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New Orleans and research

A reader asks, "What are you working on now?"

Aside from copy edits to The General's Mistress, what I'm working on right now is a climactic scene in Steel Blues, the sequel to Lost Things which will be out in July. Steel Blues has a long section in New Orleans in 1931, and it's a very challenging sequence with extended action, a bunch of different settings around the city, and a real emotional bombshell. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, and I'm fortunate enough for a change to be writing somewhere I've actually been! The St. Charles Avenue streetcars that I rode on a few years ago are the same ones that Mitch and Stasi would have ridden, and much of the Garden District hasn't changed. Of course other parts of the city have, and I've been combing online for pictures of the Canal Street ferry dock and parts of Storyville.

One of the things that strikes me, working on Lost Things and then Steel Blues, is how much the setting of the early 30s is like today. I don't just mean that people take cabs and fly airplanes and use telephones. I mean the feel of it, the sense of social discombobulation, the way the world seems to be dividing into more and more extreme camps, from nations to individuals. Of course this is the Great Depression, and it's a lot like today -- people getting by, putting dreams on hold, trying to figure out what they can have of the things they were told life promised, a world full of scared people trying to figure out what to do.

The reader knows, of course, that in less than a decade the world will explode and nothing will be the same, but the characters don't know that this is Before. They can seriously dismiss Mussolini and Stalin, turn the radio off when Father Coghlin speaks, wonder if Prohibition will ever stop being the single most important political issue in America, the ultimate litmus test of candidates. It's fascinating to watch the movies they saw, to read the books they read, to listen to their music -- and to find what their own cultural preferences say about them.

Jerry knows The Charge of the Light Brigade off the top of his head. Mitch does too, but he'd never quote it. Alma likes Garbo and has a secret weakness for Errol Flynn. Jerry does too, but he'd never admit it. Lewis hates horror -- he's seen too much real horror in the war for dismembered bodies to be amusing. Mitch reads horror for exactly that reason. Alma gets up at the crack of dawn and always has. She wears silk teddies under men's slacks. Lewis hates westerns and loves screwball comedies and shaves twice a day when he has to see clients. Mitch likes Carole Lombard and he read Night Flight by St. Exupery in French when it first came out, but he doesn't admit it. Jerry read The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer instead, and he doesn't admit it either!

In any event, I'm having a wonderful time with my research, and I hope you enjoy the book! Any thoughts, my friends?

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
selki
Mar. 31st, 2012 01:19 pm (UTC)
Jerry knows The Charge of the Light Brigade off the top of his head. Mitch does too, but he'd never quote it. Alma likes Garbo and has a secret weakness for Errol Flynn. Jerry does too, but he'd never admit it. Lewis hates horror -- he's seen too much real horror in the war for dismembered bodies to be amusing. Mitch reads horror for exactly that reason. Alma gets up at the crack of dawn and always has. She wears silk teddies under men's slacks. Lewis hates westerns and loves screwball comedies and shaves twice a day when he has to see clients. Mitch likes Carole Lombard and he read Night Flight by St. Exupery in French when it first came out, but he doesn't admit it. Jerry read The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer instead, and he doesn't admit it either!

Ooh. Is any of this referred to in the books, or is it more background character knowledge that's in your head (and LJ)?
jo_graham
Mar. 31st, 2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, it's in the books, most of it! There's always more than goes in the books, but most things go in.
mescott
Mar. 31st, 2012 01:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes! And some more thoughts, from the sporting world:

Mitch, an ex-college football player himself, still follows the college games; he's a bit more interested in pro ball since Red Grange signed with the Chicago Bears. Alma likes tennis, though she doesn't play, and Lewis is starting to follow it because Alma does. Jerry used to be a huge baseball fan, but he thinks Babe Ruth ruined the game. He also pays attention to horse racing, and had $1 on Jim Dandy when he beat Gallant Fox in the Travers at 100-1. Lewis actually likes the way baseball is played now, but he doesn't argue with Jerry about it. And somehow Jerry manages to be around when Lewis has a game on the radio. Henry plays golf, and managed to take lessons from Bobby Jones.
jo_graham
Mar. 31st, 2012 07:57 pm (UTC)
Oh yes! Definitely all that! And Mitch definitely follows college football.
kaviiq
Mar. 31st, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
I've been getting into more historical fiction lately - Assassin's Creed, specifically, though I've been reading Lackadaisy for a couple of years - and it never fails to make me smile when I see that the story's author clearly had fun researching the time period. A video game, a webcomic, and a book might be fundamentally different in their execution, but that love for the little details always comes through. And it is infectious.

I think that, once I'm out of school and have more free time, I'll have to check out more of your work. This (and the other books we've talked about) sounds like a lot of fun to read.
jo_graham
Apr. 2nd, 2012 03:09 pm (UTC)
It is infectious and fun! I hope you enjoy my books. I expect you'd like Lost Things when it comes out in July, as like the Stargate books it has a strong team at the center as well as a really fun historical setting.
raederlephoenix
Apr. 7th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
The early 1900s
While I'm much, much more interested in ancient history, I am looking forward to seeing if these early 1900s will strike up an interest in me. Your writing style sucks me into a story -- I think I'd even like a story taking place present day told by you.

You're a wonder when you make someone who slept and doodled through history class very interested to learn more about history!
jo_graham
Apr. 9th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
Re: The early 1900s
Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy Lost Things. I try to make history fun, and I hope it will resonate!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )