04 February 2022

The Last Time I Saw Harlan

Looking back as I write this on January 28, 2022, two years after Harlan Ellison died on this day in 2018, I realize the last time I saw Harlan was his visit to New Orleans in 2001. I drove Harlan and Susan Ellison to the French Market and other places around town, including the Chalmette battlefield site of the Battle of New Orleans, and back to the French Quarter to check out where writer Sherwood Anderson lived in the Upper Pontalba Apartments in 1924.

Sherwood Anderson entertained and influenced William Faulkner, Carl Sandburg, Edmund Wilson and others. Harlan influenced me and many others.

I remember we went to the lower French Quarter where my character Lucien Caye lived on Barracks Street as well as where another of my recurring characters, Dino LaStanza, lived with his wife Lizette on Exposition Avenue at the edge of Audubon Park.

While uptown, we went to Lafayette Cemetery and checked out a two-story yellow frame house across the street from the cemetery where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in 1919-20, where he wrote his "Letters to Zelda."

Harlan wanted to eat at a wonderful, small restaurant, a favorite of New Orleanians – Guy's Po-Boys on Magazine Street.

Of all the photos I took of the visit, these are the only ones not destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some of these are stained but that's the way it goes.

I managed to lose a lot of this weight, thankfully.

In the French Market, Harlan talking with one of the stall owners.

In front of the statue of Saint Expedite, inside Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (which includes the Shrine of St. Jude), North Rampart Street, at the edge of the French Quarter.

Outside le Richelieu Hotel in the French Quarter.

Guy's Po-Boys, 5259 Magazine Street. It's still there.

Susan was a gracious, patient, intelligent woman with an cool sense of humor. Anyone married to Harlan needed a sense of humor. She died in 2020.

Brings me back to the first time I met Harlan at the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival. We sure were young back then.

Harlan, Chris Wiltz, George Alec Effinger, me

For those you who haven't read much Harlan Ellison. He is essential. A master of the short story whose influence on other writers, including me, is enormous. We all know writers influence one another. I see a lot of it today online, here at SleuthSayers and on other social media. A good thing. Writers linking up, maybe never meeting, but interacting and sometime influencing one another, maybe even inspiring each other.

That's all for now.



  1. Good memories. The photos may start to fade, but the memories will stay.

  2. Never met the guy, alas. He was a rare example of a writer who won awards both for science fiction and mystery. Edgar Awards for two stories "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" and "Soft Monkey." Other essential non-mystery stories: "Repent Harlequin, said the Ticktockman," and "Jeffty is Five."

  3. My favorite quote, from Poul Anderson: "Some people don't suffer fools gladly. Harlan doesn't suffer them at all." You must be pretty special! I'm jealous.

  4. Great photos! And I'm sure those are great memories.

  5. Harlan was the writer who made me want to be a writer. I only had the chance to actually speak to him briefly a couple of times. I'm still heartbroken every day that I'll never get another chance. Thanks so much for sharing your memories.

  6. Fantastic photos. "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" was my first Ellison, and went on to "A Boy and His Dog", and I still have my original copy of "Dangerous Visions". And one of the best, "Demon With a Glass Hand". Seminal stuff. All of it.

  7. I discovered Ellison when I was in my early 20s & read everything of his I could find for quite a while. Agree with what Eve said above, except I don't have a copy of Dangerous Visions any longer!

  8. Brilliant writer, but he could be a difficult (to put it gently) human being. I've told my Harlan stories elsewhere, so I won't repeat them here. I will point out that, of the three or four times I've served on Edgar committees, twice I got to cast the tie-breaking vote between worthy finalists. One of those two times was when Harlan won for "Soft Monkey"....


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