- The Demons of Coral Gables (2014)
- Never Flirt with a Femme Fatale (2010) (as Cici McNair)
- Detectives Don’t Wear Seat Belts: True Adventures of a Female P. I. (Memoir written as Cici McNair) (2009)
- Garden of Tigers (Aug 16, 2001)
- Dancing With Thieves (2001)
- The Hole in the Edge (1997)
- A Flash of Diamonds (April 1991)
- Red Roses White Lies (1990)
by Melody Pan (SHS)
Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Clarissa McNair attended St. Andrew’s Episcopal Day School for five years before attending Boyd Elementary and Bailey Junior High in Jackson. Graduating from Murrah High School in Jackson, she furthered her education at Briarcliff College in New York. There she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in American history.
Working for an award- winning CBC television documentary in Canada on organized crime, McNair was a researcher as well as a writer for the television documentary,Connections. Clarissa McNair has experienced news anchoring in Rome where she worked the weekend evening news for WROM-TV (McNair’s Biography Publicity Release). Afterwards, she became a news broadcaster on Vatican Radio while also writing and producing documentaries focusing on the subject of the Third World such as, “The Homelands Policy of South Africa,” “The Eritrea War for Independence,” and “Benigno Aquino and the Philippine Opposition.” Comparing the Soviet Union and the United States involvement and policy, military strategy and public sentiment in Vietnam, McNair created a three-part series entitled “Is Afghanistan the Soviet Union’s Viet Nam?”. She has worked on a number of programs about South Africa, and she also produced a program called “Reagan’s Haitian Immigration Policy.”
Subjects she used in her on-air interviews ranged from journalists to heads of state. A book on contemporary celibacy in the Catholic Church, called Desire and Denial, was co-authored by McNair for many of the translated versions of the book.
Garden of Tigers, McNair’s first novel, was published in 1988 by Century Hutchinson, Ltd., in Great Britain, but she wrote the book while living in Italy. The British paperback of the book was published by Futura (McNair’s BiographyPublicity Release). During the time she was writing Garden of Tigers, Clarissa McNair was head of international publicity for a film company established in Rome and Los Angeles (iUniverse).Red Roses, White Lies is an altered version of her book Garden of Tigers. Her second novel, A Flash of Diamonds, was written in Geneva, Switzerland, and was published in 1991 by St. Martin’s Press. The paperback became available in 1992. In 1993, Martinez Roca published a version of the novel which was translated into Spanish. Involved with script development, she worked with Kings Road Productions and lived in Los Angeles.
Written as a birthday present to her mother, a novella entitled The Hole in the Edge, was privately published in 1997 (McNair’s Biography Publicity Release). Her third novel, Dancing With Thieves was released in spring 2001. The novel is “fast-paced caper” that introduces greedy, risk-taking characters in the money laundering business. In Clarissa McNair’s words the characters “are all dancing with thieves” (Dancing With Thieves Publicity Release).
Along with a variety of jobs, Clarissa McNair has traveled broadly and lived in countries such as Canada, Italy, England, Cyprus, Switzerland, Portugal, and America. For a time she was a private detective living in New York City (McNair’s Biography Publicity Release). As a detective, she has worked on many cases including missing persons, sexual harassment, and insurance fraud. These cases have taken her from Hong Kong to Connecticut. Law enforcement agencies that she has worked with include the F.B.I., the Federal Marshals, the NYPD’s Anti-Terrorist Task Force and its Organized Crime Intelligence Division. From July 1998 to June 2000, she served on the defense team of Sante and Kenneth Kimes, who were accused of the murder of a Manhattan millionaire. The case received international attention. A money-laundering/fraud case took her to Europe, the Caribbean, and Central America. She is an independent agent who is hired by the hour, day, or case (Private Detective Resume).
