Combat Zone

Photographs of the Combat Zone

John Goodman, "The Schlitz Boys," 1978

I stopped by the new exhibit today at the Howard Yezerski Gallery on Harrison Avenue, “Boston Combat Zone: 1969-1978.” The gallery and the show both are small but well worth a visit, even on a raw, rainy day like today.

The exhibit gathers together black-and-white photographs by Roswell Angier, Jerry Berndt, and John Goodman. The photographs all show the people of the Combat Zone — hookers, strippers, pimps, lonelyhearts. Some are posed portraits, some are candid, journalistic shots. There are no empty compositions, no unpeopled streets. It is all real faces, real bodies. The subject is what in the Zone was called The Life.

I have been fascinated by the Combat Zone for a long time and always wanted to write about it. (I did write a short story about it once. More info here.) When my third book is finished — I hope to send the manuscript off to my publisher next week — I intend to pitch my editor on a novel set in the Combat Zone for book four. Maybe this exhibit is a good omen.

In the meantime, if you’re in the area I recommend the show. I have done quite a bit of research on life in the Combat Zone and I have never seen so many images, especially such evocative and beautiful ones, in one place.

Photo: John Goodman, “The Schlitz Boys,” 1978 (gelatin silver print, 16″ x 20″). Click image to view larger.

Categories: Boston · Photography    Tags: ·

Ten Views of the Combat Zone

Esquire napkin story

Since it looks like this blog is going to be a permanent thing, I’m going to try to gather up some of my other writing here. I don’t do a lot of writing outside my novels, and what I do is mostly for book publicity. But some of it is worth a second look, I hope.

Ten Views of the Combat Zone (Boston, 1976)” is a short short story I wrote in 2007 for Esquire magazine’s “napkin fiction project,” which challenged writers to compose a story so short it could fit, hand-written, on a cocktail napkin. The napkins themselves were as interesting as some of the stories (mine is above).

I’ve been fascinated by the Combat Zone, Boston’s notorious old red-light district, for a long time now. I hope to write a novel about is someday soon. I pitched the idea once to my editor, Kate Miciak, as a follow-up to The Strangler. It seemed natural enough to follow a story of Boston’s 1960s crime scene with one set in the epicenter of the city’s 1970s crimeworld, the Combat Zone. Kate didn’t buy it. But we novelists are stubborn as mules when we think we’re onto something good. I’ll try again.

Categories: Boston · My Other Writing    Tags: