I love discovering connections between authors and historical places when I travel. I travled to Biloxi, Mississippi last weekend where I happened onto a fine dining restaurant called Mary Mahoney's Old French House. I took a few photos on the outside then wandered in the place for a bite of lunch. The small stone bar was empty and the bartender was eager to serve, as it was the middle of the day and the lunch crowd had long gone. For me, it's rarely about the food or beverages, it's about what one finds when you get off the beaten track and rummage a bit around these old cities. It passes times and gives me the area's "sense of place," something all writers end up using at one time or another.
It was odd, but something here triggered a memory. A city. Bioloxi. A name. Mahoney's. A book. The Runaway Jury. I tapped my fork on the bar top and got the attention of the waitress.
"Was this the restaurant featured in John Grisham's book, The Runaway Jury?" I asked.
"Yup," she replied, and The Confession as well! Joh comes in here all of the time. Sits right where you are sometimes."
Then I remembered the passage from a Grisham's book....
"He turned left and was soon entering a large, old white building that houses Mary Mahoney's, a locally famous restuarant where most of the town's legal community usually gathered for lunch when court was in session.
Nicholas enetered the restaurant and asked the first waitress he saw if Judge Harkin was eating. Yes. And where might he be? She pointed and Nicholas walked quickly through the bar, through a small foyer and into a large dining room with windows and sunshine and lots of fresh flowers."
And here I was, munching on a bowl of Mary Mahoney's famous gumbo, and sipping a sweet tea on a chair where a fellow writer soaked in the atmosphere of a building almost as old as the country itself.
I jotted down a few observations and walked through the old place, taking the same route as Grisham described, to the large dining room befit with large greenhouse-like windows and white table's bedecked with sweet smelling flowers.
Nothing like discovering truth in fiction. For those readers who love a good "sense of place,finding a "real" place that's been used in fiction is like finding buried treasure. Gold, all around. Imagine what heaven will be like?
Any place from a book you've ever found to be real? Share it with us, won't you?