Showing posts with label New Orleans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Orleans. Show all posts

13 March 2020

Go Tigahs!


Go Tigahs!
A football story.

My first memory of LSU football was listening to the LSU-Ole Miss game on All Saints Day, November 1, 1958. I sat with my father at our kitchen table with his transister radio and he explained about the LSU Fighting Tigers and their arch-rival University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) Rebels, how both were undefeated, both in the top ten. Ole Miss had defeated LSU the previous year 14-12. The Tigers scored first but we fretted as Ole Miss was a excellent team. LSU scored again and won 14-0. On New Years we watched LSU play the Clemson Tigers at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and the Fighting Tigers won 7-0, cementing their first national championship. I was hooked for life.

The next year we sat at the same kitchen table and listened to the same transister as Billy Cannon raced 89-yards with a sizzling punt return in the 4th Quarter, breaking seven tackles, to put #1 LSU ahead of #3 Ole Miss. The Rebels weren't finished, driving to the LSU 4-yard line. First and goal. With 18 seconds left, Billy Cannon and Warren Rabb stopped Ole Miss quarterback Doug Elmore on the 1-yard line on fourth down for a 7-3 win. It was electric. The following week, LSU lost to Tennessee 14-13 and lost a rematch with Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, 21-0.

Cannon won the Heisman Trophy that year.

Billy Cannon, 1959

It took 45 years for the Fighting Tigers to win another national championship. January 4, 2003, at the Sugar Bowl again. LSU 21 Oklahoma 14. They won the championship again in 2007, at the Sugar Bowl once more. LSU 38 Ohio State 24.

A near-perfect season followed in 2011, only to be dashed in the national championship game with a re-match with Alabama in the Sugar Bowl once more. Alabama 21 LSU 0. Alabama was coached by Nick Saban who was LSU's coach when the Tigers won the championship in 2003.

Few expected what happened last season. Magic. Perfection. Nothing is perfect in sports. With a new Cajun coach Ed Orgeron and a quarterback from Ohio, a new pass-happy air-raid NFL-stye offense, the Fighting Tigers went 15-0 and beat defending national champion Clemson Tigers (again) for the national championship. In the New Orleans, of course. LSU 42 Clemson 25. LSU scored the most points of any team in a single season in NCAA history. An unstoppable force.


A perfect season. In the small town where I live across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, fireworks echoed after the game. People leaned on their car horns. It was perfect. No season could be better. Quarterback Joe Burrow (who wore a jersey with the French spelling BURREAUX before the SEC championship game) won the Heisman Trophy sixty years after Billy Cannon won.

A magic year:
National Championship
SEC Championship
Coach of the Year Ed Orgeron
Assistant Coach of the year Joe Brady
Heisman Trophy Joe Burrow
Biletnikoff Award for Best Receiver Ja'Marr Chase
Jim Thorpe Award for Best Defensive Back Grant Delpit
Joe Moore Award for Best Offensive Line

Quarterback Joe Burrow's emotional acceptance speech when accepting the Heisman Trophy showed the pride brought to Louisiana and this young man's appreciation of the opportunity. His remarks about growing up in an impoverished area touched many people. As he wiped tears from his eyes, Joe said, "I'm up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County (Ohio) that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too." Those impactful words resulted in the food bank in Athens County receiving donations exceeding $500.000.

This Fighting Tiger team was special.

It was a pleasure watching these young men and women achieve what is nearly unachievable, see the joy in the faces of their families, fell the good vibrations run through our little state. Pride. I said women because when they won the national championship, Joe Burrow reminded everyone it wasn't just the players who won the trophy. It was the coaches, trainers, medical personnel and so many other workers responsible for putting the team on the field, many of them women.

Coach Ed Orgeron, from the small town of Larose in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, is a fiery leader with a heavy Cajun accent. He ends every interview with the new montra of LSU – "Go Tigahs!"

During games, when they run, they look like streaking tigers, especially at night. Purple, gold and white.




Outside Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

For a little while, it's the best of times.

I know, this is a writer's blog and what does this have to do with writing. Well, a SleuthSayer wrote it.

