No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

#18: Bourbon Street Blues -- Greg Herren

Some years ago I suggested that there was a particular subset of contemporary crime writing that relied, in the main, on the maxim 'write what you know'. The formula's simple: write about your life (and possibly even your friends and enemies, cunningly disguised). This will provide a sturdy and coherent framework on which to hang a standard whodunnit plot, complete with local colour and rich characterisation.

I don't know Greg Herren, so I really couldn't say if this is that sort of book. It's certainly a rich and vivid evocation of the gay scene in New Orleans -- and, very distinctly, a pre-Katrina New Orleans. Writing about a plot to break the bayou would be seen, now, as gross bad taste. Writing about right-wing politicians, homophobia, tantric sex and hippie parents, on the other hand ... well, that's what New Orleans is all about, no?

Bourbon Street Blues is mostly set during Decadence, the gay festival held every Labour Day weekend in the city. Scott Bradley is a personal trainer by day, a bartop dancer by night. An acquaintance stumbles across suspicious activities, and pays the price: Scott, with the help of a gorgeous bloke from out of town, uncovers evidence of a really nasty plot.

I couldn't help feeling that Scott was a little naive at times. And I'm not convinced that Frank could hide his lifestyle from his employers. There's perhaps too much detail, too much scene-setting, in the first half of the novel too. But I did enjoy it and will be looking out for more from Herren -- whose evocation of flashy trashy fickle gay life is a refreshing change from gothy teens alone and palely loitering in French Quarter bars.

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