Matt Ruff introduces Lovecraft Country at University Book Store – Seattle

hi my name is grace and I’m an events associate here at the University Bookstore thank you so much for coming out tonight and supporting your local independent bookstore we host about 500 author events a year and you can keep track of them on Facebook Twitter and Instagram as well as on our website a couple of events that we have coming up we have Patricia breaks on March 8th and Mark Tompkins on March 9th in his latest book critically acclaimed cult novelist Matt ruff blends historical fiction pulp more and Lovecraftian horror fantasy I said that right in an utterly original take on Jim Crow America in the 1950s on the surface Lovecraft Township country tells the story of 22 year old african-american Army veteran and science fiction buff Atticus Turner on his road trip along with his uncle and fret and childhood friend to find his missing father what makes it so much more is a mix of supernatural horrors and mundane terrors of white America the encounter along the way and the secret ritualistic Society waiting for them at the end local Arthur month mark Matt Roth is the author as the author of the critically acclaimed novels bad monkeys set this house in order fool on the hill and sewer gas and electric a few announcements before we start the store will close at 8:00 p.m. and while we’re free to stay on for the duration of the event registers will close at 8:00 so we ask that you please to make all book purchases before then if you parked in the back lot I’ll be happy to validate your parking and now please join me in welcoming Matt ruff so thank y’all for coming so like my last novel this started out as an unsuccessful TV series pitch I wanted to do something like the x-files where a recurring cast of characters would have weekly paranormal adventures and the first question you had to answer when you do a story like that is what job do these people have that has been constantly running into monsters most of us you get one night in a haunted house or one distant glimpse of Bigfoot and that’s for a lifetime quota so what’s special about these people and I wanted to answer that in a way that would allow for a different group of protagonists and a different set of cultural concerns and you’d ordinarily get in a story like this so it’s been reading a book by James Lowen called sundown towns which is about the history of whites only communities in America and one of the things he talks about is during the Jim Crow era there were these travel guides for black motorists that would list hotels and restaurants across the country that would accept their business because they couldn’t just stop somewhere along the road if you’re traveling from say Chicago to Seattle you couldn’t just pull up to a motel and expect to necessarily be given a room so so what I wanted to do I had this idea that my Fox Mulder character would be a field researcher for one of these travel guides and his job would be to drive around the country looking for places that would serve him and I was also gonna make him a pulp fiction fan someone who loved science fiction and fantasy even if they didn’t always love him back and who if he saw a Bigfoot would be intrigued rather than frightened but the real explanation for why he was constantly running into monsters was because he was black and when you’re black in America there’s always a monster sometimes it’s the Elder Gods from beyond time and space and sometimes it’s the police or the Ku Klux Klan or the Registrar of Voters and how HP Lovecraft came into this he was sort of my bridge between these two types of horror where on the one hand he’s he’s just a recognized is one of the best horror writers of the early 20th century but on the other hand he was a white supremacist a very proud one who would have approved of the segregationist laws that my character had to deal with all the time so Lovecraft country became a way of referring both to the paranormal realm where a monsters come from and to America where monsters come from so the TV people didn’t go for that I thought it would make a really cool show they they passed but the idea stayed with me and I spent a few more you’re thinking about how I could make it work as a novel so and Here I am so normal opens with a quote from the

summer 1954 edition of the safe Negro Travel Guide Jim Crow mile a unit of measurement peculiar to colored motorists comprising both physical distance and random helpings of fear paranoia frustration and outrage its amorphous nature makes exact travel times impossible to calculate and it’s violence puts the travellers good health and safety constantly at hazard Atticus was almost home when the state trooper pulled him over he’d left Jacksonville two days before in a secondhand 48 cadillac coupe that he’d bought with the last of his army bang the first day he drove 450 miles eating and drinking from a basket he’d packed in advance stopping the car only to get gas at one of the gas stops the colored restroom was out of order and when he attendant refused him the key to the whites room Atticus was forced to urinate in the bushes behind the station he spent the night in Chattanooga the safe Negro travel guide had listings for four hotels in a motel all in the same part of the city Atticus chose the motel which had an attached 24-hour diner the price of the room was promised by the guide was $3 in the diner the next morning he consulted a road hatless yet another 600 miles to go to Chicago Midway along his intended route was the city of Louisville Kentucky which according to the guide had a restaurant that would serve him lunch Atticus considered it but any inclination to further delay his homecoming was overwhelmed by desire to put the south behind him so after he finished breakfast he got the basket from his car and had the diner cook fill it with sandwiches and cokes and cold fried chicken around 1:00 p.m. he reached the Ohio River which marked the border between Kentucky and Indiana as he crossed the water on a bridge named for a dead slave owner Atticus cocked his arm out the window and bad Jim Crow farewell with a raised middle finger a white driver coming the other way saw the gesture and shouted something vile but Atticus just laughed and stepped on the gas and so passed into the north an hour later along a stretch of farmland the Cadillac blew a tire Atticus wrestled the car to a safe stop the roadside got out to put on the spare but the spare was flat too he was frustrated by this he checked the spare before setting out and it seemed fine then but however much he frowned at it the spare remained it’s flatness a southern tire Atticus thought Jim crows Revenge behind him for at least 10 miles there was nothing but fields and woods but looking ahead on the road he could see perhaps two miles distant a cluster of buildings taking the safe Negro travel guide with him he started walking there was traffic on the road and at first as he walked he cried waving down vehicles that were headed his way but the drivers all either ignored him or sped up to get past him and eventually he gave up and just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other he came to the first of the buildings the sign out front said Johnson’s auto repair and Atticus thought he might be in luck until he saw the Confederate flag hanging above the garage entrance that was almost enough to make him keep walking but he decided he had to try inside the garage were two white men a little fellow with the peach fuzz mustache who sat in a high stool reading a magazine and a much bigger man who was bent under the open hood of a pickup truck as Atticus entered the little man looked up from his magazine and made a rude sucking sound between his teeth excuse me Atticus said this got the attention of the big man as he straightened up and turned around Atticus saw he had a tattoo of what looked like a wolf’s head on his forearm sorry to disturb you Atticus said but I’ve had some trouble I need to buy a tire the big man glared at him for a moment then said flatly no I can see you’re busy said Atticus as if that might be the problem I’m not asking you to change it for me just sell me the tire and I’ll know I don’t understand you don’t want my money you don’t have to do anything just know the big man crossed his arms you need me to say it another fifty times because I will and Atticus fuming now said that’s a wolf hound tattoo right 27th Infantry Regiment you fingered the service pin on his own lapel I was with the 24th Infantry we fought alongside the 27th across most of Korea I wasn’t in Korea the big man said I was at Guadalcanal and Luzon and there weren’t any niggers there with that he’d been into the truck at again his back both a dismissal and an invitation leaving Atticus to decide which way he wanted to take it the collective indignities of the past months in Florida made it a closer call than Atticus liked the little man on the stool was still looking at him if he’d said anything or even cracked a smile Atticus would have gone in swinging but the little man sensing how quickly he could lose his teeth even with the big man to protect him did not smile or speak and Atticus stalked off with his fists at his side’s across the road was a general store with a payphone on its front porch Atticus looking the guide and found a listing for a Negro in garage in Indianapolis some 50 miles away he placed the call and explained his predicament to the mechanic who answered the mechanic was sympathetic and agreed to come help but warned that it would be awhile that’s okay Atticus said I’ll be here he hung up and noticed the old woman inside the general store watching him nervously through the screen door once again he chose to turn and walk away he went back

to the car in the trunk beside the useless spare was a cardboard box filled with battered paperbacks Atticus selected a copy of Ray Bradbury’s the Martian Chronicles he sat in the Cadillac and read about the rocket summer of 1999 when winter snows were melted by the exhaust from a Mars bound spacecraft he imagined himself aboard rising into the sky on a jet of fire leaving north and south behind forever four hours past he read all of the Martian Chronicles he drank warm coke and ate a sandwich but mindful of the gaze of passing motorists he did not touch the fried chicken he perspired in the breezeless june heat when his bladder could no longer be ignored he waited for a lull in the traffic and went behind a sycamore that grew by the roadside it was after 7 o’clock when the tow truck arrived the driver a grey haired light-skinned negro introduced himself as Earl Mabry Earl just early insisted when Atticus tried to call him mr. Mabry he lifted the replacement tire from the rear of the tow truck let’s get you back on your way with the two of them working together it took less than 10 minutes the simplicity of it and the thought of the afternoon just wasted for no good reason started Atticus fuming again he stepped away from the car to compose himself pretending to study the Sun now hanging low on the horizon how far do you have to go or a lasting Chicago Earl raised an eyebrow tonight well that was the plan tell you what Earl said I’m done for the day why do you come home with me let my wife fix you a real dinner maybe rest a while no sir I couldn’t sure you could it’s on your way and I wouldn’t want you to leave Indiana thinking it’s all bad people Earl lived in the color district around Indiana Avenue Northwest of the State Capitol building this house was a narrow wooden two-story with a tiny patch of grass out front when they arrived the Senate set and clouds were blowing in from the north hastening the darkness in the street a stickball game was in progress but now the mothers of the players were calling them inside Earl and Atticus went inside to Earl’s wife Mavis greeted Atticus warmly and showed him where he could wash up despite the welcome Atticus was apprehensive sitting down at the kitchen table for many of the obvious topics of dinner conversation his service