In 2003, Clarissa McNair, P.I., founded Green Star Investigations. She has been a detective for the past fourteen years. Her newest book (published in 2009) is a memoir under the name Cici McNair called Detectives Don’t Wear Seat Belts. McNair has an advanced degree from the Cordon Bleu di Roma and graduated from the New York School of Interior Design. Her professional memberships include PEN AMERICA and the World Investigators Network. She is also a founding member and vice president of PEN FLORIDA. She currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A Review of A Flash of Diamonds
by Melody Pan (SHS, 2001)
A Flash of Diamonds by Clarissa McNair is an intriguing collaboration of wild romance tales set in various regions of the world. Although the setting jumps from one country to another, McNair creates vivid pictures of the cities in both America and Europe. The book tells the story of two captivating American women leading two totally diverse lives. McNair develops characters, Cynthia Kendall and Iris Keller, into the “perfect” American women who hold different values and ideas about life. Both women are the distinctive objects of affection of one French man– Jean-Francois Colbert. Although the novel tells the story of two different women who never meet, it becomes most interesting when both of their lives intertwine.
Cynthia Kendall, who later becomes Cynthia Colbert, has an evanescent memory of a child that she had given up as a young teen. Marco Falconi, the baby’s father, was Cynthia’s first love but who moved away. Having to deal with the devastating fact that Marco had fallen in love with someone else, Cynthia discovers a more intriguing, dark-eyed man named Jean-Francois Colbert, who is an extremely wealthy banker. Marrying Jean-Francois at nineteen years old, Cynthia had never experienced such wealth as she did living with him in Switzerland. Being more comfortable in jeans and a sweatshirt, Cynthia realizes that her wealthy marriage causes her to lust for love and not money. Little does she know, her marriage will not have a storybook ending. Within years of their marriage, Jean-Francois has been straying away from Cynthia with affair after affair. Cynthia discovers these affairs and has proof of his infidelity. However, her friend Yves informs her that it is a normalcy for Europeans to have affairs. Although this unfortunate reality stresses her, Cynthia manages to give birth to two children, Stephanie and Michel. As Cynthia Colbert tries to help her daughter fight a deadly disease, Jean-Francois does not even acknowledge his family’s problems.
Iris Keller, who was born Ilsa, is the other woman in Jean-Francois Colbert’s life. With her green-grayish eyes and five-foot body, Iris is immensely irresistible to men. After she loses her one true love, Cutter, Iris becomes a thief of men’s hearts, but not until she takes their money first. Just like Cynthia, Iris also became pregnant early in her life but lost her baby to a miscarriage. Along with her adamant confidence and conceitedness, Iris finds many career and life opportunities with each man that she is with. Her first lover, Robert Tripper, gives her a chance to model. Using this man to gain an office job, she recognizes her wealthy co-worker named Dennis. He describes New York to Iris by saying, “New York isn’t what it was five years ago. The muggings. The crime…it’s a garden of tigers” (McNair 77). Here, Clarissa McNair fittingly alludes to this reference in her first novel, Garden of Tigers. Another man in Iris’s life, Harry Stoner, encourages her to become an actress, which leads her to Broadway. Using nothing but lies, Iris manages to live off of these men with her most powerful weapons– sympathy and seduction. Her status in life changes with every man, and she believes that love cannot last without money. Iris finally marries an extremely wealthy man, but she is also temporarily involved with his son. She travels with her husband Vito abroad, but his mobster life is abruptly cut short just as she is bailing out on their marriage. After his death and as her life is beginning to turn around for the better, Iris has another obstacle to face–Vito’s baby. During Cynthia’s unhappy marriage to Jean-Francois, Iris also experiences Jean-Francois’s “love” as well. I will leave you to finish the story of the two women left in one man’s arms. I hope you enjoy twists and turns of the novel as much as I did.
