First off, thanks to everyone who read and left such nice comments on the novelette “Jackson Square” this week! It was a fun story to write. I’ll have it up for the rest of today (via the tab above), and tonight will take it down and will announce future plans for it soon. At that point it will have bonus content, including Jean’s own account of Andrew Jackson and the War of 1812 (well, okay, I transcribed it for him), and a look at how the fictional Jean compares with the real man.
In the meantime, an exciting announcement! (Well, exciting to me, anyway.) I can now confirm that there will be at least two more books in the Sentinels of New Orleans series. The working titles of Books 4 and 5 are PIRATE’S ALLEY and BELLE CHASSE. No release information yet, of course…since they’re kind of not written yet. (Jots that down on “to do” list.)
Of course, an important character in any Sentinels book is our favorite undead pirate. All authors do tons of research for their books, of course, and in the course of writing the first three in the series, I researched everything from the mystical properties of gemstones to what the bottom of the Mississippi looks like near the mouth of the river so when DJ “swims” with Rene I could describe what she saw.
And then there’s Jean Lafitte, who became his own research category thanks to my friend Dianne, the only person who
is forced to gets to read my first drafts. She read the first iteration of Royal Street, which was truly awful, as I recall–I don’t have the nerve to look at it–and told me I simply had to change Lafitte. He was only in the opening scene in that first draft, and I had no plans to make him a major character. But she told me I needed to find out more about him and make him more piratical and less…Jack Sparrowish.
So I cruised around online and got interested enough to buy a biography of Jean…and then another…and another….and….Let’s just say Jean Lafitte now has his own shelf in my office, with reference books in the double digits. In the process, I became a wee bit obsessed with Le Capitaine, as he was called, and the rest is history.
So, how does the undead Jean Lafitte stack up against the real man?
–Physically, I stuck very close to the written descriptions (there are no photographs or paintings known to exist): he was 6-2, which was considered extremely tall at a time in history where the average man was 5-7; he was considered “well-formed,” which I take to mean “ripped”; he had dark hair, fair complexion, and either blue or hazel eyes–since I had conflicting info, I chose blue. He was born about 1780 either in France or in the French colony of San-Domingue (now Haiti), and spoke English, Spanish and Italian, though his first language was French. The first written record of him in New Orleans is in 1806 when, at age 26, he was listed as captain of a ship coming into the port. Jean and his brother Pierre spelled their name “Laffite,” but history has stuck with the Americanized “Lafitte.” My editor and I discussed how to refer to him in the books, and finally decided that if we used Jean’s spelling, people would think it was a misspelling. Oy.
So, what was the personality of the real Jean Lafitte like? In the Sentinels books, he is smart, devious, playful, charming…but still dangerous.
History portrays him in very much this light. By all accounts, he had a mercurial temper, but knew when to hold back and when to lash out. He had a very strong and charismatic personality, which enabled him to command his thousands of men in South Louisiana and keep them loyal to him. He dressed well, liked his luxuries, and the “Gentleman Pirate,” as he was called, was often invited to the balls and drawing rooms of the wealthy French citizens of New Orleans.
The way Jean solves the problem of Andrew Jackson in the story “Jackson Square” was inspired by one of my favorite true stories of the real Lafitte.
Things were tense in New Orleans in the period around 1812 (at that time it was the capital of Louisiana). There was a blockade on ships entering American ports with foreign goods, so people were unable to get their staples and luxuries. America was fighting off the British yet again, and had just bought the Louisiana Territory a few years earlier from France–yet New Orleans’ overwhelmingly French citizens wanted nothing to do with the Americans, whom they thought crude and boorish. Everyone bought goods from Jean Lafitte rather than the American business owners because he had a better inventory and lower prices, which ticked off Louisiana’s American Governor William Claiborne and his fellow American business owners.
Jean Lafitte was a kind of Robin Hood figure to New Orleanians. By plundering Spanish ships (he forbade his men to capture American or English ships) got them affordable goods they either couldn’t get from the American merchants or were being charged too much for. Infuriated by Jean’s blatant disregard for American laws, Governor Claiborne wanted Lafitte gone.
Finally, in 1813, Claiborne had enough. He had a bunch of proclamations printed up and posted around New Orleans, calling Jean a pirate and smuggler, and offering a $500 reward “to any person delivering John (sic) Lafitte to the sheriff of the Parish of New Orleans.” In that day, $500 was worth about $15,000 of today’s dollars, a tidy little sum.
The very next day, Jean was reported by several to be brazenly strolling the streets of New Orleans, where he was spotted stopping to read the posters and smiling. No one turned him in.
Two days later, new Wanted Posters had been printed and posted around the city. This proclamation offered a reward of $1,500
(about $50,000 today) for the arrest of Governor William Claiborne and his delivery to Grand Terre island. It was signed by Jean Lafitte.
Jean became more popular than ever, as the citizens thought this was hilarious. And Jean made his point–he had more power than Governor Claiborne. He was more popular with the people of the city. And he had more money.
That’s our boy!
Now…stay tuned this week for TWO monstrous Reader’s Choice Contests to make up for missing last week, plus a couple of special guests. Thursday, July 4th, is a holiday here in the U.S., of course, so that day’s post will be short and sweet.
Did you win a book this week? Because of the story, I had only one contest this week, which was the four-book paranormal romance set for Feral Friday. And the winner is GALENA! Since you indicated you’d read Bec McMaster’s Kiss of Steel, if you’d like me to substitute a surprise book from my stash for that one, let me know–email your mailing info to me at suzannej3523 at gmail dot com.