in Korea his stay in Jacksonville today’s events and most of all his father in Chicago were things he didn’t really care to talk about but after they had said grey is real surprised them by asking what he thought of the Martian Chronicles they saw you had it in the car so they talked about Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein in Isaac Asimov all of whom Earl liked in l ron Hubbard whom he didn’t in the Tom Swift series which are loved when he was young but which embarrassed him now was for the books depiction of Negroes and for the fact that as a boy he hadn’t noticed it despite his father’s repeated attempts to point it out to him yeah my pop had some problems with my reading choices – Atticus said Mavis said little during the meal seeming content to listen and to refill Atticus’s plate whenever it was in danger being emptied by the time they finished dessert it was full dark and rain was drumming in the kitchen window well Mavis spoke up at last you can’t drive any farther tonight in this Atticus past the point of even token resistance allowed himself to be led upstairs to the spare bedroom there on the dresser was a photograph of a young man in uniform a black ribbon had been tied around a corner of the frame our Denis Mavis said or so Atticus thought but as she began to put fresh sheets in the bed she added he died in the forest and Atticus realized she was talking about the our den Atticus lay in bed with a book Earl had offered him more Bradbury a short story collection called dark carnival it was a nice gesture but not really the best bedtime fair after reading one story about a vampire family reunion and another very strange tale about a man who had a skeleton removed Atticus shut the book gaze for a moment at the Arkham House imprint on its spine and set it aside he reached through his trousers and got out the letter from his father reading it over again he touched a finger to a word written near the bottom of the page Arkan he was the rain stopped at 3:00 in the morning Atticus opened his eyes in the silence I’m sure at first what country he was in he dressed in the dark and crept downstairs thinking to leave a note but Earl was awake sitting at the kitchen table with a cigarette sneaking out Earl said to Atticus yes sir I appreciate the hospitality but I need to get home Earl nodded and made a little shooing gesture with a cigarette hand tell mrs. Mabry thank you for me tell her I said goodbye Earl made the shooing gesture again Atticus got in his car and drove off through the dark and still damp streets feeling like the ghost and his Betty had slept by first light he was well to the north he passed a sign reading Chicago fifty-two the state trooper was parked in the shoulder on the opposite side of the road the trooper had been napping and it Atticus come even five minutes earlier he might have passed by and notice but in the pink dawn light the trooper set up blinking and yawning he saw Atticus driving by and came fully alert addicts watched in the rearview as the patrol car made a u-turn onto the road he got the Cadillacs registration and bill of sale from the glove box and put them on the passenger seat along with his driver’s license everything in plain sight so there’d be no confusion about

what he was reaching for lights flashed in the rearview and the police siren came on Atticus pulled over rolled down his window and as he’d been taught to do in his very first driving lesson ripped the top of the steering wheel with both hands the trooper took his time getting out of the patrol car stopping to stretch before ambling up alongside the Cadillac is this your car he began yes sir Atticus said without taking his hands off the wheel he inclined his head towards the papers in the past we received show me Atticus handed in the documents Atticus Turner the state trooper said reading the name office license you know why I stopped you no sir Atticus lied you weren’t speaking you weren’t speeding the trooper assured him but when I saw your license plate I got worried you might be lost Florida is the other way Atticus gripped the wheel a little tighter I’m going to Chicago sir what for family my dad needs me but you live in Florida I’ve been working down in Jacksonville since I got out of the service the trooper yond without bothering to cover his mouth been working or still working sir are you going back to Florida no sir I don’t plan to you don’t plan to so you’re staying in Chicago for a while how long I don’t know as long as my father needs me and then what I don’t know I haven’t decided you haven’t decided the trooper frowned but you’re just passing through here right yes sir Atticus said resisting the temptation to add if you’ll let me still frowning the trooper shoved the documents back through the window Atticus replaced them on the passenger seat what’s in there the trooper is next pointing at the basket on the floor what’s left of my lunch from yesterday what about and back anything in the trunk just my clothes Atticus said my army uniform some books what kind of books science fiction mostly science fiction and this is your car officer step out the trooper moved back from the door and placed a hand on the butt of his revolver Atticus got out of the car slowly standing he was an inch taller than the trooper his reward for this impertinence was to be spun around shoved up against the Cadillac and roughly frisked all rights of the trooper open the trunk the trooper pawed through Atticus his clothes first padding down the sides of his duffel bag as if it too were a black man braced against a car then he turned to the book dumping the box at into the trunk Atticus tried not to care or telling himself paperbacks were meant to be abused but it was hard like watching friends get knocked around what’s this the trooper picked up a gift-wrapped object that had been at the bottom of the box another book Atticus said it’s a present for my uncle the trooper tore off the wrapping paper revealing a heart ban volume a Princess of Mars he looked sideways