I Think We’re Alone Now

As you are undoubtedly aware, Constant Reader, I have issues with self-confidence when it comes to writing–it’s kind of a bipolar thing, where I can run the gamut from oh wow I’m pretty good at this writing thing to oh my god, I’m a complete fraud why do I persist in this delusion that I can actually do this thing?

So, I tend to embrace moments when I get reassurances that those negative emotions aren’t based in any sort of reality other than the self-destructive corner of my mind.

I’m not sure how I wound up on the editorial radar for the Dark Yonder anthology, but somehow I did and was asked to write a story for it. The anthology celebrates noir writer Eryk Pruitt and his new bar, Yonder, in North Carolina, and all proceeds benefit the North Texas Food Bank. I said yes when I was asked to write a story–because I never say no, or very rarely do; the opportunity to get a short story published is so rare and hard to come by these days I always jump on them–with absolutely no idea what I was going to write  about. But in one of those serendipitous moments, there was a conversation going on over at Twitter about, of all things, stripper cash. I commented on the thread that when I worked for a bank, we were located near some strip clubs, and we “always took the moist money.” Bill Loefhelm, a very fine New Orleans writer, replied that “Moist Money  needs to be the sequel to Chlorine” and the proverbial light bulb flashed on for me.

Moist money IS an excellent title…and then I was off to the races.

72597083_407100819871889_3678343308079267840_n

The United States military trained my father to be a ruthless killing machine in Vietnam, then turned him loose on his hometown of Leicester, North Carolina.

Me? Yeah, no fucking thanks. Dad was enough military for me, thank you very much—waking me up every morning at 6 a.m., inspecting my room and testing the tightness of the made bed with a quarter. He was a drunk by then, and a mean one…but he was always up at six, always smelling like last night’s liquor, cigarettes and whore.

I’m paying for college by taking my clothes off for money. A male stripper—a go-go boy, if you prefer. It means I watch what I eat, spend a minimum of an hour in the gym almost every day, and get to write off bikinis, underwear, jockstraps, and thongs as business expenses.

It’s a fucking living, okay?

My preference is booking gay bars. I like gay bars. Gay men are friendlier, nicer, and tip better. I make bank when I dance in a gay bar, and it doesn’t really require a whole lot of work. Eye contact, some minor flirting, the occasional touch here and there—always good for a couple of bucks. The older ones are a lot more handsy than the younger ones, but they also have more cash in their wallets.

Bachelorette parties, like the one we’re doing tonight, are the fucking worst.

The worst.

The story was a lot of fun to write, and it took me a couple of days of intense concentration and focus to get it done. The book is being released later this month, and I of course will be posting links and so forth when they are available.

And here is the TOC:

Introduction, by Eryk Pruitt

Hey Barkeep! By Eryk Pruitt

A True Yonder Tale, by Dan Barbour

Them’s Fighting Words, by Travis Richardson

Run Its Course, by Frank Zafiro

Popcorn, by Gabriel Valjan

Living Proof, by Will Viharo

Yonder Off-Label, by Terri Lynn Coop

Yonder Margarita, by Matt Phillips

The Regular, by Eric Beetner

Slappy Sacramento, by Todd Morr

Huey and the Burrito of Doom, by Nick Kolakowski

The Door in the Floor, by Allison Davis

Close Your Laptop, by Judy Wilkinson

They Have Drinks Named After Famous Writers, by S.A. Cosby

Legs Diamond, by Liam Sweeny

The Proposition, by Philip Kimbrough

Llama Juice, by Stacie A. Leininger

Moist Money, by Greg Herren

The Big Splash, by Renato Bratkovič

Noir at the Bar Fight, by Dana King

Two Clowns Walk into a Bar, by James Shaffer

Retribution, by David Nemeth

Not Enough to Drink, by Rob Pierce

Money

So, my next Scotty book drops on September 10th, and I’ve been so incredibly, mind-numbingly busy lately that I’ve done very, very little to either acknowledge, or promote, that fact.

