DARK RAIN “On the Ledge” by Mat Johnson

DARK RAIN “On the Ledge” by Mat Johnson

By DCE Editorial Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
I wrote Dark Rain during a hurricane called “Ike,” evacuated to Austin, TX, awash in uncertainty and memories of Katrina just three years earlier. I live in Houston, TX, on the Gulf Coast, which is basically a bowling alley for hurricanes every summer. That’s just our reality. I spent Hurricane Katrina like a lot of people, at home, watching it unfold on the cable news. Afterwards, I heard a lot of talk about the future of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and there were those who seemed to think the area wasn’t worth the cost of saving it, that America should just cut New Orleans loose as if it were a withered branch. I heard many different types of people say this but they all had one thing in common. They’d never truly been there. The purpose of Dark Rain, for me, was to change that. Artist Simon Gane breathed life into Dark Rain with his amazing illustration style. He also brought himself all the way over from Bath, England to see NOLA up close, and I joined him, driving the same path from Houston that our lead characters, Emmit and Dabny, try to take on their way to pull off a bank heist that they hope will give them each a second chance in life. Together Simon and I cruised around the city, stopping my car to take the pictures that would become Dark Rain’s landscape. We also made sure, in the spirit of things, that reproduced Emmit and Dabny’s drunken bar scene with an eye for accuracy. (NOTE: Midwestern heiresses really go for a guy with a British accent!) Today’s America has become strikingly uniform. From California to New Jersey, Michigan to Mississippi, nearly identical streets are lined with the same stores, the same food, the same music, and the same lack of soul. What Simon Gane captured is that New Orleans is one of the last places in America that is truly unique, that is both rich in history and culture and yet fully alive today. It is not expendable. It is treasure. And if we lose New Orleans, we lose an essential part of America. And that’s why I wanted to tell this story, a story about keeping hope in a hopeless situation, about taking action when action seems futile. My hope is that Dark Rain will help us never to forget the battle that America fought during that week in August, 2005. A battle not against wind and water, but for our soul. --Mat Johnson