Welcome to Grail, Louisiana! A little hole of a town near the Gulf – next to nothing and just beyond reality – where hoodoo meets Jesus and the townsfolk pray to them all. That’s what it says on the inside jacket cover of this beautifully presented hardback from Golden Gryphon and it pretty much sums what you can expect from the always entertaining Lucius Shepard.
Jack Mustaine’s car breaks down just outside Grail and he ends up staying longer than expected in the steamy environs of the town, getting slowly but surely sucked into the scheming lives of its inhabitants. He hooks up with Vida Dumars at the Le Bon Chance bar and things get hot and heavy very fast.
Vida is the town’s Midsummer Queen and she’s about to hand the title over the following evening. However, the whole ceremony is anything but symbolic and is connected to a deal made with the very shady Good Gray Man a couple of hundred years ago. As the ceremony approaches, Jack becomes more and more entangled with the potential consequences of the event. Darkness gathers and the Good Gray Man comes callin’.
In terms of atmosphere, Louisiana Breakdown shares many elements with The Big Easy, Blood Simple, Fargo, Red Rock West and U Turn, to mention but a few examples. You can smell the swamp, you can hear the people tawk, you can sense the isolation, you can feel the impending doom approach with inexorable slowness. This novel begs to be filmed.
While not quite up to the mark of his work in The Jaguar Hunter and Barnacle Bill the Spacer collections, it’s very, very good and the series of wonderfully evocative paintings by J.K. Potter doesn’t hurt either. Highly recommended.