Here at Casa Mysterioso, instead of recycled site-owner publicity, we offer interviews with other people in the arts--writers, musicians, actors, entertainers, and sometimes just plain characters. We add new ones all the time, and site visitors are invited to contribute. If we use your interview, we'll pay $35. Query by e-mail.

Interview with Jan Burke
Interview with Jeremiah Healy
Ben and Diane (An Interview with Stephen Booth)
Cold Days and Deadly Nights (An Interview with Steve Hamilton)
Mysteries (An Interview with Irene Marcuse)
The Stone Monkey (An Interview with Jeff Deaver)
The Salaryman's Wife (An Interview with Sujata Massey)
A Kiss Gone Bad (An Interview with Jeff Abbott)
Charlotte Justice (An Interview with Paula Woods)
Blood Money (An Interview with Rochelle Krich)
Letter From New Orleans: (An interview With Andy J. Forest)
The Lady From Charm City (An Interview with Laura Lippman)
Crescent City Views (An Interview with Anne Rice)

Letter From New Orleans:
(An interview With Andy J. Forest
By Julie Smith

My French Quarter neighbor, Andy J. Forest, is such an extraordinary individual I had to base a character on him. Like Andy, Tony Tino in my new book, LOUISIANA HOTSHOT, also plays blues harmonica and also left home to wander the earth at an early age. But the real Andy falls in the category of if-you-wrote-it-no-one would-believe-it. When I first met him he was not only a blues musician, but also a published novelist, good poet, and former star of Italian films. About a year later, he mentioned he'd started painting. He sheepishly took one of his watercolors down to the corner gallery and told them it was a friend's work--imagine his surprise when they flipped over it. Today, he's a successful artist too. Now, I don't write about people like that. Tony Tino's pretty accomplished, but, like I said, he had to be believable. Over to Andy:

JS: Andy, you play music, paint, act--it's ridiculous. Do you dance too?

AJF: Oh, yeah, I was in a dance company once for about three years, but I rarely wear a tu-tu. I got started because it was free--my girl friend was a dancer and they needed guys for the pas de deux class.

JS: What have some of your other careers been?

AJF: Picking pineapples, working salmon boats, construction, gardening

JS:.How many degrees do you have?

AF: 180. When I wake up in the morning, I'm usually 180.

JS: Get serious

AJF: I quit school in the ninth grade. This kid in my class said I'd go through life with people saying I only had a ninth grade education. He was killed in prison a few years later.

JS: How many languages do you speak?

AJF: Two and a half. English and Italian, and half-French. Oh, and one-fourth Spanish.

JS:What are you reading these days?


JS: What's that book on the table?

AJF: A DISTANT MIRROR's too big for my back pocket, so I carry these mini-books of short stories when I'm on my bike. This one's THE ATHEIST'S MASS by Balzac.

JS: When did you leave home?

AJF: I ran away at twelve, but I came back after two weeks. I left for good when I was 16, but I always came back to visit.

JS: My character Tony Tino did that too--only I didn't make it twelve, because nobody'd believe it. What did you think of him?

AJF: I've always wanted a big nose. Thanks for giving me one.

JS: You're welcome. But he's not really you, of course.

AJF: Well, I know what you mean.. In my book, LETTER FROM HELL, the character's a harp player, so everyone thinks it's me, but it isn't. What I did was, I invented a character I'd like to play in a film.

JS: Tell about your book.

AJF: My idea was a three-part trilogy based on Dante's DIVINE COMEDY. The first one, LETTER FROM HELL, is a retelling of THE INFERNO. The idea is, a blues band goes to hell. I wrote the songs for the CD based on the book at the same time.

JS: Pretty good for a kid who quit school in the ninth grade. How does one become an auto-didact?

AJF: You have to have a passion for reading. I learned that from my parents. All our walls were covered in books.

JS: Hmmm. I just realized I have an expert here. what's your personal vision of hell?

AJF: Read the book.

JS: Okay . I love the CD too-- it might be set in hell, but to me it's great New Orleans music. Where can people get either or both?

AJF: Amazon has both things. Or go to my Web site. If you're in New Orleans, Faulkner House Books has the book, and the Louisiana Music Factory at Decatur and Iberville, across from the House of Blues, has the best selection of local music.

JS: You're a pretty erudite guy. Who's your favorite author?

AJF: Bukowski.

JS: Musician?

AJF: Charlie Parker and Monk. When I paint, I listen to Monk.

JS: Oh, jazz. I wasn't expecting that. Why do you play blues--are you secretly miserable?

AJF: (laughing) That was just the first music I played--it wasn't really a choice.

JS: Why the harmonica?

AJF: It's easy to carry.

JS: Play any other instruments?

AJF: Clarinet, violin, sax, guitar, bass, and frattoir. But harmonica's best for hitchhiking. Or a fishing trip.

JS: Frattoir?

AJF: Zydeco rubboard.

JS: Like a lot of New Orleans musicians, you're very popular in Europe. In fact, it seems like you spend about half your time there. What's the biggest cultural difference you see?

AJF: We have a multi-culture and every culture in Europe is a mono-culture.

JS: What's the best thing about Europe?

AJF: The view. Also, people in clubs really listen.

JS: What's the best thing about the U.S.?

AJF: We're a convenience-oriented society. It frees up the day.

JS: Okay, let's tell the folks what to do in New Orleans. What's your favorite cheap place to eat?

AJF: Harbor's at Franklin and Dauphine. It's a bar and soul food place in the Marigny, but they only serve breakfast and lunch.

JS: Where should people go to listen to music?

AJF: Any place but Bourbon Street. For jazz, Snug Harbor; for blues, Mama's; Donna's for brass bands; the Columns for quiet music.

JS: If you could only do one thing on a trip to New Orleans, what would it be?

AJF: Go hear music someplace where they serve food--do two things at once. Mama's Blues, maybe.

JS: Great. Where can people buy your paintings?

AJF: Beal's on Royal--1034 Royal. They're also available at some House of blues retail shops.

JS: And we covered your book and CDs. One last thing--tell about the next one.

AJF: My fourteenth, CD, Sunday Rhumba,will be out in September.

JS: Sunday Rhumba? Isn't that the name of a poem you posted on the site?

AJF: It's kind of a talking blues. I put a lot of my poems on the album, including that one you liked about Hurricane Georges--remember, you said it should be a song? The album's got a lot of percussion on it--it isn't just straight blues. I wanted to do something a little different. Also, all the solos are harmonica. Anders Osborne, the producer, wanted people to recognize that it's my album at any given time.

JS: I suppose you painted the cover art.

AJF: Uh-huh. It's a self-portrait.

JS: Good idea. You're pretty cute. And eligible too.

AJF: I don't know if I'm eligible. I'm never here. Or there.

JS: Well, there's a blues lyric if I ever heard one. Can't we end this on an upbeat note?

AJF: Sure. I just sold French rights to my book to Gallimard for the Serie Noir and I'm having the first show of my paintings at a Paris gallery next March to coincide with its release. Also, I'm working on a new book, "The Divine Humidity."

The End

Except for one thing. Did y'all like my entertaining neighbor? Well, don't just stand there--step right up and get your red-hot CDs and Letters from Hell: . And while you're at it, check out the book he's And I mean order it--do you think these fine interviews are free?

Back To Top