The seventh Scotty Bradley outing will be dropping soon.
It seems weird to still be writing about him now that I'm turning fifty-five; today in fact. Thinking that way reminds me of Mick Jagger saying "I'd rather be dead than sing 'Satisfaction' when I'm forty-five"; of course he's still singing it in his seventies, isn't he?
Which just goes to show, one should never say never, should one?
And yet there will be at least one more; all I have to do, really, is just sit down and think about Scotty--and more stories pop into my head.
It's entirely possible that I'll be writing Scotty when I'm seventy-five.
Last night, Paul and I had dinner with Jean and Gillian at Charcoal for my birthday (even though it was my Birthday Eve, really) because I really wanted a muddled jalapeno margarita, which is one of their specialties. It was a lovely evening, as always; I always forget how much I enjoy spending time with people I really like until I actually do.
Ah, such is the strange bipolarity of my life.
Garden District Gothic is one of those books that just kind of evolved into my head, you know? It actually came about because I was developing another character, as one does. Over the years I've written a number of short stories from the perspective of a New Orleans writer (only one, "An Arrow for Sebastian", has ever been published) and I kind of liked the character. He showed up in a book I wrote under a pseudonym, and then when I was putting together The Orion Mask I needed a writer character, so I thought, 'oh, I'll just use Jerry Channing.' As the character developed, I decided he was someone who actually made a living as a writer, and had written a book about a famous crime in New Orleans that he was peripherally involved in by simply knowing the people involved; and the book, a perennial seller, was called Garden District Gothic. As I wrote about him in The Orion Mask, I came to like the character more and more. He used to be a personal trainer, came from a very poor background in rural Mississippi, came to New Orleans when he was really young and supported himself in rumored untoward ways, put himself through college at the University of New Orleans and worked as a personal trainer. Gay, of course. (He was a personal trainer for Garden District women, which was where he picked up the gossip for his book.) Of course, the title of his book fit the criteria for a Scotty book (I always thought my Garden District title, though, would be Garden District Gumbo), and when it was time to write about Scotty again, I thought, you know, it would be kind of fun to bring Jerry back again; maybe this Scotty book could be about him getting involved in the case that Jerry wrote about--which had actually never been solved.
And then it just naturally evolved; Scotty had been briefly bullied in junior high school--that was part of his backstory that I've talked about any number of times--and I thought, what if one of the bullies was a member of the family from the murder case?
And things started coming together. I also saw a way to plant the seeds for the next Scotty book in this one, and to bring Paige into it as well. I even have some ideas of how to have Scotty and Chanse finally meet in the next book.
And of course, the cold case was sort of based on Jon-Benet Ramsey; the young beauty queen who was murdered and the killer never caught. I didn't use anything from the actual case besides the actual framework; I purposely didn't go back and read anything about it because I didn't want it to influence what I was writing about; I wanted it to be my own.
And it was a lot of fun to write, frankly.
I also paid homage to one of my favorite books, Peyton Place, in the prologue:
A New Orleans summer is like a gay man. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, he comes and goes as he pleases, leaving behind damp sheets, sweaty skin, and clothes that are soaked through. He brings the humidity with the heat when he arrives in early May, sometimes not leaving until after Labor Day, sometimes overstaying his welcome and not leaving until mid-October. But when he does finally go, it’s sudden; slipping out overnight while you sleep, leaving you to wake up to dry air and lower temperatures, with sunny days with blue skies and no humidity, days so beautiful that locals remember why we are so happy to live here again—something we always forget during those long, hellish days that seem never-ending in July and August. During those months, we wait anxiously for him to leave, as our power bills escalate and our laundry baskets grow ripe. The crowds of tourists start dwindling in mid-July until they are almost nonexistent in August, the hot smelly streets of the Quarter empty and forlorn, the shops and bars and restaurants empty, the ceiling fans overhead spinning crazily in desperate attempts to create a breeze in the soupy, thick air. There used to be an urban legend that the heat created pressure in the sewers beneath the city, the noxious fumes building as the sewage cooked in the heat until it became too much to be contained, blowing manhole covers sky-high with an explosive bang that rattled windows and set off car alarms. It is just a tale, of course, with everyone knowing someone who knows someone who witnessed it happen, and as you mop sweat off your face and your wet socks cling to your feet, it’s not too hard to believe that such a thing could be true.
We’d been lulled into a false sense of complacency by a few mild summers in a row—three, to be exact—which also fooled everyone into thinking we’d gotten used to it at long last. So that certain summer when the weather returned to normal was like the nastiest, most unexpected bitch slap. To add insult to injury, it was a record-breaking summer for all three measures: temperature, humidity, and the heat index. The heat index hovered around an average of 124 for two consecutive weeks while almost every elective activity in New Orleans came to a screeching halt. Power bills skyrocketed, the air-conditioning in cars couldn’t compete, and letting the cold water spigot run from the tap for a half an hour resulted in a flow of slightly less lukewarm water. A power failure at the water processing plant in July rewarded the city with a thirty-six-hour boil water advisory, and those who could afford to escape loaded their cars and fled for hotels outside the reach of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board system.
Every time I went outside—which I tried to limit as much as possible—I couldn’t help but wonder how life had been possible here before electricity.
Not to mention plumbing.
And they wore a lot more clothing, too.
And now, back to the spice mines, birthday or no birthday--the spice must be mined, and the spice must flow.
Here's an Olympic athlete for you: