Friday, July 09, 2004

Ocean Springs novelist's family-inspired story now in print

After more than 15 years of researching, writing and finding a publisher, Ira Brown Harkey's historical novel, Black Sugar, detailing the life and times of his illustrious great-grandfather, Gen. Jean (John) Baptiste Levert, is on the market.

After fighting in key battles as a Confederate private in the Civil War, Jean returned to south Louisiana and became a dominating sugar baron. "At one time he owned 14 sugar plantations," Harkey said. His descendants are part of Levert Industries, which is still into sugarcane, rice, crawfish and catfish and real estate.

Harkey dedicated his first novel to his late mother, Marie Ella Levert Gore Harkey. Harkey said the title "represents the very rich, black cane-growing soil in Southwest Louisiana where much of the book takes place. The book cover shows those cane fields and an 1861 painting of the family's St. John Plantation, St. Martin Parish.

Black Sugar is published by Xlibris Corp. of Philadelphia (1-888-795-4274 ext. 276), a branch of Random House. The book is available through Coast-area bookstores.

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