Bourbon Street
Leonce Gaiter
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Bourbon Street

Leonce Gaiter
Carroll & Graf
270 pages
January 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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In original prose and powerful images that scorch the soul, Bourbon Street is liberally laced with a violence that is endemic to the novel, and set in 1958 New Orleans, where a mixed-race son, the fruit of a damned coupling, is pitted against his lot in life and determined to exact revenge.

"The past crawled all over the city like insects on a carcass…" A story riddled with breathtaking moments of brutality quickly fades into the chaotic merriment of Mardi Gras insanity, the dizzying swirl of instant gratification in a wild, decadent dance before All Saint's Day shuts down the Devil's celebration for a brief period of atonement.

The tale begins with a poker game at L'Hotel Moreau, infused with the fresh blood of Deke Watley - a marginally successful gambler out of his depth on this turf. Psyched for the challenge of Alex Moreau's game, the Texan soon learns that there is more in store for him than a game of cards.

Watley is astonished when he runs into Hannah, a woman from his shameful past, in a local bar. Deke turned his back on Hannah years ago, an act he has since regretted. It is astonishing that he should find her now, in this place. Once Deke discovers Hannah, the skeletons rattle free from their cobwebbed closets, old secrets freed, haunting tales of love, hate and simmering rage.

August Moreau fought to control Christine, Alex's mother, a black woman of great strength and pride who was certainly a match for his unbridled hubris. Their power struggle ended in a tragic stalemate, the woman killed and the wealthy white man blinded at her hands. August Moreau's native brutality passed on to a son who barely knows the meaning of affection; Alex is trapped in the nightmarish tableau of his parent's contretemps, his sole mission avenging his mother's unspeakable death.

Surrounded by decadent sycophants, August and Alex remain intimate enemies. Gaiter’s incisive prose slashes through these distorted lives, ripping away genteel facades, a monochromatic wasteland soaked in the bright red of spilled blood reduced to a common hue. Purging his characters’ embattled emotions, Gaiter lays bare the truth of racial hatred, the years spent in a silent war, the child paying the exorbitant price of his parents’ destructive union.

In this black-hearted thriller, all are pawns as the author mines the dark side of the human heart where betrayal comes from every side, each character faced with his own worst nightmare and sold-out soul. The hall of mirrors is a house of horrors; the occupants of L'Hotel Moreau are sacrificed to their greed and the consuming hatred of a broken son as Alex degenerates into the same monstrous violence as his father. No one, after all, is redeemable.

Click here for Luan Gaines' interview with Bourbon Street author Leonce Gaiter

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2005

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