“They told me to take a streetcar named Murder…”

Obviously, that’s not the famous Tennessee Williams line, which actually is “They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, and transfer to one called Cemeteries, and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!”

The quote, incredibly poetic and evocative, is also wrong. Whoever gave Blanche DuBois those directions at the Greyhound station in the Central Business District, gave her bad directions. The Desire line ran past Elysian Fields–so there was no need for her to transfer to the Cemeteries line, which ran up and down Canal Street. The Desire streetcar would be the one she’d take to get off at Elysian Fields…not the Cemeteries. I’ve always loved that the directions were wrong; thinking that it was a sly little joke Williams played on playgoers, the cast, everyone; Blanche came to New Orleans and got bad directions, and it was all downhill after that.

I love the play, and I love the film. The performances of the entire cast are amazing; Marlon Brando is at his most bestial and beautiful, and Vivien Leigh is just stunning.

And of course, my partner is the executive director of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, and has worked there since 1998. So I have another connection to Williams, a more direct one than just appreciating his work. At some point in my career–I think maybe with Murder in the Rue St. Ann–I started using Tennessee Williams quotes as epigrams to my series novels set in New Orleans; maybe it wasn’t Rue St. Ann but rather Jackson Square Jazz; I used a quote from Orpheus Descending: “A good-looking boy like you is always wanted.”

SO, today my new book from Crooked Lane launched, and yes, I called it A Streetcar Named Murder. I still can’t believe no one else has ever used that title; it seems perfect for a New Orleans mystery novel. I came up with the title years ago–only it was A Streetcar Named Death, and when I started writing that one about eighteen years ago it was a Paige novel, set during the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, and the victim was an Ann Coulter-like writer who came from a New Orleans political family, only her beliefs and what she writes about are anathema to her more progressive family. I got about four or five chapters in when I had to put it aside and move on to something else–I don’t remember what–and when I started writing those Paige novellas whenever the hell that was, I’d moved on from the title…because I’d used “A Streetcar Named Death” as a short story title.

But when Crooked Lane didn’t like my original title for this, and asked for another, well, I suggested A Streetcar Named Murder (they were also nonplussed than no one had used it before) and the rest was, as we say, history.

The first rule of life in New Orleans is any time you leave your house not looking your best, you’ll run into your nemesis.

You’d think as many times as this has happened to me, I’d know better by now. I guess I’m just a slow learner. But in my own defense, I was just walking the couple of blocks to Big Fisherman Market on Magazine Street to get a pound of shrimp fresh from the Gulf, and I figured the odds were in my favor.

It was obviously not the day to buy a Powerball ticket.

I was tucking my wallet into my purse and reaching for the bag of peeled, deveined shrimp resting on the counter when a voice behind me said, dripping with sugar, “Valerie Cooper! Is that you?”

I froze. My heart sank. I knew that voice all too well. I’d become very familiar with it over years of countless, seemingly endless parents’ association meetings and events. When my twin sons graduated last spring, I’d hoped I’d never hear it again.

I took a deep breath and choked back a moan. My chestnut-brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail. I hadn’t even put on lip gloss. I glanced down at my worn, ratty old sweatpants. The ancient, paint-stained Jazz Fest T-shirt I was wearing didn’t help either.

I steeled myself, plastering a phone smile on my face.

I turned around to face Nemesis.

Okay, nemesis is probably a bit harsh. Collette Monaghan wasn’t that awful. I’d managed to keep Collette at arm’s length through all the years of being active in the Loyola High School parents’ group, the Cardirents. (Cute, right? Short for Cardinals’ Parents. It started out as the Cardimoms until some moms guilted their husbands into joining. A unanimous vote changed the name to be more inclusive when my boys were freshmen.) I wanted to believe Collette Monaghan didn’t deliberatately try to make other women feel bad about themselves. Her rare compliments always seemed a bit back-handed.

I kind of like that opening.

Feel free to order it from your local independent bookseller, or from your favorite on-line site.

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