In her novel The Cutting Season, Locke links a present-day tourist attraction with the long-ago disappearance of a slave. The author's inspiration for the mystery, which was released in paperback in September, was a visit to Oak Alley Plantation, a Greek Revival mansion between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. While walking the property, she became intrigued with the lives of the slaves who once worked the sugarcane fields there during "the cutting season.'' Locke also is the author of Black Water Rising, which was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an Edgar Award and an NAACP Image Award. She will be a featured speaker during Eckerd College's Writers in Paradise Jan. 18-25.
What's on your nightstand?
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer. It's stunning. It's a love story that straddles between Nigeria and America. I recommend it. ... I also recommend that everyone go out right now and buy Big Brother by Lionel Shriver.
Can you describe what makes it so good?
It's about the author's ability to sit right in the middle of the question, are we our brother's keeper? In the book, a woman goes to the airport to pick up her brother, a jazz musician, but she doesn't even recognize him. She realizes he's gained like 200 pounds. If anyone has a friendship or a relationship with a sibling who has a self-destructive thing going on, read this book. It is just an amazing story.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer