Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On-site inspection

To be sure, Galveston, Texas, is not the place it was 114 years ago. Like every other mid-sized city in America, it has modern buildings, streets, and services. Like other tourist destinations, it has plenty of twenty-first-century glitz.

When I visited Galveston this week, however, I didn’t find it difficult to imagine what the city was like on September 8, 1900, when it was virtually destroyed by one of the worst hurricanes in history. Signs of the city’s past were as visible as those of its present.

Scores of well-preserved Victorian homes can be found in most of the seven districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So can public buildings that date to the 1800s, businesses that have operated for decades, and the ruins of a house once occupied by pirate and privateer Jean Lafitte.

I visited the city, the setting for my upcoming novel, September Sky, because I wanted to experience the place I was writing about. And I’m glad I did.

It’s one thing to read about stifling heat and humidity. It’s another to feel it. Just as it’s another to stand in the shadow of the Texas Heroes Monument, walk down The Strand, wade in the churning Gulf of Mexico, and hear the horns of seagoing vessels in Galveston Bay.

I specifically visited some sites — such as the City Cemetery and the Garten Verein, an octagonal dancing pavilion built in 1880 — because I knew they had changed little in the past century and because they were settings for important chapters in the novel.

I visited others — like the Rosenberg Library, the Tremont House, and Old Red, the University of Texas’ first medical school — because I wanted to see if they were as impressive in person as they were in literature. (They are.)

Throughout my two days in the island community, I took notes, snapped photos, talked to people who know the town, and made the kinds of observations one can only make when they see a place up close. I intend to use this information to make what I think is already a good book even better.

September Sky, the first novel of the new American Journey series, is tentatively scheduled for a December launch.

Top photo: Garten Verein. Bottom: Old Red (Ashbel Smith Building).


  1. But the real question is, did you have some good Tex-Mex and country/chicken fried steak?

  2. I passed on both and went with the seafood :-)