at Atticus your uncle likes princesses does he he tossed the book into the box Atticus dying a little as it landed splayed open bending pages the trooper circled the Cadillac when he opened the passenger door Atticus thought he was going after the Martian Chronicles which was still up front somewhere but the trooper came up holding a safe Negro Travel Guide he thumbed through it at first puzzled and then astonished these addresses he said these are all places that serve colored people Atticus nodded well said the trooper if that doesn’t beat everything he squinted at the guide edge-on not very thick that Atticus didn’t respond to that all right the trooper said finally I’m gonna let you go but I’m keeping this guidebook don’t worry he added if we’re stalling the objection that Hackett’s knew better than to make you won’t need it anymore you say you’re going to Chicago well between here and there there’s no place that you want to stop understood Atticus understood so Atticus and his father have been on the outs for the last four years or so since he joined the military his dad’s kind of mad at him for fighting for a country that doesn’t respect him but now out of the blue he’s gotten this letter in which his father claims to have uncovered some sort of secret about his Atticus’s late mother’s ancestry and he’s not very clear about what the secret is but it’s got something to do with the the place that it’s got something to do with an inheritance or a legacy that Atticus is supposedly entitled to so now he wants Atticus to come home so they can go together to this place that his mother’s people supposedly came from so they can collect what’s his and the problem is that the place he wants to go is Arkham Massachusetts which is a completely fictional city from the works of HP Lovecraft and Atticus knows his father wouldn’t joke about this sort of thing so the question arises has his father gone mad while he’s been away so he’s rushing home to find out but by the time he gets back to Chicago his father has already left town in the company of a mysterious white man so Atticus is forced to set out after him with his uncle who is the publisher of the safe

Negro travel guide and this sets off a chain of events that eventually draws Atticus’s entire extended family into a series of real-life weird tales so the second part I’m in read to you is from one of these other stories involves Atticus is childhood friend Letitia and this chapter is called dreams of the witch house whi CH and was there so like Atticus’s coming to a surprise inheritance from her father and she decides he wants to spend the money buying a house that she can turn into a boarding house and she wants to get a nice place with extra rooms so she realizes she’s probably going to buy property in a white neighborhood which is not going to be easy and in addition to the obvious hurdles at this point in time it was almost impossible for black people to get mortgages basically the Federal Housing Administration which insures mortgages wouldn’t insure mortgages that at that time in black neighborhoods or mixed-race neighborhoods or neighborhoods likely to become black or mixed-race so basically if you were an african-american you just couldn’t get a mortgage so your two choices were to pay that for the house in cash which almost nobody can afford the other option was something called a purchase contract with the seller of the house which is a sort of a rent-to-own scheme and the the payment structure is kind of like a mortgage that there’s a down payment followed by a series of monthly payments but the important difference is you don’t have any equity so if you default on a payment you lose everything you lose the house you lose all the money you’ve put into it and so unscrupulous real estate dealers would take advantages they would offer these purchase contracts to people they knew were very likely to default they would often build traps into the contracts balloon payments that would make it certain they would default and so they could sell the same house over and over and over again each time collecting a down payment getting as much money from the person as they could then they’d evict them and sell it to somebody else so Letitia knows all this she knows the game’s rigged but it’s the only way to get what she wants and she’s gonna walk through fire if she has to to get this house so um so she and her sister Ruby have gone to see the real estate dealer and technically this is Ruby’s inheritance money – but Letitia is driving the bus at this point the words in the frosted glass pane red Harold Bailey real ‘test real ‘test a negro real estate broker not to be confused with a white real tor whose national association Negros join a pair of decals indicated mr Bailey was also a member of the Prince Hall Freemasons and the improved order of Elks the lights in mr. Bailey’s office were out the door was locked leticia standing in the third-floor hallway with Ruby tried to control her impatience the bystander might not have guessed they were sisters Leticia slender and light-skinned favored father Ruby curvy and dark suggested a youthful mama but a mama who could be pushed around her pliability one limitless though there was a core of genuine mama within ur that could emerge given time like a mountain rising from the sea the trick was getting what she wanted from her before you ran aground so far Ruby seemed willing to play along with Letitia scheme but if this morning’s meeting had to be rescheduled she might start having other ideas he said nine o’clock well I promised mrs. Parker I’d be over to watch Clarisse by 11:30 Ruby said and it was hoping to stop in the mantle brothers basements to look for shoes for that new catering job I told you about let’s see what you want to start another job for Letitia said now that we got this of course you don’t see you need to know how to hold down one steady job before you can talk about another I am gonna have a steady job now Ruby that’s what this is all about security yeah big landlady