Monday, August 15, 2011

Dixie Noir: An Interactive Tourism Novel

Red, a fictional character from Dixie Noir, reads the novel in one of the real settings of the book:
the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum
Excerpt from: Dixie Noir by Kirk Curnutt
Tourism attractions: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, El Rey Lounge
Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Photos: Diane Prothro. Click to enlarge any photo.
Model: Audria Carr

One of the most fun aspects of working with tourism fiction is experiencing my favorite books coming to life—not just in my imagination but literally right before my eyes. So far, it’s just been the places and the unique spirit that surrounds each one. But profiling Kirk Curnutt’s novel Dixie Noir was the first time that a character from a novel has come to life.

The character’s name is "Red," a spunky fictional waitress from the real El Rey Burrito Lounge in Montgomery, Alabama. Red has an apartment in the real Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, which does have both private apartments and a museum dedicated to the famous couple. As part of the photo shoot for this profile, we had a real waitress from El Rey, Audria Carr, pose as Red inside the museum, one of the main settings in the novel.

As soon as she came through the door, it was like seeing Red walk right out from the pages of the novel and into the real world. Red was certainly one of the characters that made Dixie Noir a memorable read, so please enjoy this short excerpt that captures her spirit below.

Dixie Noir is the only other interactive tourism novel I've profiled on SELTI. The first was Blind Fate. Both novels have interactive tourism guides inside the Kindle editions. These embedded tourism links take readers directly to the websites of the real settings in the books--all with one click from inside the novel. After the excerpt, learn how to visit the real places in this novel through SELTI's companion online Tourism Guide. This guide will show you how to visit real places in the novel, including the El Rey Lounge and Fitzgerald Museum—and of course how order the book!

From Dixie Noir . . .

Red reads Dixie Noir from the lawn of the Fitzgerald House in Montgomery
I managed to keep it clean until my shift ended at eleven. It had been a twelve-hour workday, but there was no way I was going to be too tired to walk Red to the Fitzgerald house. As I clocked out, I took two shots of Jägermeister. Bubba agreed to deduct them from my paycheck since I was light on cash. Then I reminded Wookie to bring his scrapbooks the next day.

As Red and I walked up Boultier, I enjoyed the night smell of jasmine and crepe myrtle. Every few paces she brushed into me, and I would revel in a whiff of something even more powerful—her. I wanted like hell to put my arm around her and pull her close, but I was afraid to.

Twice while we worked I had caught her on her cell phone looking flustered. Even with the phone’s ringer turned off, Eric the ex wasn’t going away anytime soon. The first thing I noticed when we walked into her apartment was a sheet thrown over the mirror.

“I didn’t want you worrying about seeing your own kisser,” she said with a grin. “You’re not quite the Elephant Man, but I understand. Honestly, it’s kind of a relief. Eric couldn’t take two steps without stopping to admire his own reflection.”

Red reads from the roof of her apartment at the Fitzgerald House
On her roof she spread out a down comforter and we stretched across the shingles, a few inches of safety between us. The shingles were still hot, but I didn’t care. Especially not when Red cracked her copy of Save Me the Waltz open and started reading from another tipped-in half-sheet of stationary.

“Along the staircases of dark streets, men wandered in search of girls, searching with nothing to navigate them but tenuous wisps of jasmine that taunted them with their ephemeral tracings . . . The men peeked for them behind boxwoods and while tiptoeing through unbroken and untrammeled beds of corydalis and cowslip, never thinking that these sad, playful sprites of femininity know that a man’s craving is incommensurate with his nurturing and that therefore a woman’s best option is to remain a corona of his desire . . .

“So the men were doomed to shadow the future of their own failure, wanting but incapable of truly having because truly having is truly giving, never realizing that the susurrations that said to them ‘If you can only find you are free to take’ mocked them with the lure of appetence . . . .”

That did it for me. I rolled over onto Red and kissed her, hard. I don’t think she was expecting it. At first she wedged the book against my shoulder and started to push me away. Only it didn’t seem like she really wanted me to stop, so I didn’t.

Inside the Fitzgerald Museum, Dixie Noir author Kirk Curnutt meets
"Red,"a fictional character from his novel who steps into the real world.

Then a crazy thing happened. She tucked an arm around the back of my neck and instead of pushing she pulled my mouth to hers. I felt my tongue in her mouth and hers in mine. Then she did this wild thing with her teeth. She sunk them lightly into the thick part of my tongue, the back part, and slid them down the length of it. Over and over again. Her mouth closed tightly around my tongue, and she just kept going back and forth until I thought the electric tickle the move gave off would blow out my whole circuitry.

Goddamn she tasted good.

Just as suddenly she stopped. She put her hand over my mouth and whispered, her voice a feather in the heat.

