It’s Retro Thursday, so I’m digging back through the shelves for books from ages past that should be remembered. Today, I’m talking about an urban fantasy called The Map of Moments, by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon. It was published in 2008, and here’s my teaser: this is the book that inspired me to take keyboard in hand and start writing fiction. This is THE one that got me off my butt. And not for the reason you might think.
ABOUT THE BOOK: What if you were given a map to a magic that could change the worst moment of your life…for a price? From two all-stars of dark fantasy, Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, coauthors of Mind the Gap, comes this terrifying new thriller of magic and dangerous passions, where an ordinary man searches the magical landscape of an extraordinary city for the chance of a lifetime. Barely six months after leaving New Orleans, history professor Max Corbett is returning to a place he hardly recognizes. The girl he’d loved—and lost—is dead, and the once-enchanted city has been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Max has not thought much beyond Gabrielle’s funeral—until a strange old man offers him a map, and an insane proposition . . .“Forget all the stories about magic you think you know. . . .” It looks like an ordinary tourist map, but the old man claims that it is marked with a trail of magical moments from New Orleans’s history that just might open a door to the past. But it is a journey fraught with peril as Max begins to uncover dark secrets about both his dead love and the city he never really got to know. How is Gabrielle linked to an evil group from the city’s past? And can Max evade them long enough to turn back the clock and give Gabrielle one last chance at life?
MY THOUGHTS: Let me say up front: this book has a great premise, it’s beautifully written, and it offers up a fascinating “firsthand” glimpse into the history of New Orleans, which I still consider my hometown. That’s why I picked the book up in the first place, and in that sense it didn’t disappoint me.
But what inspired me to begin writing were these two sentences, which occur very early in the book, on page seven:
“Watching the television reports as Hurricane Katrina moved into the Gulf of Mexico, he’d wondered why no one seemed as terrified as they should have been. Weren’t they watching the same reports down in Louisiana?”
I literally threw the book against the wall and didn’t pick it up again for several days. It sat on the floor, gathering dust. Because until 48 hours before it hit, all the weather forecasters had told us with certainty that Hurricane Katrina would make landfall in Florida or Alabama, that in New Orleans we’d get some rain. By the time it became clear the storm wasn’t going to make its turn, a lot of people who didn’t have the money or vehicles or good health for a lightning-fast flight from the city (or in my case, a credit card) simply got stuck. It was clear to me that Mssrs. Golden and Lebbon, despite their writing pedigrees and storytelling skill, really didn’t know New Orleans beyond what they’d read in news reports or seen on TV. And this was three years after Katrina and I was still uber-sensitive and more than a little shell-shocked.
So I decided to write my own urban fantasy set in New Orleans and built around Hurricane Katrina, injecting it with the reality as I knew it (plus a few wizards and ghosts and voodoo gods), and ROYAL STREET was born–it’s the first in a series and will be released by Tor Books about a year from now. *end of shameless self-promotion*
Now, having said that, if you ignore anything referring to the hurricane in this book, it’s awesome. As I said, it’s well written, and I love the premise of the main character, Max, tracing the true story of what happened to his former lover, through a map of clues that literally has him time-traveling through New Orleans history. But ignore the hurricane stuff, because the characters are going to parts of town that weren’t open to visitors, eating in areas that were covered under a foot of dried mud, etc.
So, did I scare you away, or would you like to win a copy of Map of Moments for yourself? If so, tell me if you’ve been to New Orleans and, if so, what your favorite restaurant. I have so many…but I have to stick with Jacques-Imo’s, uptown on Oak Street, where they make an alligator sausage and crabmeat cheesecake that will curl your toes (in a good way).
As always, to enter: +1 for comment, +1 for blog follow, +1 for Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and +1 for Tweet/Retweet. Happy reading!