I’ve been asked before about the significance of the titles to the three books in my mystery trilogy—Permafrost, Mission, and Colorblind—featuring Tom, an occasional businessman following a series of hunches in intriguing and colorful locations. For the first two books I’ve attempted explanations before, but now that the series is complete I’m reflecting on how all three titles represent central ideas in the work.
The term permafrost was referenced once within the narrative and my intention was to use the word to refer to the chilled emotional stasis that the main character, Tom, found himself in. I had also hoped to contrast Tom with Keith, the man he is trying to track down. My sense was that Keith, while geographically far adrift, was the more emotionally connected and vibrant of the two men.
When I talked about “mission” I had several intended meanings in mind. It could be the church’s worthy pledge to aid the city’s homeless in the novel’s Boulder setting. It could be Tom’s desire to find the killer. Or it could refer to the killer’s obsession with cleansing the souls of his victims.
This is my first pass at explaining what colorblind means. In the narrative Tom recalls the school test that he (and I) failed miserably. A series of multicolored patterns yielded an unrecognizable figure or a recognizable figure; recognizable, that is, exclusively to colorblind people. The weirdness of that test and the extended metaphors contained within it have stayed with me.
But there is an alternate meaning contained in the title of my newest book. I’ve traveled to New Orleans over a dozen times in the last thirty years. It functions unlike any other American city, and notions of color and prejudice are often equally unique to that particular place.
Before I continue I should probably qualify that. Race conflicts certainly exist within the Crescent City. Katrina exposed the poor black underclass that the storm waters fed on, while those African Americans who did flee were the bulk of those who then chose not to return, thereby profoundly altering the landscape and the demographics.
Yet New Orleans history is littered with examples of groundbreaking racial mixing and harmony, and my own limited exposure to this wonderful place consistently confirms that if any place can lay claim to being “colorblind,” it would be The Big Easy.