe we are still subjecting high schoolers to Holden Caulfield’s vacuous psuedoangst while simultaneously bemoaning the lack of interest among young people in reading. (I love being definitive on a subject that is completely subjective.) Why not try something radical, like offering books in the curriculum that 14-year olds might like? Instead of “Catcher in the Rye,” have them read “Red Sky at Morning” by Richard Bradford. First runner-up goes to “The Great Gatsby,” another sacred cow. I know F. Scott was a raging alcoholic, but you would hope that he would have enjoyed a brief period of lucidity and realized that having the least interesting character in the story serve as narrator might be a drag. If we want to read an author from the 1920’s, what’s wrong with P.G. Wodehouse? His stuff is terrific, and the humor has held up nicely.

What word or phrase do you feel is overused?

In my book, the most overused word is “ass.” I couldn’t help it. I became ass-obsessed when I was writing “Rue de la Pompe.” I had the holy trinity of Smart Ass, Dumb Ass, and Jackass as characters. I started using ass with every adjective I could think of: big-ass instead of large, ass-wild instead of berserk, etc. I think my record was nine uses of the word “ass” on one page (a perfect example of going ass wild). Clearly, I have deep psychological issues or an extremely limited vocabulary. Those who know me would argue that it’s both.

About the author:

James Earle McCracken was born in 1960 in Takoma Park, Maryland. He received a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982. After a brief but nonetheless tedious stint as a technical writer, McCracken moved to London in 1984 with the intention of becoming a writer of short stories and novels. He failed. Returning to the U.S. at the end of 1986, McCracken resumed real life. Twenty-two years later, he published his first novel - Rue de la Pompe: A Satiric Urban Fantasy. He is married to the former Mirella Abdel Sater, a prominent attorney and human rights activist from Beirut, Lebanon, and has a daughter, Jamie, who is a junior at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia.

You an visit his website at

RUE DE LA POMPE VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on October 1 and ends on October 30. You can visit James' tour stops at in October to find out more about her latest book!As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author with a recent release or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner will be announced on our main blog at on October 30!

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James Earle McCracken said...

Dear Tracee: Many thanks for hosting me on your blog. Great questions! I really enjoyed answering them, and I hope I was provocative enough to stir up some discussion. Take care, JEM

Cheryl said...

This is a great interview! I agree on your opinion of "The Great Gatsby", though I've never read "Catcher in the Rye" and hope to avoid it to my dying day. If it was required reading in high school, chances are I wouldn't like it. Well, I take that back because I did have to read a bit of Shakespeare and parts of it were tolerable, if not totally depressing.

Now I have to ask a question though, "What in the heck is a "satiric urban fantasy" novel? I know what sarcasm and satire are; just ask my family, I have enough sarcasm to choke a horse, but I'm trying to wrap my hands around the content of your book and it eludes me. It must be my old brain. LOL!

Best of luck with the tour.


Pump Up YOur Book Promotion said...

LOL, an astronaut? I love that answer! Good luck on the rest of your virtual book tour, James! BTW, be sure to check out his next stop tomorrow at Book Marketing Buzz where he tells us how he has been promoting his book!

Irene Watson said...

I read this book and loved it! It's one of those books you laugh through the silliness, yet you flip the pages as fast as you can because you want to know what happens next.