by Poppy Z. Brite (Foreword), Lucius Shepard
Golden Gryphon Press HCVR: ISBN1930846142 PubDate: April 2003
Review by Ernest Lilley
144 pages List price 21.95
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"Ever hear of this little place down in Louisiana, this nowhere town on the Gulf name of Grail?...Difference 'tween the rest of the world and Grial, our surface been peeled away for a couple of hundred years. We in what cha might call plain fuckin' view." - Louisiana Breakdown
On a highway along the gulf coast, somewhere in Louisiana, somewhere off the beaten path, there is a part of the world where a sort of “spiritual anarchy” reigns over the people, a Cajun stew of faiths and half-faiths mixed together like gumbo, and like gumbo…hard to dissect, and hard to get enough of.
Jack Mustaine is headed for that world, but he doesn’t know it. Headed for it in his shiny red BMW sports car, all the way from LA, on the way to a beach house in Florida where he can get his shit together. Jack has absolutely no idea what’s waiting for him in Gail, but it’s some powerful magic, no doubt about it.
The beemer breaks down on the outskirts of town, and Jack gets taken in by Joe Dill and his Vietnamese whore. Joes, a big man in these parts, but not so big as the Good Gray Man but that’s another story, or the same story, but later on, and earlier. Taken in to the Le Bon Chance, which has about the same relationship to its name as the sign on my dad’s mower that said “do not strike here”, meaning, of course, that if it wouldn’t start you should hit it on the sign with a hammer. Le Bon Chance. Le Fini Chance, Le No Chance, Le Big Goodbye, that’s what it is.
It’s where you can get a vile green cocktail called a Cryptoverde, full of weird stuff and a secret ingredient or two. It’s where, if your timing is right, like your timing has anything to do with it, like free will has anything to do with it, like you really got a choice, it’s where you might meet Vida Dumars.
Vida is the kind of girl that makes you wonder what she’s doing here, wherever she is. They called her the princess in New Orleans where she was the whore of a man with stronger magic man than her own. They call her crazy and weird, but they know it’s all because she’s the Midsummer Queen. Has been for almost twenty years and tomorrow night her reign is up. It's time for the town to pick another ten year old girl to be queen, to be the lightning rod for the town’s luck, and not its good luck. It’s a tradition that goes back a long ways, when the Good Grey Man” made a deal with the town out in the swamp, a deal that costs the town dearly though they don’t like to think of it that way. And tomorrow night he's coming to take his pay.
Jack Mustaine, singer song-writer from LA, knight on a red charger, he’s landed right in the middle of a battle between magical forces, a battle over this girl Vida. He’s in way over his head and he doesn’t know it yet. But he will. Oh yes. You want your American Gods? We got em right here in Grail.
Will the boy get the girl? Will they ride off into the sunset together? Will love conquer all? Sure thing, cher. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roule, cause all that’s gonna happen. Just remember that this is Louisiana, not LA. Just remember that things here got their own agenda.
Now let me warn you. I’ve been down to New Orleans a few times and away from it once or twice. It’s the only place in this country that strikes me as genuinely alien, and despite heat and humidity that make New Jersey feel like paradise, despite grimy streets and the smell of urine and vomit in the French Quarter, and despite the certain knowledge that, as Poppy Z. Brite says in her introduction, “You won’t really understand it unless you're from there...” despite all that, I promise you that once it gets under your skin it’s there for good, and having it there won’t make you comfortable. But you’ll want more.
At 145 pages the only thing disappointing about Louisiana Breakdown is its size. Here's hoping Lucius Shepard keeps on writing stories like these.