A book signing in Fairhope, Alabama, where I am tastefully tucked away behind a pot plant. A sign the size of a playing card in the window advertises my presence. A few readers drop by. One takes a look and admits that crime novels aren’t her thing. But her husband loves them. This exchange concludes without a sale.
Matrons of Fairhope, be good to your men!
Somehow this encounter prompts me to suggest we press on. We’ve done six hours down from Mississippi – what’s another few hours to New Orleans? So we book a room at a fancy hotel in the French Quarter and light out of Fairhope, crossing back over freeways that run on stilts across the sea, and vanish into the mist. Here and there huge clapboard road-houses offer shrimp and oysters, and an outsize langoustine waves its claws at us sadly through the fog.
Darkness falls quite suddenly, and we are sliding from the interstate down into the Big Easy. We take a calculated turn and discover the French Quarter, nosing the yuppie truck through the crowds wandering Jackson Square. Old as it is, the French Quarter is a grid like every American city, only tightly packed, the famous curling balconies leaning over the streets, the air humid, music and revellers spilling from the bars.
It is festival time. It is always festival time in New Orleans.