Named a “best BOOK OF The Year”

By Library Journal and SHelf Awareness


An essential work of American civil rights history, Robert W. Fieseler's Tinderbox mesmerizingly reconstructs the 1973 fire that devastated New Orleans’ subterranean gay community. Buried for decades, the Up Stairs Lounge tragedy has only recently emerged as a catalyzing event of the gay liberation movement. 

In revelatory detail, Fieseler chronicles the tragic event that claimed the lives of thirty-one men and one woman on June 24, 1973, at a New Orleans bar, the largest mass murder of gays until 2016. Relying on unprecedented access to survivors and archives, Fieseler creates an indelible portrait of a closeted, blue- collar gay world that flourished before an arsonist ignited an inferno.

“Fieseler unflinchingly recounts the fire and sets it firmly in the context of the times.” -- Chicago Tribune

“Vivid, fast-paced, and essential.” -- Library Journal (starred)

“This was a book which reaffirmed and renewed in my own heart the quest, the yearning for dignity and justice in my homeland.” -- Walter Holland, LAMBDA Literary

“A momentous work of sociological and civil rights history.” -- Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“An important work of memory…finally giving the account its rightful place in America's national story.” -- Los Angeles Times





Books & Anthologies

Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation

Liveright Publishing, June 2018

Red Rabbit

My Gay New Orleans Anthology, July 1, 2016



horned god

Tahoma Literary Review, June 2018
(nominated for the Pushcart Prize)

One Hostage in Play

Columbia Journal, March 14, 2017

Red Rabbit

Hippocampus, April 1, 2016

Men about Business

Concis, November 13, 2015
(nominated Best of the Net 2015)

New Miserable Experience

RKVRY Quarterly, October 2015
(Finalist, nonfiction 41st New Millennium Literary Awards) 


This Mass Murder Of Gay People Sparked A Movement 43 Years Before Pulse (Tinderbox Excerpt)

Buzzfeed, May 30 2018

Up the Monkey River

Quartz, November 12, 2015

Ghost in the Machine

Narratively, March 25, 2015

Taste the Action (The superhero saga of Brooklyn's weirdest burger joint)

Narratively, October 7, 2014 

Consider the Can

The Big Roundtable, June 9, 2014
(The Atlantic's "Roughly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism" 2014) 



ABOUT THE author

 Fieseler in ironic Ayn Rand shirt as penance for his teenage beliefs

Fieseler in ironic Ayn Rand shirt as penance for his teenage beliefs


Robert W. Fieseler is a journalist and nonfiction author who currently splits his time between New Orleans and Boston. He graduated co-valedictorian from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a recipient of the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship and the Lynton Fellowship in Book Writing. 

His essays and feature stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and recognized in roundups of best nonfiction by The Atlantic. He writes about marginalized groups and overlooked people who make the world better for themselves. As such, his heroes tend to be exiles and outcasts seeking their own strange forms of freedom. 

Fieseler's favorite childhood movie was The Wizard of Oz because he related to the witch. He melted everywhere as a kid, including one time in the middle of Cook Country traffic court. Now, he owns an opinionated Cairn Terrier – same breed as Toto – who accompanies him to the library. Perhaps unsurprisingly to his mother, Fieseler grew to be a proud gay American.





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