Born in Nanaimo in the 1936, at age 83 Prudence Emery of Victoria published her mostly show-biz memoirs in Nanaimo Girl (Cormorant Books, 2020). After working for five years as a press secretary for the Savoy Hotel in London--and getting a kiss from Paul McCartney--she became a Hollywood publicist working with the likes of Jodie Foster, Beau Bridges, Rob Lowe, Peter O'Toole, plus Canadians Raymond Burr and David Cronenberg. She has 80 credits as a unit publicist on IMBD.

Prudence Emery graduated from Crofton House Private School in Vancouver, B.C. in 1954 and attended UBC for two years before taking a secretarial job at the Naval base in Esquimalt. She earned enough to attend the Chelsea School of Art in London in 1957. She returned to Canada in 1962 at age 25 and taught handicrafts to veterans at Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver for a summer, then took a year of teacher's training in Victoria before heading to Toronto where she worked as a scab proof reader during a strike at The Globe and Mail from 1965-1966.

Her breakthrough as a publicist occurred at Expo 67 in Montreal where she oversaw tours for travel writers and celebrities including Liberace, Twiggy, Hugh Hefner and Edward Albee. In 1968, she returned to London for a month's visit and was offered a job as Press and Public Relations Officer at the Savoy Hotel. where she spent five years. There she crossed paths with celebrities and politicians such as Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Petula Clark, Louis Armstrong, Sir Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Liza Minnelli and Ginger Rogers.

Emery returned to Toronto in 1973 and began working as a publicist for more than 100 film productions, travelling the globe and meeting actors such as Sofia Loren, Julianne Moore, Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Viggo Mortensen, Jenifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez, Robert Redford and Jeremy Irons. She has worked for ten films directed by David Cronenberg. In 2014, at age 78, she wrote and produced the short comedy Hattie's Heist.

In Nanaimo Girl, Prudence Emery provides anecdotes about many of the people liked, such as Sophia Loren, Peter O'Toole, Angie Dickinson, Robin Williams, David Cronenberg and Nicolas Cage. She also highlights a few people who were not so fond of her, such as Bette Midler and Sharon Stone. In the field of literature, Emery's longtime friendship with Krystyne and Scott Griffin is noteworthy, leading to her involvement with the launch of the Griffin Prize.


Nanaimo Girl (Cormorant Books, 2020) $24.95 978-1-77086-527-3

Death at the Savoy: A Priscilla Tempest Mystery, Book 1 (D&M, 2022). Co-written with Ron Base. $18.95 9781771623216

Scandal at the Savoy: A Priscilla Tempest Mystery, Book 2 (Douglas & McIntyre, 2023). Co-written with Ron Base. $19.95 9781771623452

Princess of the Savoy: A Priscilla Tempest Mystery, Book 3 (D&M, 2024) Co-written with Ron Base. $19.95 9781771624053

[BCBW 2024]


Death at the Savoy: A Priscilla Tempest Mystery, Book 1
by Prudence Emery and Ron Base (D&M $18.95)

(BCBW 2022)

Prudence Emery, co-author of Death at the Savoy, worked at the Savoy Hotel from 1968–1973 before returning to Canada where she was a publicist on over one hundred movie productions. She met stars such as Sophia Loren, Peter O’Toole, Angie Dickinson, Robin Williams and David Cronenberg. In the field of literature, Emery’s longtime friendship with Krystyne and Scott Griffin is noteworthy, leading to her involvement with the launch of Canada’s lucrative Griffin Prize.

BC BookWorld: Your first book was a memoir, Nanaimo Girl. What gave you the idea to write a murder mystery?

Prudence Emery: I must confess that the idea to write a murder mystery did not occur to me. But it did occur to an old friend, Ron Base, retired film critic, showbiz journalist and novelist. I knew Ron from the years I worked as a film publicist and invited him to visit my sets. Many years later in 2020, Ron read my memoir and was intrigued with the section at the Savoy, where I worked as press officer in London during the Sixties. He subsequently called me with an invitation to collaborate with him on a series of mystery novels based at the iconic hotel. The collaboration was launched, Ron working in the east in Milton outside Toronto and me in the west in Victoria.

BCBW: The Savoy is an historical luxury hotel, the kind of place that Agatha Christie would have chosen for one of her mysteries. Is that why you choose this backdrop?

PE: Thank goodness Agatha Christie didn’t base any of her books at the Savoy. It would have precluded Ron and I from basing Death at the Savoy there. It was chosen not only because I worked there, but for its rich history dating back to 1889, studded with royalty, celebrities and the odd scandal, set against the epitome of luxury, perfect background fodder for a mystery novel.

BCBW: Was the Savoy as sexist and tradition-bound during your time there as you describe in the novel?

PE: I guess you could say that the Savoy was sexist and tradition-bound. But by being tradition-bound, the hotel maintained its high standards. And as for sexist, it’s true that no women worked in the public areas of the hotel. It was all men. However, as Priscilla has in the book, I had carte blanche to entertain in both the Grill and the Restaurant. I could be found on occasion drinking Buck’s Fizzes in the American Bar. But I must say, operating in a predominately male world, like Priscilla, I did feel occasionally uncomfortable. Also, like Priscilla in the book, I sometimes had the feeling management wasn’t happy with me.

BCBW: You used your knowledge of 1960s London to expertly develop great settings for your novel. What were some of your favourite places in London and which of them ended up in your book?

PE: King’s Road in Chelsea was a favourite area of mine, mainly, because at that time, the trendy shops and restaurants as well as the “in” nightclub Aretusa (where John Lennon made his first public appearance with Yoko Ono) were to be found there. Although King’s Road didn’t make it into our first book, Priscilla wore outfits from King’s Road, in particular dresses by the fashion designer Mary Quant who popularized the mini-skirt.

