Sunday, July 24, 2011

Steve Earle's “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive"

For a creative force that has made his mark on the country rock scene as both songwriter and performer and actor recently appearing on the cable series "Treme" playing a New Orleans street musician (which is different considering most of the other musicians in the series play themselves) who comes to an untimely death, Steve Earle can now put notable novelist on his resume. "I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive" is Earle’s first novel following a collection of short stories published in 2001.
Earle’s protagonist, simply referred to in the book as Doc (the character was a professional doctor before the book begins), lives in a downtrodden area south of San Antonio known as the South Presa strip. It’s a logical setting considering Earle has spent most of his life living in the Lone Star state. Doc has ended up in this part of town housing mainly the lost and lonely due to his morphine habit and alcohol abuse (stripping him of his professional license), demons that have followed him from the seamier sides of most of the Gulf state cities from Mobile to Baton Rouge finally ending up in Bossier City (referred to as Shreveport’s black-sheep sister across the river) where he hits rock bottom.
Following Doc in various manifestations is the ghost of Hank Williams Sr. popping up when Doc’s highs are at their utmost peak. Always acting against the right decisions Doc is encouraged on by the specter to certain defeat and what appears as eventual death if major life changes don’t happen.
Things look pretty grim until a Mexican beauty named Graciela enters Doc’s life because of an unfortunate pregnancy. Doc still practices some medical procedures including abortions which is highly illegal considering the book takes place in the early 60’s. Doc is able to heal Graciela back to health and in doing so allows her to develop healing powers beyond anyone’s imagination.
Word gets out about this young woman’s abilities bringing very interesting characters into the picture including the local priest (who would have done well to take anger management classes), a city drug enforcement officer with young woman problems of his own and one large Mexican drug dealer with a good heart and dreams of getting out of the ‘business’ and becoming a legit truck driver.
This novel captivates readers from the get-go, involving them in the characters’ lives giving you a reason, despite their shortcomings, to root them onto more successful times. You’ll have to read the book to see if they all “get out of this world alive.”
—Reviewed by Bruce Coen

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reviews of Louisiana books

“Traditional New Orleans Jazz: Conversations With the Men Who Make the Music” by Thomas W. Jacobson

“Family Ties” by Ernest Hill

“American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America” by David O. Stewart

“Katrina’s Secrets: Storms After the Storm” by Ray Nagin

“Spain and the Mississippi Sound: Volume I - Exploration to the Louisiana Purchase 1519-1804” by Martin Britt

Books for travel (James Lee Burke is listed)

Hulin returns with 'Keepsake Cookbook'