“You understand I can’t go any farther than this tonight, don’t you? You understand why, too, right?”

Sure, I understood. Why wouldn’t I? I was an ex-con. She had an ex-boyfriend. One more X in the equation and this game of ours was over. I rolled onto my back, staring at the sequined stars.

“I just broke my cardinal rule,” I confessed. “I waited ten years to practice it: ‘Do No Bad.’ I’m sorry I pressured you, Red. St. Dominic needs to get on the case to make me a better choirboy.”

Red stands on the porch of the Fitzgerald House
She propped herself on her side, above me, so her hair hung down onto my throat.

“Don’t be too good of a choirboy, Hardboil. Just remember: you’ve got to sin to get saved.”

“You smell so damn good. You know what you smell like? You smell like freedom.”

“Dominic and that other saint of yours—Jude—they’re looking out for our best interests, aren’t they?”

“If they’re not, they’re out of a job. Bubba isn’t the only one who can fire someo—”

I didn’t finish because she had pressed the curve of her neck into my face just as she had at El Rey the day before. If I didn’t have a single more minute to live, I wouldn’t have cared. I would have died a happy bastard.

---Excerpted from DIXIE NOIR, Copyright © 2009 by Kirk Curnutt, All Rights Reserved

Tourism Guide
Pull up the menu of the real El Rey from inside
the Kindle tourism edition of Dixie Noir.

Dixie Noir is the first novel profiled on SELTI other than Blind Fate with an interactive tourism link in the Kindle edition. This means that readers can, from the Kindle edition, click on links from inside the novel and visit the websites of the real places. One could, for example, pull up the menu of the real El Rey Lounge from the Kindle book or find out hours of operation directly from the Fitzgerald Museum website. It’s much easier to get this information instantly from the novel than having to go do web searches later on.

Keep in mind that Kindle novels can be downloaded to regular laptop or desktop computers, smart phones, iPads, and other devices besides the Kindle reader itself. Just go to Amazon to download the necessary software and start reading in a couple of minutes.

Some of the most intriguing places to set a novel happen to be operated by nonprofits with very limited marketing budgets, so interactive tourism novels are a great way for writers to promote the places they love and want to share with their readers. Kirk is on the board of the real Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and often frequents the real El Rey lounge.

The Fitzgerald Museum offers rare collections of books, letters, and paintings from the famous couple. For example, there is a letter from Fitzgerald to Hemingway, letters he wrote to his daughter Scottie, and letters from Zelda to Fitzgerald.

The following is from an article Kirk wrote and provided to me about Dixie Noir and its inspirations:

“The essence of Montgomery, Alabama—my home since 1993—is dialectical. Downtown, the house where Jefferson Davis oversaw Southern secession in February 1861 stands only paces from the church where Martin Luther King, Jr. directed the bus boycott ninety-five years later. The two attractions form the heart of our tourism, yet they exist in uneasy alliance, one preserving the very legacy of the Civil War that the Civil Rights Movement vowed to overcome. For every Rosa Parks we revere here, we’re urged to acknowledge (if not celebrate) Confederate valor, to appreciate states rights as intently as civic disobedience. The schism even cleaves our popular culture: Nat King Cole is our native son, Zelda Fitzgerald our wild child.”
Another hot interactive tourism novel
set in Montgomery: read an excerpt
of Blind Fate by clicking the link in
the Tourism Guide below.

Kirk and I both wrote novels inspired by modern Montgomery. My novel, Blind Fate, is told from the perspective of a blind person and covers many of the same settings as Dixie Noir, which made Kirk’s novel an especially intriguing read for me. A southern city is not a usual place for setting a noir novel, which caught my attention when first reading about Dixie Noir. Kirk did a wonderful job at every level, from places to characterization.

Kirk Curnutt and the real "Bubba"
from the El Rey Lounge at a
Dixie Noir booksigning.
A special thanks to Audria for bringing Red to life in the Fitzgerald Museum and to Diane, Kirk’s fiance, for her artistic and daring eye in taking the shots (some of which were on the roof!). Stay on the lookout for a sequel to Dixie Noir as the story switches over to Bubba’s storied life as a bartender and bouncer.

Tourism Links

Start reading the rest of Dixie Noir right now on your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, smart phone, or computer (also available in hardback):

Learn about all of Kirk Curnutt’s books at his official website:

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum

Stop by for drinks and food at the real El Rey Burrito Lounge in Old Cloverdale, Montgomery’s boho district

Another interactive tourism novel about Montgomery, told from the voice of a young blind woman who turns out to be far more resourceful than her captor ever imagined: Blind Fate, a suspense/thriller mystery:

Learn about all that Montgomery has to offer:

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