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Blake Pontchartrain: Mary Lou Widmer

The New Orleans author wrote historical novels and local history

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Hey Blake,

I am reading the book Lace Curtain by author Mary Lou Widmer. What can you tell me about the author and the publishing company listed as Little Woods Publishing Company?

—FAY

Dear Fay,

Like her dozen or so published books, the name that author Mary Lou Widmer chose when she self-published the romantic historical novel Lace Curtain reflects her love for her hometown. She borrowed the name Little Woods from the lakefront community in New Orleans East where she and her husband lived at the time she wrote her first books.

  Widmer is a New Orleans native and former teacher who began writing professionally in the mid-1970s. Her first historical novel, Night Jasmine, was published in 1980. The Cinderella story focuses on the main character Katie, the daughter of Italian immigrants and kitchen maid who rises to the top of New Orleans society. Widmer said she based the character in part on her mother-in-law. A second historical novel, Lace Curtain, followed in 1985. Set in the 1830s, it tells the story of three members of an Irish family who come to New Orleans to work as diggers during the creation of the New Basin Canal. She followed Lace Curtain with a sequel, Twin Oaks.

  Two books that Widmer and co-author Joan Garvey wrote on the history of the city and state are still used as textbooks in local schools and tour guide classes. The pair wrote and published Beautiful Crescent: A History of New Orleans in 1983. They later collaborated on Louisiana: The First 300 Years. In 1989, Widmer began a popular series of books sharing photos and memories of life in New Orleans throughout the 20th century. The first was New Orleans in the Thirties. It was followed by books chronicling the city in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1920s and the period from 1900 to 1920. The books still are in print and available from Pelican Publishing Company.

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