Nina de Gramont

Author of The Christie Affair

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Author looks to past for inspiration in Gossip

When Nina de Gramont was in high school, police and administrators broke up a student drug ring at a certain tony New England prep school. It was the talk of teenagers in six states.

A few years later – now grown and the mother of a young daughter, living most of the year at Wrightsville Beach – de Gramont thought of that incident, which provided the germ of her first novel, Gossip of the Starlings, released last week by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

She’ll celebrate with hometown friends with a reading and a book signing at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Pomegranate Books, 4418 Park Ave. Admission is free. Algonquin – which helped launch the careers of Clyde Edgerton and Jill McCorkle, among many others – has been giving the book a major publicity campaign, comparing Gossip of the Starlings to John Knowles’ reading-list perennial A Separate Peace.

It has already attracted the sort of jacket blurbs that young writers dream about: “I inhaled this novel in one breath,” wrote Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean.

All of which seems just a little much to the shy, quiet de Gramont, who rather quickly emphasizes that virtually nothing in the book is autobiographical. After growing up in Englewood, N.J., she attended a “progressive” school in Vermont, which is far from the novel’s fictional Esther Percy School for Girls.