Cover Story: Lost & Found

As the author of fourteen published novels, I can honestly say that none of my covers pleased me as much as the one for my latest book Creole Son: A Novel of Degas in New Orleans. The art director tracked down one of the few Degas paintings done in New Orleans that was in the public domain and deftly incorporated title and by-line without compromising the integrity of the artwork. It’s also a breath of fresh air with the current, inexplicably awful trend to feature headless heroines on the covers of books.

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There were other reasons I was delighted by the choice of this portrait of Degas’s cousin Mathilde Bell, part of the extended family occupying the Esplanade Avenue house where he lived and worked during his 1872-3 visit to New ¬† Orleans. That Degas chose to pose Mathilde on the front gallery was a fortunate quirk of fate no one could have foreseen. Because his Uncle Michel Musson, Mathilde’s father, rented the house and the record of tenancy was later lost, no one knew exactly where Degas had stayed. Making the search even more difficult was the peculiar fact that the house had been split into two separate structures and physically moved apart. It had also been¬†extensively remodeled that it so differed from the original structure that it may as well have been hiding behind a gigantic Mardi Gras mask. Luckily someone noted the grillwork painted behind Mathilde’s left shoulder and went exploring along Esplanade Avenue until they spotted a house with an identical railing. The Degas House is now a handsome B&B and museum and thanks to a historical marker out front it’s unlikely to be lost again.

Check out the book at www.waterstreetpressbooks.com

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