on easy street Ruby side we could still give the money to the church Ruby Leticia was horrified you didn’t tell anyone from church did you no don’t worry uncle Pennybags they can give away your secret you better not have daddy wanted us to have this money Ruby snorted like you care what daddy wanted I do care and I care about you which brought another snort you want to spend the rest of your life living in one tiny room of course I don’t but and hard as you work when’s the last time you came into a fortune like this never Ruby said that’s how I know not to trust it a door opened at the far end of the hall the sisters turned to look at the white man had come out to look at them miss Dandridge the man said I’m miss Dandridge said Leticia feeling ruby bristle beside her we both are and John Archibald I’m a friend of mr. Bailey’s he asked me to tell you that he won’t be able to meet with you today oh he also told me what it is you’re here for I’d be happy to help you myself if you’d like you step farther into halsy said this and Leticia looking past them at the open door saw the word realtor painted in Reverse on the glass

of course he added noting her hesitation if you’d rather wait for mr. Bailey Ruby’s hand was on laticious arm tugging let’s go but it might be another week before Ruby had free time again too long you and mr. Bailey Leticia said are you just friends or partners mr. Archibald said silent partners these are all white neighborhoods yes said mr. Archibald that’s what Hal told me you were interested in nobody told me anything about white neighborhoods Ruby looked pointedly at Leticia and went right on turning pages in the three-ring binder mr. Archibald had offered them there’s something I don’t understand about these prices Leticia said like these two buildings here they look almost the same in terms of square footage in lot size but the first one so much cheaper she showed him the listings it’s a matter of location mr. Archibald explained but they’re on the same street different blocks though with that first property the block is still entirely white owned as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you it can be difficult to be the first Negro to break into a block we don’t want difficult said Ruby definitely not so in this case the seller and investor Hal and I both know is agreed to offer what we call a first-in discount once that first sale goes through subsequent sales become much easier eventually as in the case of that second property things reach a tipping point where ownership of the whole block and turnover and only a year or two lots of commissions for you Leticia said lots of commissions for me and mr Bailey he corrected her and lots of new homes for deserving Negro families Leticia nodded fair enough it wasn’t but she couldn’t be too outraged by a practice she hoped to benefit from the real problem was even with the first in discount she wasn’t sure she could afford what she wanted and however much of a straight-shooter he made himself out to be she didn’t doubt mr. Archibald would gladly take her money for a property she’d end up defaulting on she turned another page in the binder this can’t be right she said reading over the listing this price can’t be right can it mr. Archibald leaned forward to see what property she was looking at oh he said the winter pass the which house Leticia said it’s ugly said Ruby it’ll be prettier once it’s ours Leticia replied like a baby new into the following Sunday and the sisters in their church clothes did before boxy edifice his brick exterior exhibited all the charm of a public school building but it was the inside latisha cared about looking up she could see the glass ten to the skylight that according to the property listing capped a two-story atrium surrounded by 14 other rooms 14 rooms the apartment Leticia her siblings had grown up in and had just 2 plus a shared bathroom on a different floor the Winthrop Ashe shared its narrow block with a defunct tavern and an overgrown lot that had at one time in a park the block was on the west side of a two-lane Street the east side was lined with small single-family homes all white owned a woman sitting on the porch of the cottage directly opposite the Winter Palace had watched with trepidation as Leticia and Ruby approached and was now glaring openly at them it’s a lot longer trip to work from here to Ruby said yeah but when you come home you’ll be able to stretch out and be comfortable I’m comfortable where I am this will be more comfortable Leticia insisted she looked up again at a rusty tan Shara perched in Congress Lee at the roost northeast corner must be a nice view and wonder if you can see the lake from here she turned around smiling and was met by the white woman’s hostile stare yeah a nice view said Ruby casting her own glance across the street I’m sure we’ll be real comfortable mr. Archibald arrived a few minutes later he tipped his hat to the glowering white woman hustled Leticia and Ruby inside dust motes floated in the sunlight streaming down onto the atriums chessboard floor archways the left and right of the front door gave access to what mr. Archibald identifies as a dining room in a in a parlor there given the absence of furniture they had to take his word for it steers ran up the atriums right wall to a gallery in back with more doorways visible above and below Leticia approached the atrium centerpiece a chic draped figure standing inside a raised marble ring the property listing had mentioned a fountain but it hadn’t occurred to her that it might be indoors may I she asked please said mr. Archibald Leticia grabbed the fold of the sheet and pulled unveiling a naked divinity cast in bronze Lord said Ruby the bronze idol her hair pinned up with a crescent moon tiara grip two men of torches one in each hand their flames rising past the level of her shoulders a skeleton key dangled between her bare breasts at her feet was a basket of hissing snakes copper tubing in their coils feeding down into the guts of the fountain Hecate mr. Archibald said helpfully goddess of the moon I see the moon all right said Leticia circling around to the fountains rear two additional phases sprouted from the back of Hecate head like something out of a carnival freak show the chorus of toads spigot mouth like the snakes formed an unsightly mound behind her heels this is going to have to go I can certainly speak to the seller about it mr Archibald said but as I explained

