What the heck is that? Why a meaningless thing to appease my unceasing appetite for alliteration, of course, silly.
Actually, as I threatened, er, promised on Sunday, I want to start putting together some annotations for Pirate’s Alley before it comes out. I tried doing it with an earlier book in the series but now I know that, once release day comes, I might be up to my neck in other projects. So starting early is good, right?
We’ll start with the title of the book, which caused me all kinds of headaches. As with all the Sentinels books, Pirate’s Alley is named after a street in New Orleans (or, in this case, an alley). Problem is, that’s not really its name. The official name as it appears on most street signs is:
There is a startling lack of punctuation there. Technically, it should be called Pirates’ Alley, because the history of this narrow alley that runs alongside. You also will find it written “Pirate Alley” and, my version, “Pirate’s Alley.” By all rights, the book should be called PIRATES ALLEY since that is the name of the street, but in this book we get our first glimpse at what Jean Lafitte’s endgame is in terms of our saga—his alley of scheming, in other words—and since he’s a single pirate, I went with what looked right to my editorial eye, PIRATE’S ALLEY. I’m sure I’ll be called out on it by someone, of course, but then I can point to this blog post and prove it was a conscious decision to be technically incorrect since I feel the official name is grammatically incorrect.
Here’s what Pirates Alley looks like these days. It runs on the “uptown” side of St. Louis Cathedral, between the church and the Cabildo, offering a shortcut between Royal and Chartres streets.
The Cabildo, which now houses the Louisiana State Museum, was built in the 1700s to house the fledgling state government (the state capital didn’t move to Baton Rouge until Civil War days). Here, the Louisiana Purchase took place, transferring ownership of Louisiana from France to the United States. It was also the site of the “Calaboose,” an infamous prison where—you got it—pirates were locked up.
Because it was next to the Calaboose, known for its harsh treatment and squalid conditions, it’s unlikely that the alley was anywhere pirates wanted to hang out. It’s like a gang of criminals choosing to party outside the police department. Probably not happening. So the legend that the alley, which would have been an unpaved strip of mud in Jean’s day, was a pirate hangout? I don’t think so.
Pirates Alley does have significance to our favorite pirate, however. Jean Lafitte’s older brother Pierre, his partner in the family business, was arrested and imprisoned there in 1814 for smuggling and piracy. Pierre, quite a few years older than Jean and married with a family, preferred a comfortable city life to the more rugged Baratarian seafaring life that Jean lived. So he suffered greatly in the harsh conditions of the Calaboose for months while Jean tried to secure his release. Finally, Jean made some backroom deals with local officials and Pierre “escaped.” By that time, however, Pierre’s health had declined greatly, it is thought he suffered a stroke while chained to the wall of his cell, and his treatment became a sore point with his younger brother.
And there you have Pirates Alley….and Pirate’s Alley!