Some strange mojo down in New Orleans these days. Who would have ever thought we’d see the New Orleans Saints playing to become world champs? And who ever thought we’d ever hear from our old friend, former New Orleans Saints defensive end Nick Travers, again?
But in the same week the Saints beat the Vikings in overtime, a Nick Travers short story was nominated for the Edgar Award. A person definitely has to believe some voodoo is at work here.
I have not written about Nick for almost seven years. In fact, the story that was nominated has been sitting on my hard drive for fifteen years. Back then the Saints finished 7-9 and were third in their division.
But one of the best things about being a writer is that an old story is never really old; that story is as new and fresh as when you first wrote it. It’s alive in the hands of your reader in that great collaboration.
I was more than thrilled to get an early morning phone call from Busted Flush Press last week letting me know that “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” was nominated for an Edgar for Best Short Story. This was a story that had a hell of a time finding an audience. This was the first story where Nick Travers, famously kicked off one of the worst teams in pro sports, burst into my imagination and started my career as a writer.
He would go onto to star in four novels. The Saints would continue to lose.
When David and I first spoke about bringing out a new edition of Crossroad Blues, I instantly thought of the short. I hadn’t read it for some time and was really surprised as veteran writer to see how well it held up. Not to say I didn’t make a few small edits, but the story is pretty much as I’d left it back in 1995.
Chandler wrote about the ‘animal gusto’ of a new writer really pounding the keys, finding passion and energy in those first stories. And I do believe “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” had that in spades. I had always thought of the short appearing alongside Crossroad Blues, a book that was initially written as a novella. But as I said, I was a young writer, and when I mentioned the word ‘novella’ to my editor at St. Martin’s, he said: “Can you add about 100 pages in a month?”
And so Crossroad Blues and “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” were separated for all these years. The story was relegated to the hard drive of an old computer that never did enter the internet age.
This story was the first time I felt that I could really do this, work as a storyteller. But I had no idea that what I was writing as a fledgling author, only 25, would ever be good enough to be nominated for an Edgar. After all these years and eight novels later, it’s a thrill to see that first tale getting some respect in the same week Nick’s old team heads to Miami.