yesterday under the terms of the purchase contract yeah I was paying attention because she wouldn’t own the house until it was paid off any significant alterations to the property had to be approved by the seller you sure I can’t talk to them directly no I’m afraid not the property listing said the winter pass was owned by penumbra real estate which Letitia assume was run by mr. Archibald and duster friend or perhaps by mr. Archibald himself all communication with penumbra was to go through him I’ll convey your concern be sure you do Letitia sniffed the kind of tenants were hoping to rent to families church-going folk they’re not gonna like this at all reflecting as she said it that Southside Negroes would put up with a lot worse than pagan statuary to get a roof over their heads but they shouldn’t have to put up with it she thought and for sure she didn’t want to look at Hecate moon every day she shifted her attention to a pair of dark doorways went up on the gallery one directly beneath it both screened by iron accordion gates that’s the elevator yes mr. Archibald said the Builder of the house Hiram winter had it installed for his wife she’d had polio he explained here that Ruby Leticia said polio like Marvin Marvin climbs stairs just fine Ruby replied well not everyone does that could be a selling point for tenants old people she thought quiet easy to get along with paid their rent on time the elevator does need to be repaired mr. Archibald noted the delicacy with which he said is making a plane whose responsibility that would be Ruby snorted of course it does what else is wrong with the house the wiring needs to be look that the power is off right now but the last occupant reported the fuses were blowing constantly also no Ruby said what’s wrong with it she fixed him with an arrow I’d stare mama peering up from the depths a house this size with a price this low and you’re willing to let us have it that’s about more than a fuse box what aren’t you telling us mr. Archibald hesitated it was plain from his expression that had been waiting for this question and was even relieved that the subject had been broached it still he wasn’t sure how to answer latisha saved him the trouble it’s haunted what said Ruby it’s a haunted house what else could it be she looked at mr. Archibald who confirmed her gasps by not saying now so who’s the ghost mrs. winthrop she ride her wheelchair up and down the halls at night I honestly don’t know mr Archibald said I wait a minute said Ruby this is true all I’ve heard her stories mr. Archibald raised a hand scouts honor I haven’t experienced any phenomena myself nor do I expect to but it’s true that some prior occupants have reported incidents bumps in the night and the last several attempts to sell the house have all ended with the buyers backing out and when were you planning on mentioning this exactly miss Dandridge please I wasn’t trying to withhold information from you but I consider myself a rational man I don’t believe in it’s ok Leticia said we’re not afraid of dead people Leticia one thing though now if the cats out of the bag you think the seller might come down on the price even more Letitia Ruby matching her tone for tone it’s got an elevator so it sort of should give you an idea of what you’re in for and each of the characters has their own mini adventure a mini weird tale in addition for larger story of arkham massachusetts and hopefully by the time you get to the end of it you will have the the warm feeling of having binge-watched a really good season so yeah so that’s my basic speed is anybody have any questions s runs a lot of white people seem to be really worried about it that’s been the main thing at every reading I’ve been to you somebody has told me how courageous I am for tackling the subject and I kind of get it but I kind of down it’s it’s for me this was really a labor of love I I like writing stories from the points of view of characters that are not like me that are give me a chance to sort of imagine life with maybe the same sensibility but completely different constraints and limitations in history and seeing how that would be different and I think the thing that really drew me into this was was learning about the the black tourist guides and just the idea of this it never really thought about this this infrastructure that had been built up for dealing with life in segregation times that that there were just all these mechanisms that had to be

put in place to just allow people to do something as simple as drive cross country so that was just really fascinating to me and I wanted to yeah I wanted to live in that that viewpoint for a while and I you know I’ve talked about this at other readings I think part of the reason white poor trails of black characters are often so dreadful is because the people who are doing them we’re not they don’t really want to do it they feel like they have to diversify or they have to embrace diversity or something and when you’re doing something as a chore it it shows and it comes across and you cut corners and you use cliches and then it’s no fun for anybody but yeah I really want to go live with these characters and I had a great time doing it so and I’m pleased that the the african-american reader suffered from so far I seem to think I did okay so I so yeah that’s been the that’s been a general thing but yes every every reading I go through this was like oh this is so courageous yeah you know it was fun New York Public Library has digitized their collection there there were a number of different ones these were but the most famous is is what was called the Negro murderous