This is the eighth book in the Scotty series, which makes it my longest series to date thus far (although the next Chanse book will be the eighth in that series), and I am thinking about starting a new, different series….but I’m digressing, as I am wont to do. After I proofed the galleys and sent the corrections in, I decided that this time–as opposed to what usually happens; i.e. I am so busy and have so much to do that I forget the book is coming out–I was actually going to try to get the word out and do a better job of it than I usually do. But the official release isn’t until September 10th, but if you want it faster, if you order it (paperback or ebook for any reader) through the Bold Strokes website, you can get it now.

It really is a wonder that I have a career, isn’t it? And yet, here we are.

I did manage to finish the first draft of Bury Me in Shadows yesterday, and while it is a considerable mess in need of lots of work, now i have something to actually work with, and I know what the story is, how I want it to play out, and where I have to go back and put things. The ending also needs more work, but it’s done, it’s finished, and now it needs to sit and marinate while I work on revising the final draft of the Kansas book, preparatory to a two-month project that will take up most of my time for October and November. So, I’ll probably get back to Bury Me in Shadows in December, and hope to have it ready for submission by the end of January.

I also signed a contract for a short story yesterday; the anthology I was asked to submit a story to sent me a contract for “Moist Money” and I signed it and sent it back to them. Huzzah! It doesn’t pay much, but it definitely counts as a sale, and I’d have never written the story had they not asked me to write one. It’s a delightfully dark little story, and I like the voice of the main character that I found. The funny thing is, as you well know by now Constant Reader, that I often start with a title, and the genesis of this story is kind of funny.

I’d been asked to submit something to this anthology–I’m not sure I’m allowed to name it or share any details yet–and I agreed, but couldn’t think of anything to write. I don’t ever try to force these things–it happens when it happens–but it was there, in the back of my mind, and I knew I had a very short turnaround on the story. One day on Twitter someone talked about–and I don’t remember exactly how it went–how no one ever wants to take money that someone pulls out of their bra or underwear “because it’s damp.” I replied, “When I was in college I worked at a bank that was near several strip clubs and we always accepted the moist money.” Bill Loefhelm than replied, “MOIST MONEY needs to be the follow up to CHLORINE” which made me laugh out loud, and I replied, agreeing it’s a great title…and then it hit me. The story had to be set in a bar….moist money from stripper tips…why not have a male stripper, who happens to be gay, hired to perform at a bachelorette party at the bar, and have the bride–and her fiance–turn out to be people who bullied and tortured him in high school?

Now there’s the set-up for a deliciously dark tale of revenge, and noir to the core. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

I also got the web copy I needed to write yesterday done, so over all, the entire day turned out to be a win, which is lovely–and seemingly, increasingly rare these days. And once I’d printed out the final chapter, three-hole punched it and put it into the binder with the rest of the book, like an enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Even when I’m not consciously thinking about it, it’s there in my subconscious; the stress and worry about it not being finished, and it weighs on everything else I do, and creates even more stress. Last night–and even this morning–I feel lighter and more free. I’ve also been sleeping better, and last night got a terrific night’s sleep. I was also still kind of worn out from going to the game Saturday night, as well as condom patrol in the heat Friday night, so feeling rested, not sore, and not stressed today has been lovely. I have one more volunteer project to wrap up today, and then some other stuff to take care of in my free time tomorrow, and then on Wednesday I’m going to start working on the final revision of the Kansas book.

At long last, a book that’s taken me about three years, give or take, to finish will finally come to an end, and that’s also an incredibly lovely feeling.

It’s so nice to be able to check things off on my to-do list. It really makes me happy.

Alas, I have to run to the grocery store for a moment before I get anything else done today, so it’s necessary for me to get going now. Have a lovely Labor Day, Constant Reader!

247012_114353265319463_100002343703466_146489_3814932_n

One of a Kind (Love Affair)

Tuesday rolling around like a punch in the mouth.

