Catacombs39.768923, -86.153526

Maurice Broaddus

A visit to the Catacombs—approximately 20,000 square feet of hidden space that lies beneath Indianapolis’s City Market—inspired Maurice Broaddus’s underground world in his novel Pimp My Airship.


Maurice Broaddus
b. 1970

Literary Inspiration

Pimp My Airship

Published 2019


222 East Market Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204

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Pimp My Airship

Maurice Broaddus

Sleepy entered a theater at the west end of the City Market and descended a large stairwell. Knowledge Allah, with his red-tinted hair tightened into a series of twists, like arthritic fingers dangling from his skull, limped alongside him. Wind-blighted brick walls gave way to limestone. A series of cantilevered brass tubes ran along the ceiling. The walls thrummed as large fans behind them whirred to circulate the air. A cast iron steamman, with a top hat and a cadaverous smile, loaded coal. The hydraulics of its pneumatic legs wheezed with each movement, its features a cold caricature of a person. Tanks on its back powered it; its pressure gauge crept higher as it exerted itself.

The Tombs—the undercity of Indianapolis—languished in the eternal night of the lower avenue. Its residents lived in the shadows of the downtown spires—sunlight parceled out in dribs and drabs—in the reflections of a better life. The tunnels beneath the city were old when Indianapolis was founded. Some whispered that this was the original Indianapolis and the overcity was built over it like some steam-fueled clockwork tombstone burying its past. Before the Pinkertons received their localized charter, the police used the underground alleyways as a shooting range. During the winter of 1912, the homeless slept down there. In 1913, the tunnels flooded, so by that winter, black people who were off the work cycle or who would otherwise be labeled Unpersons took up residence down there. Each week a non-descript city vehicle deposited a load of Unpersons released from The Ave, most of whom were elderly or had health issues severe enough that it cut into the prisons profits to house them. With no place to go or money to get there, they drifted down into The Tombs.


Indianapolis never fails to interest me. I often take tours of “haunted” Indianapolis and “historic” Indianapolis. I love to hear all of the secret or hidden stories of the city. One time I took my children on a tour of the Catacombs. It’s a series of underground passages and walkways that include brick archways and limestone columns. It was all a part of Tomlinson Hall, a building that’s no longer there. The idea of the city that “was” fascinated me. As did its architecture and all of the history. It stirred me imagining the Catacombs as “The Tombs,” an entire town. From there, I began the worldbuilding of the Indianapolis that became Pimp My Airship.

—Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus received the 2020 Indiana Authors Award in the Genre category for his novel Pimp My Airship.

Maurice Broaddus is a teacher, librarian and community organizer. His books include the urban fantasy trilogy The Knights of Breton Court, the steampunk works Buffalo Soldier and Pimp My Airship, and the middle-grade detective novel The Usual Suspects. His novella Sorcerers is being adapted as a television show for AMC. Learn more about Broaddus’s work at 


Indianapolis is a place that inspires creativity. This is one of a dozen original pieces of visual and performing art created by Hoosier artists inspired by Bookmark Indy authors.


Joshua Thompson and Vae Savage

“Out of the Silence” from Seven Traceries by William Grant Still
Joshua’s Facebook | Joshua’s Instagram | Melanated Moments in Classical Music

William Grant Still, known as the Dean of Classical Music for African Americans, in his composition “Out of the Silence,” the fourth movement in the Seven Traceries suite, employs ethereal tonalities that evolve into broad, sweeping melodies before they disappear into nothingness. For classical pianist Joshua Thompson, this dynamic parallels the relationship between the neutral and unforgivingdarkness, space, nothingnessand the unending determination and resolve of the human spirit. Thompson selected this work by Still in response to Maurice Broaddus’s Pimp My Airship to reflect and complement the author’s use of dystopian techniques to emphasize its Afrofuturist conception. Dancer Vae Savage then interprets and epitomizes this same dynamic through her movement. 




The Catacombs are located beneath City Market:

222 East Market Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204


Visiting the City Market Catacombs:

The Catacombs are accessible only via scheduled tour.

To make a tour reservation, visit Indiana Landmarks.

Learn more about the Indianapolis City Market
Web | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter



Closest IndyGo Stops: 

Carson Transit Center

Delaware Street & Market Street (Routes 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 19, 21,38, 55)


How to Plan a Trip on IndyGo:  

  • Use the Trip Planner on 
  • Use Google Maps (select “transit” as your travel method) 
  • Call IndyGo Customer Service at 317-635-3344 
  • Track your bus using the MyStop Mobile App 
View all locations

Bookmark Indy Happy Hour ft. Maurice BRoaddus

July 14, 2021 | 4:00-6:00 p.m. | Indianapolis City Market

Stop by the Indianapolis City Market west plaza to enjoy a beverage while listening to a reading from Bookmark Indy featured author, Maurice Broaddus and live music from Clint Breeze and the Groove. Maurice’s books will be for sale and signing.


Learn more about Maurice, his writing, community work and more in this interview with Indy Monthly.


Tune into the “Horrow Show with Brian Keene” to hear Maurice discuss ghost-writing for celebrities, reconciling religion and faith with genre writing, being a trailblazer for writers of color, his friendships with Wrath James White and Chesya Burke, and much more.

Report Back.

Read the location passage. What questions would you ask the author? What would help you understand the author's viewpoint?

Added TEXTure.

Writing is about more than just words. Look around to discover what textures are most prevalent in this place. Do a texture rubbing using a piece of paper and a crayon or pencil.

In the Margins.

What inspires you most about this place? Draw a quick doodle of it in the margin of one of your books.

Found sound.

Walk around the location and record the sounds of surroundings. Did what you hear depend on what time you visited?

Backward / Forward.

Cities change—what did your location look like in 1920? What will it look like in 2120?


Find another perspective by walking to a different spot around this location. Do you notice anything new? Which of your five senses notices a change first?

Strike a Prose.

Write a short passage describing how this place inspires you.

Love Letter / BreakUp Letter.

Think about your relationship with the place you’re visiting or perhaps with your own neighborhood. Is it time to commit? Or time to let go? Write a letter as if you’re speaking directly to the place you have in mind.

Field Notes.

Explore your stream of consciousness by writing down every thought that enters your mind.