green book or just the green book and it was published by a postman named Victor Hugo green originally in New York City and then he moved to Hackensack New Jersey and he corresponded with other postman around the country and they would send him leads and that was how he got his research done and you know initially he just did it to help out people in the metropolitan area but these were normally popular and he was inspired there were earlier guides for Jewish travelers who had similar problems so from I think around 1936 to 1966 he published and his goal was to go out of business and unfortunately he died in 1960s I think it was his family that they published the last round of guides and they were finally able to shut down in 66 after the Civil Rights Act and him made made it no longer necessary but yeah the New York Public Library has got the full collection of green books online if you just search for green book you’ll find it and you can page through him and I actually this is from the 1954 by this is the page for Seattle so you’ve got four hotels the Atlas Hotel we get the YWCA and then six other hotels all in the International District which is not a coincidence and these weren’t the only places you could stay but they were places where you could be sure that you could stay and if you you know if you tried to rent a hotel downtown then they could legally tell you oh you know we don’t take your kind here but they might also just have lost your reservation somehow you know you might drive down Aurora stop at half a dozen motels and and all of them had just forgotten us which on the new vacancy sign until they saw you getting out of your car so just to save yourself the humiliation and frustration and waste of time that guys were really useful and essential and one of the things that I thought was really interesting and also kind of fed into this was that the guys were actually much more useful in the north and the West in the traditional south or they were proud of the racist heritage and segregation it was much easier to know where you stood generally if the place wasn’t specifically marked for colored you knew you couldn’t stay there north and west who were you would you could encounter sighs but a lot of times you were flying blind and again it was often more difficult you’d get the same level of prejudice but people didn’t almost necessarily want to admit it so it was you could be driven mad just trying to get people just at least tell me that you’re not renting to me because I’m black so and that – sort of feeds into the idea of lovecraft use characters if they are not killed are always going crazy so it’s sort of a way in which yeah bridges all worlds oh wow I don’t know there were there were a lot of little bits of business some of which I couldn’t find a place for in the book but I guess I was just continually surprised by every time I thought I’d read everything I’d stumble across something else like a one of the things I did for research I read through a year’s back issues of the Chicago Defender which was that pretty much the biggest black newspaper in the country I think and they’re their archives are available at the u-dub so I was just looking through that for anecdotes and

there was a story about Chicago had held a nuclear air raid drill you know where because this was this was back when they thought that you could actually get into nuclear area shelters and survive a first strike but they had the Chicago Defender was letting people know this because the sirens didn’t work in the south side so they didn’t know that there had been a drill so had had there actually been a nuclear attack they just would have been out in the open you know the basements of the south side I suppose they wouldn’t have yeah that that but yeah they desire is either weren’t there or didn’t work there was a bit of business in the book later on where Atticus and his father are looking for the house of this guy that they want to get a book from and they come to what they think is the address and there is a sign and marquee sign up on the garage of the house next door saying nigger lover with a neon arrow pointing at the house that they that they’re looking for and what they find out is the guy living in the house is a lawyer who helped the NAACP desegregate the school system in that County so the neighbor has put up this sign so that everyone will know whose house that throws stones at everything about that story is true except the part about the marquee which I threw in just to make clear what the point of the arrow was but there was there was a case in Cairo Illinois we’re the local NAACP lawyer white man helped desegregate the the school system and said his neighbor put up a neon arrow to let people know whose house this town and Langston Hughes who wrote a daily at a weekly column in the Chicago Defender he went down to visit him and drove up with a friend and as soon as their car stopped the front door burst open the guy comes running out with a baseball bat because he had learned in the years since he’d done this case any type of car he didn’t record and I stopped in front of the house he was about to have a window broken and so it’s like so yeah little things like that it’s just like you you read stuff that you can’t believe but yeah it happened all the time so and I’m sure there are others but yeah so you sort of get the idea anyway I don’t know that it was any specific story so much is just the mood Lovecraft is really a master of dread where you’re you’re constantly like that there once in a while he’ll thrown at a scene but much of the story is just you know that these guys are poking around where they don’t belong and and something bad is going to happen eventually and to me that that just sort of works so perfectly the experience of yes driving across country where you you need a book to show you where even where you can stop safely that just sort of seemed to tie in very nicely with what I was trying to do I mean of of his stories I’m a big fan of the at the mountains