I managed to get chapter twenty-three finished last night; two more to go and the first draft is finished. It’s going to get trickier in these final two chapters, methinks, but it’s also going to be interesting. A lot is going to happen in these last two chapters, which also kind of makes it fun to write.

I also turned in “Moist Money” to the anthology I was asked to write a story for; whether they like it or not remains to be seen–and I don’t mind if they don’t, really, because I’m actually glad I got the opportunity to write the story, if I’m being honest, and if I hadn’t been asked I would have never written the story. And while I’m not a fan of the word “moist”–it’s one of the more cringeworthy non-slur words in the English language, I’, not sure why–it really works for the story’s title. I also think it’s a great title. Bill Loefhelm told me me on Twitter–I responded to a tweet about stripper money being damp, and he told me I should write a book with the title; when I was in college I worked at Bank of America for a year as a teller, and our branch was near strip clubs…so the strippers used to come in with moist money to make deposits. (And now that I think about it, the fact that we weren’t given rubber or plastic gloves to wear while handling money seems kind of…unsanitary. Money is dirty to begin with…let alone handling it all day.) It’s a revenge story (because of course it is; I wouldn’t be Gregalicious if I didn’t write revenge stories all the time), and was most satisfying to write.

We’ll see how it goes.

I’m going to probably give “This Thing of Darkness” another going over before I submit it to the MWA anthology; I’m not really certain I’m happy with how I end the story.  I’m not entirely certain the story works in the first place, to be honest; isn’t that always the problem I have with short stories? I wish I had more confidence in my short story writing! I like to think I’m a good writer–you can’t write without some sort of sense that your compulsion to create characters and stories is good enough to be read and enjoyed by others–but ugh, that hideous inner voice, always undermining me and making me doubt myself! How I hate it!

I also started reading Lords of Misrule, a look at the politics of race in New Orleans through the lens of Carnival, and it’s kind of fascinating to see how recent the ordinance to desegregate the krewes was–the early 1990’s, in fact–and we moved here shortly after that went into effect. It’s also kind of handy to read about political things that were going on in New Orleans during that time, since I’m writing a novella set in New Orleans in 1994 (maybe 1995; I may change the date a bit as I work on it some more).

We continue to watch Thirteen Reasons Why’s third season, although I’m no longer sure why. The story seems…I don’t know; kind of forced? In some ways, though, it’s terrific; I do like how they are using all the backstory of the first two seasons to complicate this central murder mystery–although I suspect the reveal of the killer’s identity in the final episode is going to be a cheat. I’m also not terribly pleased that the murder victim/sociopathic rapist is getting kind of a backstory redemption arc…but then again, the kid who was almost a school shooter (stopped before his rampage in the season two finale) is also getting a redemptive arc…I kind of have mixed feelings about this. For one thing, I always felt kind of sorry for the kid, and they did such an amazing job of setting up his decline into depression and victimization–what happened to him in Season 2 was horrific, absolutely horrific–and the kids who perpetrated that have all seemed to have gotten away with it, and will continue to get away with it. On the one hand, realistically nothing would have happened to those kids, most likely; but on the other hand, it’s fiction, and it kind of feels like they just plastered a bandage on the kid’s hurts and sexual assault–yes, in season two a boy was victim of a particularly brutal and horrific sexual assault–and that seems, I don’t know, maybe it’s not compelling, story-wise, but I just feel  like they’ve made it seem easy to get over something like that–and it’s not.

Well, it’s time for me to get back to the spice mines, methinks. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

24083_112253688793017_100000251595958_196010_4407502_n

Do It Again

Here it is, Saturday morning and I am awake and on my first cup of coffee. I have things to get done today–two interviews and a roundtable (the round table is terrifying; I looked at the questions and I’m not really certain I am smart or knowledgeable enough to participate, but I said I would and I never back out of things I agree to–or rarely). It’s weird, one would think I would love the chance to talk about myself and my writing as they are basically my favorite subjects, but it always makes me feel, at best, awkward and at worst, deeply uncomfortable.

All that childhood conditioning against arrogance and bragging, I suppose.