South Louisiana native Belinda Hulin has a new outlook on recipes and cooking, thanks to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. When floodwaters damaged her mother’s home, Brenda was fortunate enough to find family recipes and photos in dry enclaves. The result was “Roux Memories,” Hulin’s oral family histories to accompany beloved recipes and photos to maintain her culinary — and cultural — heritage.
Now, Hulin wants to teach others how to do it. Her latest is “The Keepsake Cookbook: Gathering Delicious Memories One Recipe at a Time.”
            “For each picture, for each recipe, there were memories of people, times, and places,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “There were also questions — about relationships, cooking techniques, and recipes unrecorded.”
            Hulin realized that it doesn’t take a disaster to lose precious memories and recipes. And that most people want to create keepsake cookbooks but don’t know how or where to start. She offers tips on writing recipes like a pro, basic cookery information, collecting memorabilia, technology options, gathering stories and much more. The fact that Hulin’s from Louisiana and understands the value of food in our lives makes this helpful book that much more special.
            If you want a fabulous blueprint for your keepsake cookbook, try Hulin’s “Roux Memories,” one of the most endearing cookbooks I’ve found in a very long time.
            Another great summer cookbook that’s a must for cookbook lovers is Martha Hall Foose’s “A Southerly Course: Recipes & Stories from Close to Home.” Foose is a native of Mississippi with influences garnered from throughout the region (you’ll see some references to Louisiana), took home a James Beard Award for her “Screen Doors and Sweet Tea” cookbook and was food stylist for the upcoming movie “The Help.” “Southerly Course” explains foods and cooking techniques as well as providing quick ways to enjoy them, and is a joy to read.
Here are a few more summer cookbooks to enjoy:
“Food From Many Greek Kitchen” by Tessa Kiros is a travelogue, cookbook and homage to the beauty of Greece all rolled into one. The recipes are varied, authentic and accompanied by short explanations, but there’s so much more to this lovely cookbook, including breathtaking photos. You’ll feel as if you’re really inside these Greek kitchens, with the Mediterranean breezes floating in.
Comedians, outdoorsmen and cooks Mike Faverman and Pat Mac are hosts of the live shows and DVD series, “Ultimate Camp Cooking.” Now, the duo has published a cookbook of the same name, full of recipes for Dutch Ovens and outdoors skillets —not to mention innovative techniques like eggs in a bag — and complemented by humorous anecdotes and instruction. It’s a handy paperback with a thick cover that’s perfect for bringing along camping, fishing and hunting trips, offering a few good laughs along with stuffed French toast, dill salmon and bananas Foster, to name a few.
For those of us who love good Southern cooking but not spending too much time in the kitchen there’s “Quick-fix Southern: Homemade Hospitality in 30 Minutes or Less” by cookbook author and Southern Living editor Rebecca Lang. Not only are the recipes typical to the South, but so are the ingredients, making it a quick fix farm-to-table cookbook as well.
You’ll want to plant — or enlarge — your tomato garden after reading journalist Barry Eastabrook’s “Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit.” The book is based on Eastabrook’s James Beard Award-winning article that exposes today’s agribusiness methods, using the tomato as an example, particularly examining the winter tomato crops of Florida. He cites heavy insecticide use, poor and dangerous conditions for Florida’s migrant workers and the loss of nutrition and flavor over the years. There is good news, however; Eastabrook offers examples of successful people growing organic, tasty tomatoes.

Book events
The Lafayette Library — and surrounding parishes — has excellent family programming scheduled all summer. Visit, and others.
The Storytelling Camp-Film Summer Camp for Kids will be Monday through Friday, July 25-29, at Cité des Arts; call Jim Phillips at 290-1601 for more information or visit
William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night's Dream” will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 24, at Cite Des Arts. (337) 291-1122.
The Louisiana Creole Research Association will host "Two Centuries of Writing: The Literature of the Creole Community of Color in New Orleans,” at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at the Louisiana Humanities Center, 938 Lafayette St. in New Orleans. Three of La Creole’s member-scholars will present research on written works by New Orleans’ Creoles of color from the 19th and early-20th centuries. They are Caryn Cossé Bell, “Pierre-Aristide Desdunes: Civil War Soldier, Romantic Literary Artist & Civil Rights Activist;” Fatima Shaik, “The Journals of the Société d'Économie;" and Jari C. Honora, “Notre Histoire et Nos Historiens: Rodolphe-Lucien Desdunes, His Work, and His Successors.” Light refreshments will be served. For more information, visit

Friday, July 15, 2011

Debut of My New Travel Blog

Check out my new travel blog — "Have Book, Will Travel, Let's Eat" — that also incorporates dining out and a good book. You can access it here:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Duplechain's 'Bayou' a haunting tale

