I lived in New Orleans for over a decade. Long enough to know that a lot of what I’ve read and most of what I’ve seen in movie theaters about that place had little or nothing to do with its actuality. The heart and soul of that unlikely metropolis, cut in halves by one of the world’s great rivers, began where Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras (either of which locals, as myself, tend to avoid) ended. For me, it was a city of mysteries, secrets and enigmas. A setting as elusive and alluring, as complex and often as dangerous, as Paul Bowles’ Tangier. Exotic is not an adjective one usually associates with the United States. New Orleans is exotic. And much more.
When I wrote my historical mystery FRENCH QUARTERS (from Milford House Press), I certainly wanted to entertain the readers. But I also wanted to share with them that intriguing kaleidoscope of experience and happening that I love about New Orleans. From the moment 17th century French explorers and engineers scraped a clearing from the muddy swamps on that crescent bend of the Mississippi, it was a place seemingly doomed even as it was constantly reborn and recharged with the spicy gumbo of risk-takers that came to live there, and the tumultuous-as-they-were-incredible events that could only happen there.
Probably much of what you have heard about New Orleans is true, in some manner or respect. When you survive hands-of-God hurricane and flood, consuming fire and epidemic disease; when the duel, the fisticuffs or assassin’s bullet become the preferred method of agreeing to disagree and Voodoo the religion of choice; when you battle and defeat one foreign nation at your city doorstep, even as you singlehandedly almost send the United States to war with another, anything is not only possible but probable. Where the good may not be so good, after all, but they are certainly damaged and hanging by a thread. While the bad may draw you into their world of evil you prefer not to enter.
As a writer, what I love most is building a world my readers have never experienced before. They may, in fact, be familiar with some aspects of that world, but by the magic of imagination they enter a place entirely unsuspected as it is intriguing and entertaining. I think the best stories of this part of the world have yet to be told, but I tried to tell one of them here.
James Snyder was born in Memphis, Tennessee and lived in many parts of the United States before settling with his family in Napa Valley. Among a variety of careers and occupations, he was a soldier with a tactical mobile operations unit in Germany, as well as an executive for a Fortune 500 company.
He has published short stories in the Houghton Mifflin Black Mask anthologies, the Ginosko Literary Journal, and was a finalist in the New Letters’ Alexander Patterson Cappon Prize for Fiction. He is the author of the military thriller AMERICAN WARRIOR, the suspense thriller DESOLATION RUN, the literary coming-of-age THE BEAUTIFUL-UGLY, and the short story collection TALES OF THE LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY
His latest novel, the historical thriller FRENCH QUARTERS, was just released by Milford House Press.
He occasionally blogs at jamessnyder.net and currently lives in Texas where he writes full time.