Thats all for now –
http://www.oneildenoux.com





20 December 2019

Homicide Stays With You


by O'Neil De Noux

It was the worst of times. The nearly three years I spent as a Homicide Detective was the worst of times but it was the best work I ever did. As the lead detective of 15 murder cases, with the help of my fellow detectives, I solved every case. In Homicide, you don't work alone, which is what I do as a writer.

Homicide is a permanent assignment, as final as death. You can move on to other work – in or out of law enforcement – but you will always be a homicide detective with a different view of life. You remember the bodies, the blood, the carnage, the guy-retching feeling when you arrive at a murder scene. You remember the victims more than you remember the killers because you connect with the victim if you're any good at detective work. You become their avenging angel. You are responsible for getting the person who did this.

Family members grieve and others are shocked but you have work to do. Homicide is forever.

It is personal. I always brushed the hand of each victim at their autopsy. Let them know someone was there, someone who would catch who did this to them.

I'll share some pictures now of the men and women who I worked with at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Homicide Division in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

JPSO Christmas Party. Left to right.
Back row: Joe Morton, Eddie Beckendorf, Steve Buras, Pat Rooney, Bob Masson, Marco Nuzzolillo
Middle row: Omalee Gordon, Dennis Gordon, Susie Miller, Russell Hidding,
Front row: Tom Gorman and me


My first Homicide partner Marco Nuzzolillo on my left and our sergeant Bob Masson on my right. Marco taught me so much. He was the best detective I've ever known. Bob Masson was the best supervisor I ever worked for. We were a team. A couple Italian-Americans and a white boy. No, we never shot anyone, never beat up anyone. We killed a lot of ball point pens. Good writing brought good convictions.


At Barry Wood's wedding:
Left to right: Curtis Snow, me, Pat Rooney, Barry Wood, Steve Buras
In front: Russell "Hollywood" Hidding who was in love with his hair.


Detective Barry Wood and me during the canvass of the Shoe Town Murder, Jefferson Highway, Metairie, Louisiana, 1981. This extensive canvass produced a witness with information which led us to the murderers. I fictionalized this case in my novel NEW ORLEANS HOMICIDE. I moved it into the city because who wants to read about Metairie.


My father was a homicide detective.

On the left, O'Neil P. De Noux, Sr., at the crime scene of the Maguerite Kitchen Murder, Gretna, Louisiana, 1967. Other detectives pictured: Arthur Theode in the background, Sam Chirchirillo, Eli Lyons. My father caught the killer.


My father bending over with a speed graphic camera as he photographed a murder scene when he was a CID Agent with the US Army in South Korea, 1954. He solved that case as well.


Homicide stays with you. It doesn't haunt. It just reminds you of past evils and the way we faced them.

My youth is gone now. My health declining with age. I have had some success as a writer – not a lot.

But nothing can take away what we did those long nights and days when there was so much blood and guys like me and my partners chased down murderers. There is so much junk in this world, so much pain but damn, it's good to be alive.

Happy New Year, everyone.

18 October 2019

Music in the Time of a Private Eye


Music in the Time of a Private Eye
by O'Neil De Noux

Research for my private eye series set in the 1940s-1950s drew me to YouTube to learn just how bad popular music was before rock and roll. The radio was filled with dreck. In 1947 Perry Como had a hit with Chi-Baba Chi-Baba and Al Jolson was still around with The Anniversary Song. 1948 gave up hits like Mañana by Peggy Lee with a God-awful Spanish accent and The Andrews Sisters with the yodel polka Toolie Oolie Doolie. In 1949 we had a faux-western hit by Dinah Shore called Buttons and Bows where the "cactus hurts by toes" and Tommy Dorsey's brassy The Huckle-Buck. 1950 came with hits like Goodnight Irene by the Weavers and Perry Como was back with another polka Hoop De Doo. Wait, 1950 gave us Nat King Cole's Mona Lisa. Thank God for Nat.


The Weavers were back with a top hit in 1951 – On Top of Old Smokey. Lord, help us. Phil Harris had a big hit with The Thing (No, not from the 1951 movie The Thing from Another World, but a goofy novelty song). Perry Como was back with the sleep-inducing If and we had the tear-jerker Tennessee Waltz by Patti Page. I admit, I sorta like Tennessee Waltz.


1951 gave us the unforgettable Aba Daba Honeymoon by Debbie Reynolds and Patti Page's Mockin' Bird Hill, where the morning sun kisses roses on a windowsill. For some reason, I like Mockin' Bird  Hill. Hey, maybe I just like Patti Page. (I also like sugar songs like 1963 's Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilber and the Fireballs and – please forgive me – 1969's Sugar Sugar by the Archies).

1951 hits did give us a good hit with Nat King Cole's Too Young, but watch out, it can put you to sleep. Tony Bennett's Because of You was OK, but not one of his best. He also had a hit with his cover of Hank Williams' Cold, Cold Heart but the original by Williams was far better. But that version was played on hillbilly radio stations. No way my cool cat PI would listen to country music, even though Hank Williams had dynamite songs.

The radio hits of 1952 were highlighted by Kay Starr with Wheel of Fortune and Vera Lynn's Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart and the Mills Brothers with The Glow Worm. Irish-American Rosemary Cooney gave us at hit with an horrendous Italian-accented Botch-A-Me.


According to Billboard, the No. 5 tune of 1953 was P.S. I Love You (No. Not the cool one by The Beatles – John was 13, Paul 11, George 10 and Ringo 13 at the time). This hit came from four singers wearing college freshmen beanies and sweaters with a big W on the chest. They were The Hilltoppers, hailing from Western Kentucky State College. At No. 2 sat another sleepy song, You, You, You by The Ames Brother.



Tony Bennett had a couple top hits in 1953 with Rags to Riches and Stranger in Paradise.

OK, what about Frank Sinatra? He was in a slump between 1946 and 1953. Dean Martin did have success with 1952's You Belong to Me and 1953's Sway. In 1953, he finally had a top 10 song with That's Amore at No. 2.


My private eye is saved by listening to jazz and rhythm and blues on the radio with New Orleans own Fats Domino's 1951 hit The Fat Man. Too bad my PI has to wait years for Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and so many others.



Antoine "Fats" Domino 1928-2017

That's all for now.
http://www.oneildenoux.com


27 September 2019

A little about Private Eyes


by O'Neil De Noux

We all know there is no one-way to write, no one type of private eye, no rules – except to write clearly.

In the latest Reflections in a Private Eye newsletter of the Private Eye Writers of America, PWA President J. L. Abramo presents some wisdom from Raymond Chandler's The Simple Art of Murder.

A few snippets struck me. The world of the PI – "It is not a very fragrant world." True. Like police officers, private eyes often see humanity at its worst and "down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished or afraid." Chandler explains, the private eye "must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man."

Interesting. A lot to think about there.

Of dialogue, Chandler tells us, "He talks as a man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness."

I like that explanation.

To Chandler – "The story is this man's adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure."

Man or woman, I say. Not many female private eyes when Chandler was writing.

Chandler also says, "I do not care about his private life."

Here is where I differ from the master. I have two private eye series characters and their private lives are too important to be ignored.  In one, a lone wolf private eye who was a womanizer in the early short stories and first two novels in the series, changes overnight when an eight-year old girl with a small suitcase is left in front of his office. She is his daughter from a short liason he had before he went to war (WWII, of course). This lightning bolt transforms him. He has a little girl and this hard man is a single father now with a most precious mission. Raising his daughter.

In the subsequent books, his life with his little girl takes up many pages in the books as both characters lead me through the book. I follow behind recording what they do as the PI works his cases.

Private Eye, Barracks Street, New Orleans

In my other PI series, the private eye is married to a wealthy woman and their personal life, along with their two rescued greyhounds, take an ever increasing role in the books. One of my previous agents suggested I kill off the wife to make the detective's life harder and sadder. I fired the agent instead. Most of the emails I get about this series talk about the wife's interactions with the PI.

Do I care how I've deviated from the formula? Not one bit. Ray Bradbury quotes Spanish poet and Nobel laureate Juan Ramon Jimenez at the beginning of Fahrenheit 451 and I agree – "If they give you ruled paper write the other way."

There is a lot more to the private eye than we have seen from any of us. I say go for it.

That's all for now.

http://www.oneildenoux.com





06 September 2019

Preservation


by O'Neil De Noux

When I was a teenager, the politicians in New Orleans wanted to put an expressway through the French Quarter to modernize the city's transportation system.

