by wjw on February 4, 2015

512QGULxJsL._AA160_We’re in the last hours of my promotion on The Rift, so if you want a copy for a mere 99 cents, go forth now and find it on AmazoniBooksKoboBarnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

There is a character in The Rift who is one of my very few attempts to draw someone I’ve met in real life.  The character would be Jean-Joseph Malraux of Pointe Coupee Parish, LA, the captain of a Mississippi towboat, and who a great many readers immediately recognized as Joey “Big Reel” Grillot of New Orleans.

I describe him in The Rift as a short, bandy-legged man with walrus mustache and a “barking Acadian accent.”  The real-life Joey was a Cajun, a member of the Stage Hands Union, and an an outspoken devotee of the cinema and of movie soundtracks.  He also worked as a taxi driver, and I can’t imagine a more perfect occupation for him.  If you wanted a colorful driver to take you around town, he’d be the person you’d ask for— though he might interrupt his tourist monologue with a lengthy appreciation of Bernard Herrmann’s score for “Jason and the Argonauts.”  (In the novel, he rescues my refugee protagonists, feeds them a good meal, and then subjects them to hours of “Doctor Who” videos, with commentary.)

I encountered him at various science fiction conventions, where his cheerful, outspoken personality was very much in evidence.  He’d organize 24-hour film festivals, and bring the movies from his own collection.

Joey lived in the Ninth Ward, though I heard that sometimes, when work as a stagehand got scarce, he lost his place and lived in his car along with his projector and his precious reels of film.  He had a precarious sideline showing his movies in (mostly poor, mostly black) church and community halls.

I think I met Joey only once after The Rift was published, and he had a grin on his face that told me he’d heard that I’d put him in a book.  I asked him if he’d read The Rift yet, and he said he hadn’t got to it.  (It occurs to me now that maybe a thirty-dollar hardback was maybe a little beyond his means, and that I should have just sent him one.)

Hurricane Katrina washed him out of his place in Arabi near the Lower Ninth, and I heard he’d relocated to Atlanta.  I may be guessing here, but I’m thinking that he never quite found his feet again, though he did find his way back to Louisiana.  He died on Christmas morning, 2007, of a one-two punch of heart problems and double pneumonia.  I find out from his obit that he was 62.

When we last see Cap’n Joey in The Rift, he’s surfing his towboat along the face of a tsunami while playing a Bernard Herrmann score in his mind.

I’d like to think that Joey would have loved the movie.

Emy March 17, 2015 at 11:24 am

The great thing with you is you keep surprising. Reading the Rift, well, it blew my mind, somehow, as deeply as most of your other books. The love-story, the entwinement and finality of all, the social critique, the pace of action, everything. The characters are so believable, my mind keeps believing I read a biography. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for writing.
Joe is the goodness in this story, the one without his own agenda, the one flowing. Glad to hear a real human inspired you for a character seeping goodness.

Emy March 19, 2015 at 12:23 am

Hi, sorry to intrude again, but I’m getting crazy over a question: from what medical condition did Father Robitaille die? I mean, it was clearly Delirium Tremens + probably some intern organ injuries from the accident + bad tending + maybe an infection, but WHY did His Holiness Crazyass rule out DT? Just because he WANTED it to be demonic?
(By the way, I’m not Cajun or anything, just a french lady wondering who did the reviewing of the french sentences in the book… They need serious rewriting, sorry to break the news! Arlette and Manon sound just like google translate… I’m a translator (FR/ESP/ENG/de) and would gladly help you rewrite the few sentences (for free, of course).

wjw March 22, 2015 at 3:42 am

Emy>> it’s not an intrusion, I’m very happy to hear from readers. And your remarks about Joe are very perceptive— he =is= the one guy without an agenda, the person who’s in the place where he wants to be.

You know, I don’t remember why Father Robitaille died, I only know that I knew when I wrote the book. I think probably internal injuries plus dehydration, because he was refusing water, right?

I had a French speaker do the translations, but problems can always occur in these things. Bear in mind that some of this is Louisiana Creole French, which is its own thing. But if you want to suggest improvements, by all means do so.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post:

Contact Us | Terms of User | Trademarks | Privacy Statement

Copyright © 2010 WJW. All Rights Reserved.