"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chasing the Devil's Tail

TITLE: Chasing the Devil's Tale
AUTHOR: David Fulmer

New Orleans in 1907 is as much the main character of this book as is Valentin St. Cyr, a Creole private detective in the employ of Tom Anderson, the white politico who runs the Storyville district, the neighorhood known for legalized prostitution. Nothing escapes the attention or interest of Anderson, who, like many other characters in the book, is based on a real life figure. A number of the madames who ran houses of prostitution back then make appearances, as do Jelly Roll Morton, photographer E.J. Bellocq (known for his photos of prostitutes), and Charles "Buddy" Bolden, also known as King Bolden and often credited with being the father of jazz. In this work of fiction, Buddy, a childhood friend of Valentin's, is the prime suspect in a series of killings of prostitutes. While no evidence directly links Buddy to the crimes, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence, and asked by Anderson to look into the matter, Valentin is determined to prove Buddy innocent and to catch the real killer.

Race, drugs, booze, sex, and music intermingle to provide a portrait of the city in the early twentieth century, elevating this mystery beyond the typical whodunit. Valentin is a wonderfully complex character, with a troubled past and a stubborn streak that keeps him gnawing at the mystery even when things look bleakest. I was pleased to learn that there are more books starring him. They're in my Amazon cart, ready to be ordered.

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