From 1964 through 1969, the elevated expressway was designated Interstate 310. The plan was to run it off Interstate 10, down Elysian Fields Avenue to run along the Mississippi Riverfront and connect with the Mississippi River Bridge. It would continue all the way to Earhart Boulevard to become the Earhart Expressway into Jefferson Parish. This elevated 6-lane expressway (40 feet high and 108 feet wide) would separate the Quarter from the river with the federal government paying 90% of the cost.



90%. The politicians salivated at all that money. These are the same guys who let the federal government cut down miles of beautiful, ancient live oak trees along Claiborne Avenue to build the elevated I-10 through the city.

Opposition gathered quickly by the Louisiana Landmarks Society and Vieux Carré Propery Owners Association. Unfortunately, local government was all behind this, from the governor to mayor of New Orleans to the city council. It was a 'go'. It would have killed the ambiance of the old French Quarter, overpowering it with noisy traffic and exhaust fumes. The preservationist worked hard to kill the project, even against pro-expressway local media (newspaper and TV). Preservationists worked the streets and the voice of opposition grew.

One man stopped everything… cold. US Secretary of the Transportation John Volpe shocked everyone by killing the project. He just said no. He invoked Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, declaring the expressway would do irreversible damage to the historic French Quarter – which is what the preservationists argued.

In retrospect, some of the local politicians declared they had been wrong. Former mayor Moon Landrieu (father of recent mayor Mitch Landrieu and former US Senator Mary Landrieu), who was on the city council at the time, looked back and wondered what the hell he was thinking.

The stupidity was stopped by New Orleans preservationists and John Volpe.



Information from:
https://prcno.org/turning-back-the-highwaymen-saving-the-vieux-carre-from-the-riverfront-expressway/
https://www.nola.com/news/article_50a45a30-b25b-11e9-a32c-8fddd41786f6.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vieux_Carré_Riverfront_Expressway


That's all for now.

http://www.oneildenoux.com

01 March 2019

I Collect Names


by
O'Neil De Noux

I collect names. Fiction writers need names. A lot of names. I have been collecting names since I started writing in the 1970s. Good characters need a good name. Raylan Givens. Hannibal Lecter. Scarlett O'Hara. King Kong. Tarzan. Kazar. Sherlock Holmes. Spade and Marlowe.

The names I chose for my recurring main characters were carefully chosen.

Dino LaStanza. My father was called 'Dino' by friends in the army. 'Dino' short for De Noux. LaStanza was a shopping district in Verona, Italy, I remember from my childhood.

John Raven Beau. I had a brother named John. Raven from Poe. Beau from Beau Geste.

Lucien Caye. Picked that name off the banquette (what we call sidewalks in New Orleans) near the corner of Royal and Toulouse Streets in New Orleans. Embedded in tile. I thought it read Lucien Caye when the last name was 'Gaye'. As you can see, the 'G' is messed up. Lucien Gaye French Restaurant sat at 603 Royal Street until @1941.

At 603 Royal Street 


Long time ago.

Jacques Dugas. We have cousins named Dugas.

Lucifer LeRoux. The fallen angel and Gaston LeRoux.

We all work hard on the names of our main characters and primary supporting characters, but I get a kick out of naming minor characters.

Needed a bad guy for the short story "Erotophobia" and came up with Pipi de Loup (wolf pee). When my son was a toddler, he mispronounced words. Belk for belt. Mianteen debil for Tasmanian devil. My   toddler daughter game me Finkle as in 'Finkle, Finkle, Little star ...' I have a Mianteen Bar, a Ms. Belk and a Finkle's Bicycle Shop.

For years I collected names as a university cop and always get good named during the Olympics. Who knows when you need a name of someone from the Principality of Liechtenstein or Mongolia or even Montana?

Sometimes, no matter how creative we can be, real life gives us great names. In THE BLOODING by Joseph Wambaugh, his non-fiction account of the first use of DNA testing in a murder investigation, the police discovered the killer's name was Colin Pitchfork. Hard to top that name.

