Monday, December 9, 2013

The Big Easy, a renaissance

    In the middle of the Sixties my wife Penny and I moved from Palo Alto to New Orleans, a city utterly strange to us, and I went to work for the Times-Picayune with no journalistic experience whatever. It was a rich, tumultuous time I've described in an essay in Vanishing America, and it led to my writing a novel soon after Penny and our little son, Brennan, left to live in Europe a year later.
   I started the novel in Switzerland, an overgrown garden in Chateau d'Oex with a view of the Vaudois Alps, and finished it in London where we lived for three years. New Orleans was about as far from our house in Kensington as you could get, but it was New Orleans that steamed away in the old sub-conscious, grim, violent, other-worldly, and it's that vision that finally emerged, a purgatorial take on a unique piece of America that appears below.
    The book was written in an explosive decade - civil rights struggles, Vietnam, drugs, social dismemberment, glorious and often futile dreams. I called it The Big Easy. I was the first to use that phrase, as I have explained in a early posting. I overheard it on the street, walking from the bus stop to the cop house on Tulane Avenue. It was a pretty phrase, I thought, with a very dark side.
   The novel, first published by Houghton Mifflin, has just been reissued as an e-book and will be available as a newly-released on-demand book in early 2014. 

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