14 July 2017

We're all Liars

by
O'Neil De Noux

"I'm a professional liar, folks," Harlan Ellison once said. "I write fiction for a living. I make up this weird crap and people pay me for it."

Harlan Ellison at Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival

My kids used to warn people, "Watch out. My Dad makes up stuff."

They discovered it early when I read books to them. My daughter especially. She noticed how the book I just read to her was different from what I read to her earlier because I made up different versions of the story each time I looked at the drawings. "That's not the way the book was last time."

Made it difficult when the historian in me would tell them real stories and they'd wait until I finished before asking, "Was that true or did you make it up?"

No, I told them, there really was a man named Dracula.

Which brings me to my newest book SAINT LOLITA, a book where homicide detctive-turned private eye LaStanza, the main character of my longest running series, leaves New Orleans for most of the book. He goes to a Caribbean isle to locate and recover le Cerise, the largest red diamond in the world (which I made up. Not the world but the diamond. Well, when I think about it I made up LaStanza's world back in the 1980s when I created him).

I was going to set the story on the island of Saint Lucia. I've never been there and the research became so intense, I knew I'd never get it right and I love strong, accurate settings. So I made up an island and named her Saint Lolita - which opened so many subtle nuances in the story. There is even a Caribbean Saint Lolita Festival where women dress up as Lolitas, parade around in skimpy clothing. I got to put LaStanza in a pith helmet.

Cover art @2017 Dana De Noux

Yep, I've been making up crap for years. All fiction writers do.

I said earlier, I like a strong, accurate setting. I get most things right, especially in my New Orleans pieces because I go back to each setting to recheck and make sure I got it right.

Final note (and I hope I haven't put this in an earlier blog) comes from Tennessee Williams. After the Broadway success of his Pulitzer's Prize winning A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (which he wrote while living at 632 Saint Peter Street, New Orleans), Mr. Williams was an event here in the city where an uptown dilletante scolded him about his play. She told him if Blanche DuBois took the streetcar the way Tennessee described the route, she would not have ended up on Elysian Fields Avenue.

"The streetcars don't run that way."

He replied, "Well, they should."


Photo of Tennessee Williams by Evening Standard - Getty Images, uploaded by answers.com.

That's all for now, folks.

5 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Williams was right, O'Neil, the streetcars should run that way. And that's what we do because, as pompous as it sounds, we're going for greater truths. And if we have to "lie" to get to them so be it. -- And good luck with the new book!

janice law said...

Good for Tennessee Williams and good for you, too!

John Floyd said...

Whoa, I love that Tennessee Williams reply--I gotta remember that. (And it's no surprise he was a liar--a guy from Mississippi named Tennessee, writing about Louisiana . . .)

Saint Lolita sounds great, O'Neil. Hope it's a bestseller!

Enjoyed the column, as usual.

Eve Fisher said...

Love the column - keep making stuff up!

R.T. Lawton said...

O'Neil, being a cop and a writer, I believe the phrase you're looking for is: "Given enough time, I can explain everything....just give me a couple of minutes."