I didn’t quite finish cleaning out my inbox yesterday–in fact, I didn’t get even remotely close to cleaning it out, so it’s going back to the list for today. I need to get the mail and I need to make a short grocery run this afternoon, and I would like to go to the gym and try to get started on a regular workout routine again, but that becomes even more difficult given the heat advisory. But thinking about going to the gym, while not the same thing as actually going, is a step closer to getting there, I suppose. I also need to stop by Office Depot to buy some padded envelopes; the arrival of the box o’books also means signing and mailing out copies I owe to friends and reviewers and so forth. Signing and packaging the books is a chore, but I don’t find it as odious as one might think.

Yesterday, as you already know, Constant Reader, I finished reading S. A. Cosby’s delightful My Darkest Prayer, and I am very thrilled and happy to know that he recently signed a two-book contract, so I can look forward to new work from Shawn in the future. Yay! I love discovering new writers, and I love when they have new work. I do have this insane thing where I try not to finish reading everything an author has published so I always know there’s one more book by them to read–I was looking at my bookshelves yesterday as I reorganized the living room, realizing there are still three Kinsey Millhone books by Sue Grafton I haven’t read yet, and was saddened again to know that those will always be the last three Sue Grafton novels, and actually was thinking I should, at some point, start reading the books to clear them off the shelves. I am already at the point with some of my favorite authors, like Laura Lippman and Megan Abbott, where I have finished everything they’ve published (Lippman’s new one, Lady in the Lake, is on deck and I am probably going to start reading it today). I am also behind on some of my favorite authors–I was caught up on Donna Andrews, but I read for the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original last year, which put me behind on everyone who wasn’t in that category last year (some of which I want to go back and reread, taking my time to savor them the way I ordinarily would), and I am also years behind on numerous authors I enjoy…but new books are being released every damned day. Sigh. There’s simply never enough time.

In my review of Shawn’s book, I wrote about something I truly believe–and the more I diversify my reading in my own genre, the more I believe it to be true. I believe that women writers saved the crime genre in the 1980’s, and while they are still doing some serious heavy lifting, the diverse voices of authors like Shawn are reinvigorating and reinventing the crime genre, and breathing new life into it. (I’m really looking forward to October, when I will switch to reading horror, and reading novels by diverse voices in that genre–there are some new and exciting people of color writing in that genre…plus, reading horror will further diversify my reading by taking me outside of crime for a month.) Some of the diverse voices I’ve read thus far this year–Kellye Garrett, Rachel Howzell Hall, Walter Mosley, Steph Cha, Angie Kim, etc.–are doing extraordinary work that needs to be recognized, promoted, and pushed by all of us; they are breathing new life into our genre, as are women writers like Laura Lippman, Alison Gaylin, Megan Abbott, Jamie Mason, Elizabeth Little, and many, many more. And while I often generically refer to the “straight white men”–let’s face it, some of today’s men are writing exceptional work, too–Ace Atkins, Bill Loefhelm, Michael Koryta, to name a few amongst many. I think this is a very exciting time for crime fiction, and I look forward to reading more work by queer writers, as well. I’ve not gotten to some of the newer queer crime writers yet, which I am going to try to focus on more in the latter part of the year. I am really looking forward to Kelly Ford’s Cottonmouths, as it is a queer novel by a queer woman set in the rural South; something I can certainly relate to.

I kind of had a lackadaisical day of rest yesterday, really, where I accomplished little other than reading my book and doing the laundry, and couldn’t really motivate myself to do much more than that–I did make a delicious shrimp stir-fry for dinner last night, though–and we watched two episodes of The Movies last night, “The 80’s” and “The 90’s.” There’s only one more episode left, unless they release “The 50’s,” which is also a rather interesting period in the history of film. I started reading, for research, City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s, by Otto Friedrichs (recommended by Megan Abbott), and it has a lovely bibliography in the back which should be enormously helpful for further research into the time period. I also have a copy of E. J. Fleming’s The Fixers, which should also come in handy for research; again, as a starting place with the gold mine of a bibliography in the back.

So, here’s hoping that today will be that unusual thing; a highly productive, but at the same time, a restful day. Last night’s wonderful sleep is, of course, a wonderful basis for the rest of my day.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

12318_104711849573566_100001042557199_40782_6934493_n

Heartbreaker

Adjusting to normality after the madness of Carnival is never an easy thing to do.

Fortunately, it always involves a short work week–three days–and before I know it the weekend will be here and Monday will be when things really get back to normal around here.

In other exciting news, my own Mardi Gras Mambo was included in a round-up of crime novels set during Carnival, along with noted writers whom I admire, such as Bill Loefhelm, James Sallis, James Lee Burke and Barbara Hambly, among others. (You can check out the entire list here.)

Isn’t that lovely? It’s always nice–and a bit of a surprise–when I find myself on lists like this, whether it’s “gay crime writers” or “books about New Orleans” or “New Orleans crime writers” or pretty much anything, really. I must confess, whenever I see a list where I could be included and am not, it always stings a little bit; I suppose that’s something I will never get used to…and I always wonder, is it because I’m gay? Do queer writers not count? Of course when it’s a list of queer writers it can be a bit maddening, but if you let things like that derail you or hurt your feelings…you’re in the wrong business.

You have to not let the exclusions bother you and celebrate the inclusions…which isn’t easy.

Yesterday was a day of utter discombobulation as I tried (and failed, really) to adapt back to my work schedule, which means I did go to work but the rest of my life floundered around the edges. I didn’t even get around to answering emails yesterday, which was a priority, or paying the bills. But this morning I paid the bills (which is always a crushing blow on pay day) and have another hour or so before I have to get ready for work–so the goal is to tear through my emails and get as many answered as possible.

Fingers crossed, at any rate.

I also started rereading Bury Me in Shadows last night; and yes, the first chapter is, as I feared, a total mess–but it’s fixable, and I am going to continue rereading those first ten chapters this week and work on fixing them before moving on to the rest of the book. I just need to get past this weird feeling leftover from Carnival, where I don’t feel like I am actually a part of my life but am kind of drifting alongside it, observing but not participating in it, if that makes any weird kind of sense.

But I am hoping today will sort that out. The kitchen is a mess–I did the dishes when I got home last night, but there still is a mess everywhere in here and the floor needs to be done–and get some more things sorted and organized. I slept really well last night and didn’t want to get out of bed this morning; tomorrow is a get up at the crack of dawn morning but it’s also only half-a-day, so I am going to try to get all my errands done tomorrow afternoon on the way home from work so as to be able to, once again, not leave the house this weekend.

I find that I really do enjoy those weekends when I don’t leave the house.

I also managed to read another short story last night, from Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There?, titled “The Bird Bath”:

Opening her door for the first time to Mr. Mitson, Mrs. Pryor felt a sense of recoil. He looked like a tramp of the kind not often seen nowadays. He had a very red face, sharp red-rimmed little eyes, and a week’s growth of beard. He wore a dirty old army greatcoat, made for a bigger man, and a hat which had long ago lost its original color and shape. He smelled strongly of beer.

Nearby, however, actually in her tiny drive, stood a reassuring sight, a white pony, plump and shiny and with the placid look of a well-treated animal. Attached to the pony was a small cart, bearing in white paint the words–J. Mitson, Dealer. This morning J. Mitson was dealing in firewood.

Over the next few days, as the widowed Mrs. Pryor settles into her new home–having returned to England after years abroad with her husband–in East Anglia, Mr. Mitson keeps coming back and selling her things…with the final thing he sells her being a strange bird bath; a plinth with a wide open space at the top.

And that’s when things get interesting.

Another enjoyable, Gothic style, softly whispering ghost story. I love that Lofts isn’t into outright horror or jump scares, but like The Turn of the Screw and The Haunting of Hill House, her whispered stories make the hair stand on end and the skin crawl.