of madness and shadow over Innsmouth is fascinating because it it’s it’s all of Lovecraft’s racist obsessions on full display and yet you could change the story just a little and it would work perfectly as a story about a black man trapped in a sundown town overnight because basically yeah guys guy is on vacation stops in the wrong town sees too much can’t leave and then after dark the whole town turns out to get him and yes in the story he’s a he’s a white guy who who’s actually very approving of race prejudice and goes out of his way to let you know that during the story and he’s being chased by you know hybrid fish demons from the sea but there are echoes in that of you know yeah of just much more realistic stories even the way the guy gets out of town by sneaking out along the railroad tracks one of the other stories I touch on in this the there was a an awful race riot in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921 where basically white Tulsa went to war against black Tulsa and burned it to the ground or as much of it as they could before the National Guard arrived and some of the people who escaped did that by following the railroad tracks that was that was the one way they were able to get out when the the white locals had pretty much surrounded the town otherwise so I kept yeah just seeing parallels like that yes sure so the first one is in your research something that did you find that there were slight differences in the way African American handles the supernatural versus mainstream white

American not that I have noticed I mean I mean I just may not have read widely enough I mean if I find that everybody’s different in the way they write anyway so I I don’t think I’d characterize a way or an african-american way of approaching the subject if that makes sense I think that the main difference would just probably be particularly in stories written more than you know the last couple of decades it’s it’s African heroines are much more likely to write about African Americans and then white authors are but that’s not really about how they handle the supernatural aspects but now I don’t really have a characteristic difference down TV series from you would you consider adapting this into a comic somebody else asked me this online I I don’t know that I would adapt it myself but I could certainly see doing a like I’m still hoping that we can we can now that I’ve got sort of a proof of concept I would love to I would love to see if I could still convince someone in television because it feels more timely now to than when I first pitched it in 2007 but yeah and then do we do any comic as a spin-off yeah that’s what I’m hoping is that that one of those formats would work for it well my my CIA agent is working on it and but he always says when he was trying to get me in a flattering bad news he’s like that’s the the problem with my books is that my ideas are original laughs in a way that scares people in Hollywood but I’m hopeful that this will this one will eventually find a home somewhere so and and also unlike you know I’m generally not a fan of sequels because I generally feel that if a book is well written it uses up the idea that made it worth writing but this is really the first time I still find myself thinking about these characters wanting to do more with the story so it ends in 1955 and I could see carrying it on to an ending right around the time with the safe Negro Travel Guide ceases publication and I’ve been thinking about it even though I don’t know at all wasn’t my publisher would be up for that yet but it’s that’s one of the things I’ve been sort of sticking with me Oh what now what happened was I had this interaction with some folks who were affiliated with Fox Studios and they they wanted to know if I had ideas for original TV series and I I pitched them three different things and none of which went over and the first one was was the Mirage which was actually my last novel so I just you know once once it was clear it wasn’t gonna happen as a show I thought well I think I know I can make this work as a novel so I sat down and started working on that and love carpentry was a more complicated idea in part because with the Mirage I’d like mapped out like three seasons worth of stuff of subplots and whatever but but by stripping away all the extraneous things and focusing in the central mystery I got an arc that was very much like a traditional novel this was it was like using the x-files metaphor it was like the individual episodes the monster of the week episodes were as important to the idea that was partly about just letting letting these characters star in the kinds of stories that african-americans traditionally have not starred in so I didn’t want to just have one story I wanted a collection of stories and I needed to figure out a way to make that work that would still feel like a novel and still feel complete and and standalone when you were done with that so when I was not you know when I was writing the Mirage this was what I would think about when I was procrastinating and I wrote a short story called safe Negro Travel Guide a sort of a trial run for Richard you go house they had they had an event where there’s me and Amy bender and someone else’s name I can’t remember and we were we were commissioned to write stories and the theme of traveling I was like ah I know I know what I can do and I went over really well and that just sort of further convinced me to work on it so I think I started writing this was it 2012 I guess probably yeah towards the end of 2012 or early 2013 and yeah I finished it towards the end of 2014 and then they I had this interesting experience where if I went through for editors very quickly

because they all kept leaving Harper to go elsewhere so that sort of extended the editing process a little longer than otherwise but so yeah I would say it was probably you know five years thinking about it and another was three working on it so well thank you all for coming and I’m happy to sign books or answer more questions