A few London pubs which I frequented and which occur in the book include The Admiral Codrington in Chelsea and the Coal Hole next to the Savoy. I also liked hanging out with journalists on their territory, Fleet Street, scoffing beer in the The Wig and Pen. But my favourite spot to recuperate from overdosing on beer or champagne was in my Savoy–owned flat at 37-39 Knightsbridge overlooking Hyde Park, where Priscilla also lives. We both loved it in the spring when the daffodils bloomed across the street.

BCBW: Are you Miss Priscilla Tempest?

PE: Maybe. All I can reply to this question is that Priscilla does things that I didn’t do and I did things that she didn’t do. But if one reads both Nanaimo Girl and Death at the Savoy, one can judge for themselves.

BCBW: You use real life characters like Bob Hope, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Noel Coward, and Princess Margaret. But you also (I’m guessing) added fictitious names such Amir Abrahim and Daisee Banville. Why this mix?

PE: Mixing fact with fiction is a delicious recipe; give it a stir and it creates a rich tapestry of a tale. Having Priscilla interacting with celebrities gives the story veracity, lots of occasions for humour and probably supplies nostalgia for old “Savoyards.” There may be more fun than dropping famous names and dead bodies around a legendary luxury hotel, but I can’t imagine what it is. Also, who knew that collaborating on a book (with Ron Base) working four thousand miles apart could be such fun?

Scandal at the Savoy: A Priscilla Tempest Mystery, Book 2 by Ron Base & Prudence Emery (D&M)

Review by John Moore

For obvious reasons most murder mysteries are long on terror and short on humour, other than the deadpan gallows variety exemplified by old Raymond Chandler novels. There have been novels, TV series and films featuring witty or comical detectives and even amusing killers (think of the film Clue, based on the board game; the play Sleuth and its original film adaptation; the novel American Psycho and its film version; and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction; etc.) but they tend to satirize familiar situations of the genre so broadly that they end up in Parody (next door to Purgatory on Google Maps).

It’s rare to find a novel like Scandal at the Savoy that can maintain suspense and genuine interest in the characters while delivering laugh-out- loud moments every four or five pages.

Like the first novel in this series, Death at the Savoy (D&M, 2022), this too is set in the prestigious Savoy Hotel in England during the “Swinging Sixties.” The story brilliantly evokes the period when A-list celebrities and international politicians, not just pop stars, still needed the validation of being “seen” in London, not B-List burgs like New York or Los Angeles. Priscilla Tempest is a young Canadian woman in charge of public relations for the grande dame of London hostelries. Saddled with a moniker more appropriate to the heroine of a bodice-ripping novel set in a faux-historical England, (another bit of authorial tongue-in-cheek), Priscilla becomes a real damsel in distress when her already demanding job is complicated by the murder of a showgirl appearing in the Savoy’s cabaret headlined by aging British film siren, Diana Dors.

Younger readers may have to redline their search engines looking up all the Sixties’ stars who make cameo and walk-on appearances, but the history lesson will be rewarding. Those who remember the Sixties will cackle with satisfaction at the fictional resurrection of so many global celebrities whose careers proved it’s possible to be famous for more than fifteen minutes. Among them is Canada’s youthful bachelor Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who sweeps Priscilla out of a star-studded Savoy cocktail reception and out of her Mary Quant mini-dress for a five-star one-night stand.

For any Savoy employee, creeping out of a guest’s suite early in the morning is a career-ending move, but unemployment quickly becomes the least of Priscilla’s worries when the strangled corpse of showgirl Skye Kane is discovered in a dressing room at the hotel. Priscilla informs Scotland Yard detectives that during the party, in the Ladies room, she met Skye, who had been slapped and threatened with death by notoriously short-fused American theatrical producer, David Merrick.

From that plot point, Scandal at the Savoy becomes a deliciously dark farce exposing the sleazy underside of the glamorous Carnaby Street–designed facade London preferred to show to the world. It was a milieu in which celebrity gangsters like the notorious Kray Twins mingled with pop stars, famous actors, Members of Parliament and Commonwealth Prime Ministers with predictable results: blackmail, scandal and what Scotland Yard calls “suspicious deaths.”

As in the film True Romance (another Tarantino film), supporting actors steal this show. The trio of Savoy regulars, playwright Noel Coward and actors Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, resemble the three witches in Macbeth if their dialogue had been re-written by Oscar Wilde. At the initial cocktail party, one of them refers to the despised Merrick as “the Abominable Showman,” and the quips just keep on coming. Not content to play the role of Chorus in the play, they get stuck right in to aid their friend Priscilla, tailing gangsters through the mean streets of London’s rough East End in Olivier’s Bentley and helping her rescue Diana Dors from the Kray twins. No more spoilers... you’ll have to read the book.

Nanaimo-born Prudence Emery worked for many years as the press and public relations officer for the Savoy Hotel. She’s now happily mining her memories of that career in collaboration with Ron Base—the Milton, Ontario, novelist who has authored his own series of Sanibel Sunset mystery novels, many set on the Florida islands of Sanibel and Captiva. One of the principal charms of the mystery genre is that murder provides authors and their fictional investigators with a moral pretext to expose the “best” people on their worst behaviour. Prudence Emery, who now lives in Victoria, and Ron Base have come up with a new twist on the old formula that’s five-star all the way to the last morsel. 9781771623452

John Moore has written three novels, a poetry collection, and most recently Rain City: Vancouver Essays (Anvil Press). He lives in Garibaldi Highlands.

[BCBW 2023]