Perri Klass, author of Other Women’s Children and I Am Having An Adventure, responded to the novel as, “I enjoyed Flash of Diamonds tremendously. Clarissa McNair is a rare talent, and the novel is a complete delight from start to finish. It’s a remarkable combination of glittering social comedy and passionate romance, told by a born storyteller. It would be my absolute first choice for self-indulgent escape reading, a Swiss chocolate-covered treat of a book.” Another critic named Larry Wolff, who wrote The Boys And Their Baby and Postcards From the End of the World, describes the book as, “A Flash of Diamonds is a divine Swiss kiss. Clarissa McNair is a national treasure.”
I definitely recommend A Flash of Diamonds to anyone looking for a story full of drama. The insight into the two women’s diversely different lives allows the reader to feel the characters’ feelings and emotions. Although the affairs and situations the characters find themselves in are not familiar to some people, the book definitely shows verisimilitude. Clarissa McNair also incorporates wonderful descriptions of the many settings in the novel. The novel is very tastefully written. However, I believe the book’s content is intended for mature audiences only.
by Melody Pan (SHS)
What was your life in Mississippi like?
My life in Mississippi? I felt as if I were in the wrong place, as if a mistake had been made and that I was meant to be living somewhere else. I realized this in the second grade and immediately told my mother, who told me I had to wait for college to leave home. My secret plan, plotted at age seven, was to run away, to become a prostitute in New Orleans (I thought they were paid to kiss people who were lonely) and to have another life, but I never got on the train. I waited and the years passed, and I went away to college. No matter how old I am, seven years old or this minute, my life is better when I have a plan.
Are you currently writing any books?
I am working on a novel that is based on a case of mine. A murderer whom I have come to know quite well is the main character. I’m also tinkering with a book of case studies; each case is a short story or a chapter.
What or who do you give credit for inspirations to write your novels?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. There is too much of it! A story line or a character can come to me in a dream, but is often a conversation with someone or an experience I have that I cannot get out of my mind. My journal is a way of forgetting…of being able to put things to rest.
Have you always wanted to become a writer? Why or why not?
I have always written, always loved to write and can remember hearing Mrs. Adele Franks, the headmistress of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Day School, say something nice about my writing to my mother. I must have been in the third grade and was thrilled and amazed. I didn’t ever plan on writing a book or plan on becoming a journalist. All of this simply fell into place.
What is your favorite book or novel?
My favorite book? I could not choose just one book. Writers? Graham Greene—A BURNT OUT CASE, THE MINISTRY OF FEAR, OUR MAN IN HAVANA, THE COMEDIANS, ENGLAND MADE ME, BRIGHTON ROCK–really almost every single thing he’s written. Charles Dickens. Evelyn Waugh. Aldous Huxley. Jean Rhys. Colette. The Brontes. Isak Dinesen. John Cheever. Dorothy Parker. Nadine Gordimer. Gregory Jaynes. THE LEOPARD by Giuseppe di Lampedusa. Tennessee Williams’ plays are favorites, of course, and I also like some of his not so well-known writing. Oscar Wilde is my favorite playwright. I keep re-reading William Faulkner’s SANCTUARY even though many critics think it’s his worst novel. A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole is screamingly funny and cannot be read with other people around. BLACKBOARD JUNGLE by Evan Hunter, THE CAINE MUTINY by Herman Wouk, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones were all books I loved as a teenager. I read and re-read THE VOYAGE OF KON-TIKI by Thor Heyerdahl during those years. My all-time favorite memoirs are by Giacomo Casanova, a truly great raconteur; I also love THE MEMOIRS OF HADRIAN by Marguerite Yourcenar. NINE PARTS OF DESIRE by Geraldine Brooks about Islamic women, also THE EMPTY QUARTER by Wilfred Thesiger. James Morris’s travel writing.
Regarding true crime, I like Thomas Thompson’s SERPENTINE, Norman Mailer’s THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG, Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD. Favorite mystery writers are P.D. James, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Ruth Rendell, James M. Cain.