SO glad I got this book!

And now back to the spice mines.

IMG_0856

Into the Night

The sun is now out, but it’s still only forty-nine degrees.

The great irony of this is that I’d intended to make potato-leek soup today and white-bean chicken chili tomorrow; after buying everything I needed to do so the weather turned beautiful, and I thought, great, this is no longer soup/chili weather…forgetting that southeastern Louisiana weather can always turn on a dime.

In case you’re wondering, the combination of parades and finishing the Scotty did result in my kitchen and apartment being disgusting messes, which I intend to rectify to today. I managed to get the dishes (most of them) done; there’s a load running currently in the dishwasher (still some dirty pans in the sink), and I’ve got both the washer and dryer currently running. The potato-leek soup is cooking, and in a minute or two I’m going to get out of this chair and get back to work.

Also, I’m thinking if the sun is out I should brave the cold and go take pictures of the Bead Trees of St. Charles. Perhaps when I have a handle on all this cleaning.

Someday. Although I just walked my old broiler pans out to the trash (I bought a new one; the old ones were kind of gross, really) and it’s fricking cold. Perhaps the Bead Trees can wait until this weekend. A quick look at the (basically useless) weather forecast shows that the temps will go back up after Ash Wednesday…but the forecast can change here from hour to hour and day to day.

Heavy sigh.

But I do get to look forward to Mario Lopez riding tonight as Celebrity Orpheus! That’s certainly worth braving the cold to see.

But tomorrow is when it ends for another year, midnight on Fat Tuesday with the tolling of cathedral bells and the beginning of Lent with the arrival of Ash Wednesday. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the ritual of the clearing of the streets in the Quarter at midnight on Fat Tuesday, but it’s interesting to watch.

Bill Loefhelm (you should be reading his work if you aren’t already) wrote a terrific piece about writing about Mardi Gras here, and as I already mentioned in this sentence, if you aren’t reading Bill’s books, you really should be. It’s never too late to start, either.

I am currently taking a break from cleaning momentarily. I can’t believe it’s already after two; only four hours or so until the parades start for tonight, and I feel like I’ve not managed anything here in the Lost Apartment…and I catch myself thinking well, whatever you don’t get done today you can get done tomorrow and then have to remind myself THIS IS NOT HOW YOU GET THINGS DONE.

All right, back to the spice mines.

hot guy

Summer of 69

I turned eight years old in the late summer of 1969. That was the summer a man walked on the moon, when the Manson family murdered Sharon Tate and her friends, and when the number one song of the summer, and later the entire year, was by a cartoon band, The Archies. It was also the summer I realized I wanted to be a writer.

I wasn’t a normal child; I wasn’t interested in being a fireman or a sheriff or a cop or a cowboy or any of the things little boys were supposed to be interested in. I wanted to go looking for dinosaur bones, or dig for lost tombs in Egypt, or study history. I was interested in Greek and Roman mythology; the history of our country; the kings and queens of Europe. I couldn’t decide between being a paleontologist or an archaeologist or an Egyptologist or an historian.

But in the summer of 1969, I realized the way I could do everything I wanted, to study everything I wanted, to learn about the things that interested me, was to become a writer. I also discovered Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators and the Dana Girls and Biff Brewster and Ken Holt and Rick Brant that summer; the first series books I’d ever read. So, that summer was kind of my turning point; where, if I had to pick a time when I decided, when I wanted to be a writer, it was that summer. That was also the summer I started writing; when I wrote my first “book.” From that point on, whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said “writer.”

And now I am one; and have been, officially since 2002; at least that was when my first book came out. The first time I was paid to write was in 1996; the first time I sold fiction was in the summer of 1999, when I was thirty-eight years old. It took me, as you can see, a very long time to get there. But get there I did, and I never ever let go of that dream, no matter how impossible or distant or hard it seemed. It eventually happened.