Although Stanley Kubrik and Terry Southern came up with some beauties in DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB – Buck Turgidson, Jack D. Ripper, Merkin Muffley, Lionel Mandrake, T. J. 'King' Kong, Bat Guano, Lothar Zogg and Dr. Strangelove.

The names are out there. It's fun to find them.

http://www.oneildenoux.com

28 December 2018

Pronunciations


Pronunciations
by O'Neil De Noux

After reading an interesting article on why we pronounce Arkansas and Kansas differently, my mind moved home to our unique pronunciations in New Orleans. Many are secret handshakes – pronouncing a word correctly shows you are a New Orleanian, not a tourist or an ex-patriot American who moved here from Cleveland and never left. (that's a joke fellas).

Some of our secret handshakes are:



Burgundy Street is pronounced is not pronounced Bur-gun-dy like the wine – but is Bur-gun-dy.
Milan Street is not pronounced like the city in Italy but My-lin.
Beaucaire is Bo-care.
Chalmette is Chal-met.
Chartres Street is Char-ters.
Calliope Street is Cal-ee-ope.
Farbourg Marigny is Fa-berg Mare-a-nee.
Metairie is Met-a-ree.
Palquemines is Plack-a-mins.
Pontchartrain is Ponch-a-train.

There are two proper ways to pronounce our city's name. New Awlins (sometimes New Awlun) or New Aw-lee-uns, although Orleans Avenue is pronounced Or-leens. It is acceptable to call the city New Or-leens in a song or in a poem in order to match a rhyme as in "Do you know what it means to miss New Or-leens?"

Uptown dillitantes are known to pronounce the city's name as New Aw-al-yuns and Tulane University as Ta-lane instead of the proper Too-lane.

Here is a link to how the fat man pronounced the city. In my generation, Fat Domino was the Man. Here is his wonderful WALKING TO NEW ORLEANS:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1z45jVlM34

In north Louisiana (we never call it upstate), our state name is often pronounced Looziana, where down here in the south we call it what most people call it - Louise-e-ana. It was named after King Louis XIV, the Sun King.

Article about Arkansas and Kansas can be found here:

https://www.businessinsider.com/why-we-pronounce-kansas-and-arkansas-differently-2014-2?fbclid=IwAR3Rxitax_xF7Y6leBDk2MQBRVXrHCVmOeezCoHeXy5d7WesJobtffIctBk

When we read books, it is not important we pronounce things correctly but if we read them aloud or if we writers have our books on audio, the narrator has to know colloquial pronunciations or you get your audio book to have a "Street Charles Avenue" instead of "Saint Charles Avenue" because the narrator thought St. Charles Avenue was ... you get the drift.

Happy New Year, y'all.
www.oneildenoux.com

07 December 2018

Opening Lines: Best and Favorite


by O'Neil De Noux
OK, we've had a few posts about opening lines but I do not think we SleuthSayers put up a post about the favorite and the best opening lines of a short story and novel we have written. So here is my subjective opinion of mine.

The Best opening line of a novel I've written is:

The wail of bagpipes echoes through the cold fog and silences the men at the earthen rampart behind the Rodriguez Canal.
– from BATTLE KISS (2011)

American breastworks at The Battle of New Orleans battlefield, Chalmette, LA
Photo ©2011 O'Neil De Noux

My favorite opening line of a novel I've written is:

There is no trick-or-treating Halloween night, two months AK – After Katrina.
– from CITY OF SECRETS (2013)


Photo of sculpture Mackenzie by Vincent De Noux used on cover of CITY OF SECRETS

The Best opening line of a short story I've written is:

It was a kiss with promise behind it, as much promise as a good girl would give, enough to make my heart race as we stood under the yellow bulb of her front gallery.
– from "Too Wise" (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Vol 132, No. 5, November 2008 Issue

My favorite opening line of a short story I've written is:

The black German shepherd wasn't a cadaver dog but she found the skeleton in the hideaway closet under the stairs of the unpainted, wooden shotgun house.
– from "Just a Old Lady" (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Vol. 60, No. 9, September 2015 Issue)

Lagniappe. How about a Worst? Here is the Worst opening line of a story I wrote that was published:

