“Safe Negro Travel Guide”

The piece I wrote for the Richard Hugo House Literary series, “Safe Negro Travel Guide,” has been posted on the Hugo House website, here.

Some background for the curious:

A while ago I was invited to come up with some ideas for possible TV series. One of the treatments I wrote was for an X-Files/Supernatural-style show called Lovecraft Country, about a black travel writer and pulp-fiction geek named Atticus Turner who drives around Jim Crow-era America doing research for a magazine called the Safe Negro Travel Guide. I knew it was a real longshot to get produced—it’s a period piece with a largely non-white cast—but it seemed like a cool idea and I figured I could always turn it into a book.

For the Hugo House series, whose theme was “Road Trip,” I decided to write a short-story prequel to this as-yet nonexistent TV show/novel. At the reading I described it as a “kind of” prequel, since the supernatural elements are metaphorical rather than literal, but you can get an idea from this how the longer story would work.

Although the latest Hugo House newsletter calls the story “chillingly relevant,” I wasn’t thinking of current events when I wrote it. It just seemed like an interesting character and setting with a different set of dramatic challenges than I’d worked with before.

Guides such as the one in the story really did exist; I first read about them in historian James W. Loewen’s book Sundown Towns. You can download a PDF of the 1949 Negro Motorist Green Book here.