Schaffert’s ‘Perfume Thief’ earns international recognition


Deann Gayman, January 19, 2022

Schaffert’s ‘Perfume Thief’ earns international recognition

Since its publication Aug. 3, Timothy Schaffert’s “The Perfume Thief,” has ridden a wave of continual success.

Most recently, the novel was selected by Penguin Random House International for the One World One Book program. The publisher only selects up to two titles annually for this global promotion.

The cover the "The Perfume Thief."

As a result, “The Perfume Thief” will reach bookstores in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Barbados, Bermuda, Denmark, France, Germany, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, and U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The Perfume Thief,” which is Schaffert’s sixth novel, follows Clementine, a queer American ex-pat and thief, who is drawn out of retirement and into another scam when the Nazis invade Paris.

Schaffert, director of University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Creative Writing Program and Rosowski Professor of English, has been enjoying the opportunities he’s had to interact with readers, and is looking forward to engaging further with an international audience.

“It feels like this book has produced a little more discussion and conversation among readers than my other books,” Schaffert said. “When you’re writing, you’re not necessarily thinking about the reader response or what the reader might be thinking; you’re thinking about plot and characterization and the research.

“When you’re finished and you put the book out there in the world, readers respond with fresh perspectives. It can be exciting to hear these new perspectives on material you’ve been working on, alone, for years.”

The inspiration for “The Perfume Thief” came from several ideas Schaffert had been turning over in his imagination, along with an interest in the specific period and place of Nazi-occupied Paris, France. An additional catalyst came from Virginia Woolf’s novel, “Orlando.”

To write the novel, Schaffert spent much time researching pre-World War II and Nazi-occupied Paris. He also relied on books and archived pages of Vogue magazine to bring the world of perfume and luxury to life.

“I learned so much,” Schaffert said. “The entire process was a learning experience. I had some sense of perfume and the history of it going in, but scent, and spice, and flavor, and the pursuit of it — all of it has had a profound role in culture and industry, and even war. It was the same for understanding World War II Paris.

“A challenging thing about plotting ‘The Perfume Thief’ was that I was weaving around military strategy and the architects of war, and so I had to think about motivation, and the particulars of the tyranny of the occupation, and the psychology of conquest and defeat.”

In addition to the selection as the Penguin Random House One World, One Book title, “The Perfume Thief” has also garnered additional recognitions, including:

  • made the American Booksellers Association bestseller list;
  • was a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon in the category of LGBTQ+ Historical Fiction;
  • was included in various “best of” lists, including spotlights in the L.A. Times, Oprah Daily, CrimeReads, Publishers Weekly, and the Toronto Star, and the audio book was recommended by Apple Books as a “Must Listen” selection; and
  • received support from perfume bloggers, and was featured as part of a promotion by New York perfumier Ellis Brooklyn, which paired the book with scents in its collection.