Showing posts with label excerpts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label excerpts. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Cautionary Tale

New Lagniappe story up, set in my dawlin' New Awlins. Check it out.

A snippet:

Pretty soon, though, some disturbing news filters its way down to Ed. The newspapers are full of it. Some society babe, apparently, last year’s queen of Comus, has had her house on St. Charles burglarized. Nothing missing, ma’am, except her shadow. This is a new one, even for New Orleans cops. They sit around scratching their heads and sipping hot coffee even in the heat, because that's what cops do.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Do You Know This Man?

 Of course you do. You've seen this picture of him in every tasteful little coffee-shop or bistro you've ever frequented. It's so ubiquitous that it's almost invisible. And there's his name right on the poster, Aristide Bruant. French guy, right?

aristide bruant

You might even know that the poster is the work of Toulouse Lautrec, the little guy, the godfather of posters. 

But do you know Aristide Bruant, who was anything but tasteful? As a matter of fact, he was the Andrew Dice Clay/ Ozzie Osborne of his time. He was an outlandish cabaret owner whose main attraction was himself, entertaining his customers by parading on the bar top, singing and insulting everyone who came to see him, and everyone was the bourgeois, slumming it up in dangerous Montmartre (or La Butte, as the hilly region of Paris was called). And the bar he packed them in at was The Mirliton.

The what?

The Mirliton, which basically means "the kazoo" in French. It's also a favorite vegetable in Cajun cooking, which caused me no end of trouble along about the third draft of The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter.

le chat noir
                      But maybe we'd better back up, to the bar where Bruant made his name: 

Le Chat Noir in Montmartre, the ur-nightclub, which I know you've heard of, because once again, you've seen the poster--probably in that same cool little bistro, just across from the poster of Bruant. Bruant became so well known there that when the club closed, he opened his own--at the very same site. The walls were decorated with Lautrec's masterworks, which the bourgeois crowd mainly ignored. Lautrec held court there most nights--until some place The Moulin Rouge opened up down the street.

Here's how I imagined the place:

This then was the Cabaret Le Mirliton, just one of several down-at-the-heels establishments pocking the Boulevard Rochechouart that promised song and dance and bonhomie, or alternately enough noxious drink to make the first three superfluous. 

Le Mirliton was of the first kind. As soon as we were inside the door, we were greeted by smoke and noise and the booming voice of the proprietor himself. 
“My God, look at these two! Have the sewers backed up all the way to Montmartre?”

There was Bruant, striding up and down the top of the bar in the same costume we’d seen in the posters, a gamekeeper’s outfit with a scarlet shirt and scarf, an opera cape and wide-brimmed black hat. He pointed a rattan cane at us and said, “See how they gawk? Like sheep about to be sheared! Mutton-heads!”

Interior of Le Mirliton by Louis Anquetin
le mirliton by anquetin
            St. Lazare, a song by Bruant                              

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Where Van Gogh Died

auberge ravoux

spent the last 70 days of his life in the little town of Auvers-sur-Oise as a lodger at Auberge Ravoux. During his stay there, he created more than 80 paintings and 64 sketches before dying of a gunshot wound on 29 July 1890. 

In this picture, Ravoux and his daughter Adeline are on the left. Madame Ravoux and daughter Germaine stand in the doorway.

                             --The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter

Saturday, March 20, 2021



I'm going to share a secret with you: I don’t read Sherlock Holmes pastiches. Or at least, very few. And the better they promise to be, the leerier I am of them. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t read pastiches. What do you, think I’m crazy? No, remember I’m a writer, not a reader. Not that writers shouldn’t read pastiches. Far from it. I’m pointing the finger squarely at myself. You see, I’m a sponge. I’m a mimic. I’m very strongly affected by the last thing I’ve read. If I had been reading Dylan Thomas while I was writing The Strange Curse of Eliza Doolittle, I’d have had to name it Eliza’s Christmas in Wales

So I didn’t. I stuck to a steady diet of John Watson, M.D., with Pygmalion for dessert. A little taste: 

    Toby, of course, had long since joined his lop-eared dewlapped ancestors in the next life. Rather amazingly, Mr. Sherman, Toby’s owner, was still rattling along this mortal coil, still stuffing animals, still manning the shop in Pinchin Lane. We hung on his bell till we heard the window on the second floor being wrenched open above us. 

“Stand back, Watson,” said Holmes, pulling me aside. Glad I was that he did so; the first thing that came out of the window was a bucket of dirty water, which splashed to the pavement at our feet. The second thing was Sherman’s head in a nightcap. 

“Go away!” he yelled. “I’ll have the law on you!”

 Well, you say, everybody strives to sound like John Watson. And to that I say, some do, and some don’t. It’s not a matter of good or bad writing, it’s largely a matter of intention. For me, the music is of paramount importance. 

And then there’s the matter of edges. The territory a pastiche inhabits is the edges of the Canon. Luckily, Doyle left wide edges to work in. The stories are chock-full of detailed facts, but those facts are always about the case, and almost never about Holmes—or Watson. It’s all those details that a pastiche fills in. For instance, I know that Holmes kicked his
nicholas meyer
cocaine addiction with the help of Sigmund Freud, because long ago I read the Seven-Per -Cent Solution, by Nicholas Meyers. This was long before I had any intention of writing a Holmes pastiche, before I even heard the word pastiche; as a matter of fact, it was my original inspiration (I’m probably not alone in that). 

But the point is, I can’t have that idea, because someone already had it, and executed it brilliantly. The more pastiches, especially good pastiches I read, the narrower the edges become. 

So, enjoy the pastiches. Hell, enjoy my pastiches. And I promise, when I move on from writing Sherlock Holmes stories, I’ll catch up on my reading.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Brunswick Wharf


                                                                       --The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle

Sunday, March 14, 2021

27A Wimpole

 Shaw's inspiration for the home of Henry Higgins:

"Much like the fictional professor of phonetics, who famously lived on the same Marylebone street, the property's original owner, Professor Horace Wilson, was a linguistics expert." --The Daily Mail

Sunday, January 17, 2021

An Excerpt from Doolittle

Here's a quibble with Amazon for Kindle. If you want a little taste of the writing. you can download 20 or 30 pages, the beginning of the book, which is cool. Except that's not the way I pick out a book. I open a book to a random page and read a little snippet. Then I open it to another random page, further along in the book, and dip down again. And so on. That way I can be sure all the good parts aren't stuffed into the first chapter.
So I'm going to give you the chance to check out my book in that same way. i'm going to give you some random snippets. I hope they'll whet your curiosity.
"And there were certain cases, no more than a handful, of such bizarre aspect and puckered logic that he simply could not resist the temptation to wade back into the black cesspools of London’s vast criminal underworld."
"Holmes and Pickering were alone in the dining room when I arrived, but no revelations were forthcoming. “Still expecting conjuror’s tricks after all these years, Watson?” Holmes scolded. “I’m not a calculating chicken."
“I’m a detective is what I am,” said Wiggins proudly. “But the kind of detectin’ I do, Mrs. Brown is as valuable to me as Mr. Holmes’ magnifying glass were to him.” He opened up his bag and produced a small leather case, which held a Brownie camera. "
“Ah! You’re unaware of the case of Susan Wallace?” asked Newcomen, glad to have news to share. “We’ve just laid our hands on her. Murdered four men in a pub down by the docks, she did. Middle of the afternoon.”

“Of course he’s mad. Most aristocrats are mad. In the German states it’s practically a prerequisite. I was Freddy’s second."