It was a dark and stormy night with the wind barking through the mangroves like the voices of angry two-year olds fighting over crayons and I dreamt of a land far away, very far away, a helluva distance away, probably on the other side of the world where it wasn't dark nor was there a storm barking through the mangroves, a place where the mangroves were peaceful and green and I could sit reading Shelley or Keats or maybe Sidney Shelton without the wind whipping the pages of my book or the rain pelting my eyes, blurring my vision of Daphne in a see-through dress with the sunlight streaming through the diaphanous material and I could see all her goodies and make yummy sounds as she slinked up to me like a skank in the night (no, it wouldn't be night because we would be on the other side of the world and the sun would be shining – through her dress).
– from "Like a Stank in the Night" (Hardboiled Sex 2006 Collection)

So what are your favorite and best opening lines? What about your worst?

www.oneildenoux.com



26 October 2018

More about Rejections ... again


More about Rejections ... again
by O'Neil De Noux

Got a polite rejection the other day from the editor of a publication inundated with submissions. In the rejection, the editor felt I would, "... soon sell the story elsewhere."

I have great affection and respect for this editor and well, that's how it goes. Sometimes you get accepted, sometimes you don't. I know the story I sent is a good story. As I read the rejection, it felt familiar, like going into my bedroom to take a nap. Somewhere I belong.

The editor has accepted many of my stories in the past and it is always a thrill when a story is accepted. Sometimes you get accepted, sometimes you don't.

Having a story rejected is never as bad as walking across the dance floor to ask a girl to dance and having to walk back alone across the dance floor because there are witnesses at the dance.

The best part of it all is being in the game, being able to send a good story to a good publication. So, I take a nap (naps come easily the older I get) then get back to writing.

The bottom line is to write a story too good to be rejected.

It has been a long, hot summer of writing and more writing and getting the work done. I'm thankful for that. This week we had a couple cool fronts roll through New Orleans and when that happens in October it means (to us) hurricane season might just be over. No matter what we do down here, from June to November we check the National Hurricane Center and local weather channels regularly because a monster can be out there over the warm waters of the South Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Bay of Campeche or Gulf of Mexico. The ghosts of Hurricanes Audrey, Betsy, Camille, Andrew, Katrina, Rita and so many lesser storms haunt us.

We were lucky this year, not even a tropical storm came our way, and we fell terrible for those who got hit by the big water-big wind monsters.


Just a photo of trees in Covington, LA

That's all for now.

http://www.oneildenoux.com

01 August 2018

When 18,000 Librarians Attack


by Robert Lopresti

Two weeks ago I wrote about visiting New Orleans.  This time I am going to explain why I was there.  The American Library Association holds its annual conference in late June and this year it was in the Big Easy.

Truth to tell, the main reason I went was that the Government Documents Round Table of ALA was giving me the Lane/Saunders Memorial Research Award for When Women Didn't Count.  But I went to a bunch of professional meetings too.

I am not going to tell you what I learned about the current research on reference work and the shocking changes in Canadian government information trends (email me if you are dying to know), but will stick to things more relevant to SleuthSayers.

Believe it or not, there was a panel of mystery writers, and none of them were librarians.  Here's what I remember about them:

Robert Olen Butler is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and a collector of old postcards.  The latter is relevant because he wrote a book called Had A Good Time, in which each story was inspired by a postcard, and told in the voice of the person who wrote the message.


The great editor Otto Penzler read the book and promptly offered him a contract for two mysteries about one of those characters, an early twentieth century reporter named Christopher Marlowe Cobb.    

"Being of a literary turn of mind, I believe my exact words were 'Oh boy, you betcha!'"  There are four books in the series so far.

Ellen Byron writes "Cajun country mysteries," complete with recipes.  She
says she is so afraid of writing sex scenes that she won't even read the book on how to write sex scenes.

"I have a scar on my forehead where I walked into a tree because I was reading.  I was 25 at the time."

 
Jude Deveraux  has written dozens of popular romances but her new agent wanted her to try something different.  He proposed vampires or zombies; she countered with mysteries. He asked for outlines for three books; she replied with nine outlines, one of them 20,000 words long.  (That's not an outline; that's a novella.)

"I'm always writing about 23-year-old semi-virgins."

Debra LeBlanc writes horror - see her many books with Witch in the title -  but her Nonie Broussard novels are about an amateur sleuth who gets (annoying) help from the occasional ghost.

