The French Quarter is a filthy place. This historic old section of New Orleans is overrun by raucous sports fans, goggling conventioneers, and rowdy college kids. Prostitutes preen on the corners, homosexuals loiter on the stoops, and drunken wretches form human speed bumps along the sidewalks. Half-clad strippers and raspy-voiced hawkers in cheap suits beckon from darkened interiors. Pickpockets work the crowds, and assailants lurk in dim alleyways. There is litter everywhere — cups, cans, bags, spilled drinks, half-eaten sandwiches, horse manure, pigeon droppings, vomit, and blood. The streets reek with the smell of sweat, boiled seafood, and stale beer. Amplified jazz and rock and roll blare from the club doors, battering the eardrums of passersby with discordant combinations. At night, the noise, the smell, and the filth are even more revolting. That’s what Murray loves about it. — Quick, Quick, Slow, F.R. Duplantier
Bayou Christmas, 1912 Main St., New Iberia (1991)
Like a crazy uncle, I spent Christmas 1991 — indeed, the whole month of December — locked in the attic of our little Cajun cottage on the banks of Bayou Teche in New Iberia, Louisiana. I must have been crazy, too, spending all that time in a sweltering attic when I could have been enjoying myself with a book or a crossword puzzle in one hand and a cuba libre in the other, relaxing in a cool breeze and a hammock under a giant oak tree in the backyard overlooking the bayou. But I had less than 30 days to complete a 90-page novella that I thought was guaranteed publication.
I was between jobs, as usual, and eking out a free-lance existence when I came across a new publishing house called Dime Novels that promised a flat fee for a finished manuscript in a specified genre: romance, western, fantasy, etc. I followed all of their guidelines — submitting a synopsis, first chapter, outlines for the other chapters, character sketches, etc. — and got the go-ahead for a mystery story called Quick, Quick, Slow (alternate title: Murder on her Feet). It was set in a New Orleans ballroom dance studio (something I know quite a lot about) and featured two girl-crazy guys patterned on me and an old friend from the ad biz.
But the arch in archconservative got the best of me, and the novella wound up being more of a screwball comedy — or a screwball mystery, anyway — and was ultimately rejected. Too bad, too, because I needed the money and had plans for several sequels, all featuring the same two main characters (Huey Zinc and Murray Gold) and taking place in settings modeled on the crazy places I’ve worked over the years: a parasitical dance studio, a wacky advertising agency, a paranoid fringe conservative group, etc.
Pronounced dead on arrival, the first and last Huey Zinc mystery was placed in a manila envelope and interred in a file cabinet for several years, until the internet offered a chance for resurrection.