I first met Bryan Camp, a young writer, when I was filling in for Bev Marshall at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, after Katrina. She was doing events for her novel, Right as Rain (which you should also read), and needed someone to fill in for her writing class (she was writer-in-residence there). She asked me if I would, so I did. It was fun and interesting–plus I didn’t have to read anything or grade anything; I was just a guest speaker so I spoke about writing and making a living as a writer. Bryan was in that class, and I’ve sort of known Bryan ever since then. Flash forward a couple of years and he gave me a novel manuscript to read, to see what I thought. What I thought was I’ve never read anything like this before and this is publishable. 

And now, several more rewrite and revisions, that book is being released this week the John Joseph Adams imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; and as luck would have it, I won a Twitter contest for an ARC. I finished reading it yesterday.

And it’s extraordinary.

the city of lost fortunes

In the Beginning, there was the Word, and the Void, and Ice in the North and Fire in the South, and the Great Waters. A universe created in a day and a night, or billions of years, or seven days, or a cycle of creations and destructions. The waters were made to recede to reveal the land, or the land was formed from the coils of a serpent, or half of a slain ocean goddess, or the flesh and bones and skull of a giant, or a broken egg. Or an island of curdled salt appeared when the sea was churned by a spear. Or the land was carried up to the surface of the waters by a water beetle or a muskrat, or a turtle, or two water loons. However the world was made, it teemed with life; populated by beings who evolved from a single cell, or who were molded from clay or carved from wood or found trapped in a clam shell. They wandered up from their underworld of seven caves, or fell through a hole in the sky, or they crawled out of the insect world that lies below. All of these stories, these beginnings, are true, and yet none of them are the absolute truth; they are simultaneous in spite of paradox. The world is a house built from contradictory blueprints, less a story than it a conversation. But it is not a world without complications. Not without conflicts. Not without seams.

One of those complications was a man named Jude Dubuisson…

To quote that grandfather from The Princess Bride, “isn’t that a wonderful beginning?”

The City of Lost Fortunes is many things all at once; it’s a mystery story that is also a myth that is also a story of redemption, rebirth, and rediscovery. Jude doesn’t know who his father is but he can do magic; he has always danced between this world and that realm. But after the storm, after Katrina, his gift for finding lost things was too overwhelming for him; too much had been lost, and so he turned away from magic, turned away from his power, turned away from the realm of magic. He is unwillingly dragged back into that world by an invitation to a card game, where the other players are Thoth, an angel, a vampire, and Dodge, the fortune god. And Jude is forced to play, and to bet…but his cards are blank, and everything around him changes. Dodge is murdered,, and Jude has to find the killer, because his fortune is still being determined  and the game must be played.

I am often considered an expert on all things New Orleans, but nothing can be further from the truth. I have written extensively about my home city, and I have read a lot of the fiction about her—the nonfiction, too; but I am hardly an expert. I consider myself to be, at best, a place to start; someone who can point another in the right direction, a point on the compass that is New Orleans.  Bill Loefhelm has a hilarious saying about an attitude that can develop around that: being NOLIER than thou. I know I have sinned in that regard before; nothing irritates me further than books and television shows and movies that not only don’t get New Orleans right but don’t even try. (An excellent example of this is available on Amazon Prime currently; a terrible TV series from the late 1990’s called The Big Easy, based on the movie of the same name. It’s comically terrible.)

The City of Lost Fortunes does not fall into that category, either. New Orleans is not only gotten right here, but it lives and breathes in these pages in a way that it doesn’t even in my own, despite my best efforts. This book is about and of New Orleans; just as its a detective story and a mystery and magic realism and fantasy all rolled up into a beautifully written package; its characters are alive, the inter-connectedness of the characters and the plots and the subplots all mesh together, intertwined in the same way that everyone’s lives here are intertwined; and it all comes together beautifully, as Jude realizes who he is really is, and what is really going on, and what his destiny, his own lost fortune, is–and how much depends on his finally waking up to it.

And it is also a fable, a welcome addition to the literature of our city; one that I will happily reread and remember and cherish.

I cannot wait to read Bryan’s next book.

You should read this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.