"I am to literature what Walmart is to department stores."

Amy Stewart has written several quirky nonfiction books.  While researching The Drunken Botanist, about the blessed plants that give us booze, she stumbled on the true story of the Kopp sisters who, in 1915, got into a feud with a drunken mill owner in Paterson, New Jersey.  The eldest, Constance Kopp, became the first female deputy in the state.  All four novels are based on her actual adventures.  The title of the first, Girl Waits With Gun, was an actual newspaper headline.  I can testify the book is a lot of fun.

"My characters are all six feet underground.  I'm like, 'Could y'all wake up for five minutes?  I've got some questions.'"


But there are more reasons to attend ALA than the panels, wonderful as they are.  Above you see a picture of the exhibitor's room.  There is no way I could capture more than a sliver of this joint, which had roughly 700 vendors in it.  That included everything from an author with a card table hawking a single title, to most of the major American publishers with displays the size of a grocery store aisle, to companies trying to sell computer systems, furniture, etc.

It is stunning and bewildering.

One company brought in an espresso cart and had a professional barista mixing up free lattes for the crowd.  "I like Baker and Taylor a lot more than I did an hour ago," said one happy imbiber.

Oh, one big exhibitor was the Library of Congress.  Besides giving away coffee cups they had had an hour when you could have your picture taken with Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress.  Dr. Hayden is triply unique being 1) the first female, 2) the first African-American, and 3) the first librarian to hold the office.  There was a very long line so I passed up the opportunity for the pic.

Now, I have a crazy suggestion.  If the ALA conference is ever held near you, you might want to attend.  (Midwinter will be held in Seattle this January.  The bigger summer conference will be in Washington, D.C. in June.)


No, I'm not suggesting you shell out hundreds of bucks to attend panels on cataloging and the learning commons.  But for a lot less ($75 in New Orleans) you can get access to the exhibitor's hall.  And the seven book covers you see here?  They are advance reader copies I picked up for free.  They are just the mysteries; we took home at least as many other titles of different types.  The only limits were our interests and what we wanted to ship them home.

Speaking of which, the photo below shows the post office branch in the exhibitor's hall where librarians were packing up swag to mail home.  We shipped home two boxes.  How many  advance copies would you consider worth the entrance fee?

Enough talk.  I have books to read.


27 July 2018

Harlan Ellison Wrote in Public


Harlan Ellison Wrote in Public
by O'Neil De Noux

In public, in the window of a bookstore with customers milling around, clerks ringing up sales, passersby gawking at the man behind the typewriter and interrupting him with questions – Harlan Ellison wrote short stories. He did this in bookstores around the country, wrote over a hundred stories this way to demystify the writing process. He also did this to promote a book or a bookstore.


Harlan Ellison (in black vest) in Bookstar Bookstore, New Orleans, March 31, 1990

As author-editor-publisher Dean Wesley Smith recently posted, "Harlan called bullshit on the rewriting myth. And he not only called bullshit, he showed clearly, in public, another way."

I witnessed Harlan write a story when he came for the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival in 1990. Typically, a stranger was enlisted to provide an opening line and Harlan would sit behind his Remington typewriter and write the story, having someone tape the pages to the bookstore windows as he progressed.

On Saturday, March 31, 1990, New Orleans nightclub owner and exotic dancer Chris Owens presented Harlan the opening line for a story which Harlan took, sat down and wrote a 4,700 word story entitled "Jane Doe #112," The story of a man haunted by six wraiths, six sickly white faces, not ghosts but figures "as if made of isinglass."


Chris Owens and Harlan Ellison at Bookstar

I watched, took pictures, listened to people ask the writer questions as he wrote, a couple asking extra questions in a gleeful attempt at derailing Harlan, which did not work. I remember him sending me off through the bookstore to look up a fact he needed for the story.


Harlan Ellison and his Remington typewriter

I'm paraphrasing Harlan here. He explained he wrote this way to rebuke the belief writing is mystical, a special process reserved for the few who know the rules, know the secret handshake, wear the invisible super-secret decoder ring. He wanted to show a writer did not need an outline or writing in support groups, critiquing, did not even need re-writes.


