Friday, August 12, 2016

Interview: Robert Sterling Hecker, New Orleans Harbor Police Chief and first-time crime novelist

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2016 at 8:29 AM

Robert Sterling Hecker.
  • Robert Sterling Hecker.

Some say “it’s never too late to follow your dreams,” but we all know how life has a way of beating down even the most modest ambitions. Goals are circumscribed by family obligations, the day-to-day slog of work, the banal repetition of doing laundry and cleaning the gutters. “I was born to do it” becomes “maybe someday” becomes “I just don’t have time.”

Well, that’s you (and me). Not so much for Robert Sterling Hecker, former Gambit New Orleanian of the Year, 49-year veteran of law enforcement and the author of The Accidental Vigilante, a hard-boiled crime thriller about a detective who stumbles into involvement in a series of murders and abductions when he’s promoted into the unit that handles child abuse crimes. (If that sounds short on intrigue, just wait until the detective uncovers a connection to the Russian mob.) Hecker, who currently serves as chief of the Harbor Police Department, has been waiting to write a novel since high school. He spent the past three years writing his fiction debut.

Hecker spoke with Gambit about being inspired by police work and being a first-time novelist at age 69. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book release parties next weekend

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 12:33 PM

Maple Street Book Shop owner Gladin Scott (right) talks about books with a customer. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Maple Street Book Shop owner Gladin Scott (right) talks about books with a customer.

Muggles, rejoice: a new chapter in the Harry Potter saga arrives in bookstores at midnight July 30. While not technically a novel, the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child script book (from a production opening on London's West End) revives the popular tale about the young wizard and his wand-brandishing buddies. 

Climb on those broomsticks or apparate to the following parties and events celebrating the book release.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Chuck Palahniuk to sign Fight Club 2 at Garden District Book Shop July 11

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 2:58 PM

Author Chuck Palahniuk. - ALLAN AMATO
  • Author Chuck Palahniuk.
One-time literary enfant terrible Chuck Palahniuk, best-known for his anti-consumerist, pro-chaos novel Fight Club, will appear at the Garden District Book Shop to sign copies of his new graphic novel Fight Club 2.

Palahniuk will also sign up to two books or other pieces of memorabilia for fans and pose for photos, though he won't deliver a formal talk or reading, according to a press release. (This may be a blessing in disguise for fans—Palahniuk has told press that people have a tendency to faint during readings of some of his more disturbing material.) 

Admission tickets ($32.50) are required for the event. The price includes a copy of the new book. 

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bookstores celebrate New Orleans Independent Bookstore Day May 7

Posted By on Sun, May 1, 2016 at 2:54 PM

  • Tracie Morris Schaefer

New Orleans takes a better-late-than-never approach to Independent Bookstore Day. While booksellers in other cities will fete themselves on Saturday, April 30, local stores dodge the dreaded Jazz Fest conflict by postponing their celebration until Saturday, May 7. If you feel like you can never have too many books, here's our roundup of literary-minded activities to take part in.

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Suing Big Oil no longer 'frivolous'

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2016 at 11:48 AM

  • Jill Mastrototaro/Sierra Club
Turns out John Barry was right about the efficacy of suing Big Oil to foster discussions about paying for coastal restoration. That’s no surprise to anyone who has followed various environmental lawsuits brought by a few brave coastal parishes and the regional flood protection authority.

Back in 2013, when the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) filed its landmark lawsuit against scores of oil and gas companies, then-Gov. Bobby Jindal and other energy industry bootlickers breathlessly denounced the suit as “frivolous.” Barry, who was then vice chair of the SLFPA-E board, predicted the litigation would prod energy companies to help pay for coastal restoration.

Jindal and a compliant Louisiana Legislature frantically passed a ham-fisted law seeking to derail the lawsuit retroactively. Jindal also contrived with egregiously conflicted “reformers” like oil-and-gas bidnessman Jay Lapeyre to purge the SLFPA-E board of litigation supporters. They almost succeeded. Fortunately, the rule of law and a new governor could soon get things back on track.

That is, if Louisiana politics doesn’t get in the way.

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Lusitania author Erik Larson to speak at Jewish Community Center

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2016 at 11:28 AM

Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. - BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER
  • Benjamin Benschneider
  • Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.
In some ways, Erik Larson is as much historian and detective as writer. The New York Times-bestselling author writes nonfiction accounts of events or milieus through the experiences of individuals. Using sources like archival materials, news clippings and transcripts of conversations, he painstakingly reconstructs events as they were experienced by the people who lived through them. His latest book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, chronicles the sinking of a British ocean liner by a German submarine in 1915. The event killed hundreds of people and is sometimes credited with helping draw the U.S. into World War I.

Larson will speak at the Jewish Community Center of New Orleans Tuesday, April 12, in an appearance sponsored by Octavia Books. Tickets are required and can be purchased at the Octavia Books store or online. He spoke with Gambit in advance of the event about history, his research process and sinking ships.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Astrophysicist Janna Levin, author of Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, to speak at Tulane

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 4:46 PM

Janna Levin is an astrophysicist and writer.
  • Janna Levin is an astrophysicist and writer.