I am a voracious reader of anything about the Mafia but it’s not usually great literature. Often, my favorite book is the one I’m reading at the moment. Yesterday, I finished Isabel Allende’s DAUGHER OF FORTUNE and didn’t want it to end. I’m in the middle of THE LOST MUSEUM by Hector Feliciano which is about the Nazis stealing works of art in Paris during World War II. This is research for a case of mine involving a stolen painting that ended up in Hitler’s dining room!
Why did you decide to become a romance writer?
I was told by my first publisher in London that I was NOT a romance writer. Romance fiction is in an entirely separate section of a bookshop. I write contemporary fiction. Writing my first novel came about because an agent in London had seen my nonfiction work and told me I was ready to tackle a novel. I think I needed someone I respected to say that to me.
What has been the best or most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
The best or most interesting thing I’ve ever done? I am having adventures and simply keep on doing the most interesting things I’ve ever done–again and again. It used to be quite a kick to get off a plane in a place I couldn’t spell only to learn that the U.S. had broken diplomatic relations with the country and all Americans had been evacuated the day before. Never felt more alive than floating over the Valley of the Kings in a balloon at dawn. A few years ago, I was driven, at top speed, in a military convoy through the Arabian Desert to have lunch beside the Red Sea. Once I was nearly traded to an Afghan tribal chieftain in exchange for a very beautiful lapis lazuli box. Standing in the silence of a primeval forest in Patagonia. Sailing on the South China Sea. Realizing (at Vatican Radio) that my words and my voice were being broadcast, at that precise instant, all over the world. These days, I think my adventures are going undercover as a private detective. Three weeks ago I was sent to Italy on a case and I had a new identity, a new past to memorize, and three bodyguards. Fabulous fun.
Traveling has definitely affected me and my writing and my ideas. All of one’s senses are heightened. A new place means a new language, different colors and smells and often a different way of thinking. It’s unusual food, a new piece of sky, sometimes unforgettable encounters. Often it’s necessary to become a child again, to trust strangers. If you don’t speak the language and the last train for anywhere left this morning or the next flight is a week from yesterday and you have no place to sleep and not very much money—you are suddenly quite dependent. All this ‘luck’ forces you to be resourceful. And so, you are!
Where has been your favorite place to live?
My favorite place to live? So many cities to mentally embrace! I was very happy in Rome on my terrace overlooking the Tiber with my coral and pink geraniums.
Do you plan to continue writing? Why or why not?
Yes, I plan to continue writing because I have no choice. I cannot stop!
Is there any message or advice that you would like to tell today’s society?
Do I have any message or advice to pass on? I don’t think I would dare give advice to anyone but I’ll pass on my mother’s advice. She told me, several thousand times, “If you don’t go, you’ll never know what you missed.” She was usually talking about a country club dance or a birthday party but I think she was right. The only thing I would add to this, would most definitely NOT come from my mother: Try not to care too much what other people think of you.
- Essay by Clarissa (Cici) McNair about her book Detectives Don’t Wear Seat Belts on Hachette Books web site.
- Cici McNair’s Author Page on Hachette web site.
- Clarissa McNair’s books, some used and some new, are available on the Amazon.com site. It contains her books such as Garden of Tigers, A Flash of Diamonds, Dancing With Thieves.
- Amazon.com. Books Search Results. Online. Internet. 26 Mar. 2001. Available
- Barnes & Noble.com – A Flash of Diamonds. Online. Internet. 26 Mar. 2001. Available
- iUniverse.com. Online. Internet. 29 Mar. 2001. Available
- McNair, Clarissa. A Flash of Diamonds. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.
- McNair, Clarissa. E-mail interview. 21 Apr. 2001.
- “McNair, Clarissa.” Private Detective Resume. New York City. Apr. 2001.
- “McNair, Clarissa.” Publicity Release for Clarissa McNair’s biography. Apr. 2001.
- “McNair, Clarissa.” Publicity Release for Dancing With Thieves. Apr. 2001.
- McNair, Clarissa. “Re:” 27 Apr. 2001.
- Murrah65.org “Where Are They Now?”. Online. Internet. 26 Mar. 2001. Available