Harlan Ellison writing "Jane Doe #112

Dean Wesley Smith is correct in his description of Harlan – "He was a performer, a carny, a man in need of a reason to write a story." As the publisher of Pulphouse Publishing, Dean and Harlan put together a three-volume project called ELLISON UNDER GLASS, to include all the stories Harlan wrote in pubic. Unfortunately, Pulphouse went out of business and the volumes were never published.

In 1990, I was awaiting the release of my second book, THE BIG KISS. For a writer like me who writes in spurts (some long spurts), a writer who re-writes and tweaks and fine-tunes each story and novel, I was amazed as Harlan's feat. I write like a sculptor chiseling a marble slab. Harlan wrote like a painter using delicate, lethal, awe-inspiring brush strokes.


4-year old Vincent De Noux thumbing through his autographed copy of the graphic novel
VIC AND BLOOD: THE CHRONICLES OF A BOY AND HIS DOG by Harlan Ellison

That's all for now.
www.oneildenoux.com




18 July 2018

The Big Neurotic meets the Big Easy


O'Neil De Noux and I at the Cafe Abyssinia for lunch
by Robert Lopresti

In June my wife and I visited New Orleans for the first time.  It was great fun and quite a change from  my Northwest home where we were still celebrating what we call Juneuary.  (As I write this it is Febjuly.  The temperature is 64 degrees and it is drizzling.)

One of the highlights was meeting O'Neil De Noux in person for the first time after years of digital friendship.  O'Neil was kind enough to take us on a tour of the city where his family has lived for hundreds of years.  Boy, was that great.  He is quite a raconteur.

But here was the best part.  O'Neil stopped the car in front of one building and announced that this is where Lucien Caye had his office.  Caye is one of O'Neil's series characters, a post-war private eye.

Just beyond the building there is a park and I immediately remembered the beginning of O'Neil's Shamus-winning short story "The Heart Has Reasons."  Lucien Caye looks out his window and spots a girl sitting in the park.  And that was the  park.

I actually shivered.  It is weird how fiction can do that to us.  It explains why fans have put up marking locations of Baker Street, West 35th Street, and the Reichenbach Falls.

Several friends assured us that the best thing about New Orleans was the music so when my wife and I had a free  evening we decided to see what was on offer.  I'm not a big fan of jazz or Cajun (sorry) but there was one performer listed as folk.  Through the miracle of Youtube we were able to check her out and I would say she was more Bonnie Raitt than folk, but that was fine.

So we strolled over to the French Quarter to the bar where she was playing.  There was nobody and nothing on the stage.  Not so much as a piccolo.  We were greeted by a man at the end of the bar who appeared to be the owner.

"When is the music supposed to start?" I asked.

He smiled.  "Eight thirty."

"And what time is it?"

"Eight thirty."

"But she's not here yet, huh?"

"Nope."

So we strolled about the Quarter for half an hour.  No sacrifice, I assure you.  Coming back at 9 PM we found the stage was still empty.

I looked up the singer's Facebook page and found a notice to her fans that the gig had been cancelled.  I showed it to the apparent-bar-owner who was quite astonished by the news.

So, on the whole, I was not that impressed by the music in New Orleans.

Resident of the Audubon Zoo
I have to get serious now.  That weekend was the 45th anniversary of a famous crime in the city: the UpStairs Lounge arson.  A gay bar was burned and thirty-two people died horribly.  While no one was ever convicted, it is considered pretty certain the culprit was a gay man who had been thrown out of the bar earlier.  (He killed himself a year later.)

A tragedy without doubt.  But the main reason it might be of interest today to those who knew no one involved was the response.  The news media generally ignored that it was a gay bar.  Radio shows made jokes about it.  No government officials mentioned the death of thirty-two citizens.

Many churches refused to hold funerals for the victims.  One Episcopal priest did and was criticized by his parishioners and bishop.  (Unitarians and Methodists stepped up too.  More power to 'em.)  Some families never claimed their deceased's remains.

If there is a positive side to that story it is comparing it to how the nation reacted to the Pulse massacre of 2016.  Looks like we had matured a little since then.

I haven't mentioned the actual reason we were in New Orleans, which was the American Library Association conference.  That's the topic for next time.