When two black holes collide, does it make a sound? It sounds like a physics class riddle, but it’s a question that haunted astrophysicist and author Janna Levin . Her new book, Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space, tells the story of the scientists who worked on the instruments that recently detected gravitational waves, which are the ripples in spacetime caused by such collisions that can be amplified and expressed as sound. 

Gravitational waves were first proposed by Einstein. Their confirmation vindicated a century of research and delighted Levin, who has studied black holes and the finite nature of the universe. (To give you an idea of how long she’s been pondering this question, her TED talk on the sound black holes might make was posted in 2011.) Her book is a profile of several brilliant scientists, an “adventure story” on the seas of high-level research, and a lyrical nod to the moody, uncertain world of a black hole, “…roll[ing] along in its own galaxy, dark and quiet until something wanders past, an interstellar dust cloud or an errant star.”

Levin will speak at Tulane’s Freeman Auditorium in the Woldenberg Art Center on Tuesday, April 5, at 6 p.m., followed by a book signing. Gambit spoke with her briefly about black holes, her book and the sound outer space makes. 

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Monday, February 15, 2016

2016 Tennessee Williams Literary Fest lineup announced

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2016 at 12:53 PM

Tennessee Williams, 1959. - NYPL
  • NYPL
  • Tennessee Williams, 1959.
The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival hosts its 30th anniversary series of literary and theater events from March 30-April 3. Speakers include Megan Abbott (The Fever), Dorothy Allison (Bastard Out of Carolina, Cavedweller, She Who), Alys Arden and Cynthia Bond (Ruby), as well as Dick Cavett, Rick Bragg, Heisman Trophy-winner Billy Cannon, Alexander Chee, playwright Lisa D’Amour (Detroit), Beth Henley, Estelle Parsons, Rex Reed, Claire Vaye Watkins, and The New Yorker's John Lahr, who also who wrote the 2014 biography Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh.

Among the stage productions during the fest is Southern Rep's Orpheus Descending, directed by Jef Hall-Flavin, at the University of New Orleans' Robert E. Nims Theatre. Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre stages The Glass Menagerie. The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans also stages three of Williams' one acts, including two world premieres, and writers and playwrights participate in a reading of Williams' plays, letters, essays and letters. The NOLA Project stages a Williams-centric improv show By Any Scenes Necessary as well as Christopher Durang’s For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls.

There also are music and food events and, of course, the annual Stella! and Stanley! shouting contests. The 13th annual Saints and Sinners LGBT literary conference also runs at the fest.

The full schedule and ticket information is available on the festival's website.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Maple Street Book Shop to stay open — at least for a while longer

Posted By on Wed, Dec 30, 2015 at 11:21 AM

Gladin Scott announced Maple Street Book Shop will remain open through spring.
  • Gladin Scott announced Maple Street Book Shop will remain open through spring.

Maple Street Book Shop
owner Gladin Scott had planned to hold a clearance sale after Christmas, but it's taken on a new purpose. In early October, Scott announced the bookshop would close at the end of the year. But that news spurred a wave of support that has enabled him to keep the store open.

"It started as a wake, but it turned into a celebration," Scott says.

Scott announced Sunday the store would remain open and held the sale as a thank you to customers. The store is using proceeds to buy new inventory, ordering new releases and scheduling events for coming months, he says.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book from New Orleans "White House chef" pulled after fraud claims

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2015 at 4:53 PM

Ronnie Seaton meets First Lady Laura Bush at Willie Mae's Scotch House in 2007. - SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD / THE WHITE HOUSE
  • Ronnie Seaton meets First Lady Laura Bush at Willie Mae's Scotch House in 2007.

Ronnie Seaton, 
grandson of the late New Orleans restaurateur Willie Mae Seaton, claims to have served five U.S. presidents in White House kitchens. He writes about his life in his new autobiography, Sir White House Chef. He says he also was knighted by the Queen of England and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom — twice — once from President George H.W. Bush.

Seaton also claims to have been drafted into the Vietnam War in 1973 while a senior at "St. Augusta High School," which he describes as an "all white school" and home of the Purple Knights. He says he was a prisoner of war, broke free from his captors and finished eight years in the military before receiving a scholarship from the Culinary Institute of America.

President Ronald Reagan hired him in 1982, he says, after dining on his cuisine at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and he began a long career at the White House — from cooking for former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Prime Minister of England Margaret Thatcher to witnessing Monica Lewinsky's infamously stained dress heading to the dry cleaners.

But the White House denies Seaton ever worked there, according to the New York Post. The National Personnel Records Center has no record of his military service in Vietnam.

And now Seaton's California-based publisher, Heritage Builders, has pulled the book. In an email to Gambit, Brian Mayes of the Nashville Publicity Group, which was coordinating press for its publication, wrote "The publisher is pulling the book, and we have ceased all promotion. Very disappointing."

So here are some highlights from Sir White House Chef:

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