            Leigh Benoit left Louisiana without a look in her rearview mirror but her brother’s death brings her home. Benoit wants only to return to California and away from hurtful family memories but her grandmother insists she now take care of her orphaned niece, Lyla, in the page-turning thriller “Dark Bayou” by Nancy K. Duplechain, published by
There’s evil lurking in the woods, threatening her family and possibly the reason for her brother’s death. Benoit must protect Lyla, and with the help of her childhood friend, Detective Lucas Castille, uncover the dark secrets hiding in her Cajun Country origins.
            Duplechain hails from Ville Platte and is a graduate of ULL with concentrations in creative writing and literature. She moved to Los Angeles to work on screenplays but, like her character, may be coming home soon. We hope so because “Dark Bayou” is a worthy debut novel and we hope to see more.
You can purchase this book in a variety of ways, from downloads to hardback, at
In other new releases:
Robert Williams of Smart has published a memoir titled “The Addiction,” with an emphasis on a love for deer hunting, by Dorrance Publishing. For information or to obtain a copy, visit
Westlake author Rodney Hennigan has published a heartfelt book about his outdoors adventures with his sons titled, “My Father’s Gift: A Louisiana Outdoor Legacy.”
            Chuck Hustmyre’s “House of the Rising Sun,” a suspense novel involving the mafia in New Orleans, has been made into a movie by Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
Rick Bragg now writes “The Southern Journal” on the last page of Southern Living each month. You can view Bragg narrating his articles (which really makes it fun), at
Mary Harris of Sunset now living in Houston has published a book dedicated to those struggling with feelings of abandonment titled “The Children That Nobody Wanted,” published through iUniverse.  
Morena Caleb of Fenton has published a new book titled “Woman, Are You Sure God Called You to Preach?,” addressing the Bible’s answer to women preachers. “I did a thorough study of the Bible, examining almost all of the women of the Bible,” she wrote by email. “It expresses my desire to be a preacher until I spent five years in Boulden Seminary.”
            Sam Irwin of Baton Rouge has been selected as the “Featured Writer of the Month” by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Writers Association. He submitted a short piece of fiction for their Web site titled “Run, Redneck, Run,” a short story inspired by his football career. For more on Irwin, visit his blog at
Kima Lucille Richard of St. Bernard Parish has published a children’s book titled “Possibilities,” available at The boy features  History and Heritage Hanks, a brother and sister duo from New Orleans who teach readers lessons through their own self discovery and explorations.
Southeastern professor Norman German has published a tome on the origins of words in “The Word on Words: The Play of Language” (CreateSpace) and David M. Sever, head of the Department of Biological Sciences at Southeastern, has co-edited “Reproductive Biology and Phylogeny of Snakes” with Robert D. Aldridge of St. Louis University, the ninth volume in a series on reproductive biology.

Book events
Barnes & Noble at 2590 CitiPlace Court in Baton Rouge will host a book signing with former Gov Edwin W. Edwards & Leo Honeycutt at 2 p.m. Saturday. They will be signing "Edwin Edwards: Governor of Louisiana."
            Cara Hoffman will sign “So Much Pretty” at 6 p.m. Thursday at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Fifty percent of the proceeds of this sale will benefit the Advocacy Center of New Orleans.
The Acadiana Writing Project in collaboration with LSU-Eunice Continuing Education is sponsoring the third annual Word Up! youth writer’s camp from 9 a.m. to noon daily July 25-29. Camp directors are consultants for the Acadiana Writing Project and are experienced teachers who love writing. The camp is open to students in fourth to 12th grade. The cost is $89 and includes tuition, T-shirt and an anthology of student writing. For information, call (888) FOR LSUE, Ext. 390, or (337) 550-1390.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cyril Vetter, ALA Convention

Cyril E, Vetter, author of “Fonville Winans’ Louisiana: Politics, People and Places” and “The Louisiana Houses of A. Hays Town,” has published a novel about Louisiana singer-songwriter Charles “Butch” Hornsby titled “Dirtdobber Blues” (LSU Press). Upon entering my house, “Dirtdobber Blues” was snatched up by my husband, Bruce Coen, the music manager at Barnes & Noble and a blues aficionada. Here is his review of Vetter’s book:
            “In the latest release of a fairly new genre called creative non-fiction, author Cyril E. Vetter’s account of Charles ‘Butch’ Hornsby in his book ‘Dirtdobber Blues’ depicts one of the most versatile, creative and musical icons to come out of South Louisiana. Vetter got to know Hornsby by producing most of his music and acting as a friend when Hornsby needed one during his many alcoholic and drug periods of which there were many during the early and middle years.
“Vetter chooses to create dialogue and add certain elements to Hornsby’s life that certainly makes for good reading whether they actually happened or not. The book is fast paced and flows quickly in line with the life Hornsby chose for himself attributed to his sometimes erratic but always colorful personality. Even though Hornsby comes across as a tortured genius at times he’s virtually unknown in most creative circles, which is a shame. Vetter takes care of that by including a 14-song CD of Hornsby’s inspired South Louisiana version of country flavored, swamp pop blues along with sheet music. There are also full-page photographs of Hornsby’s paintings and sculptures taken by local favorite Philip Gould.
“This is a good read and should be in anyone’s collection with an interest in the great but not forgotten spiritual folk who have and always will contribute to the real South Louisiana.”
Librarians unite!
            The massive American Library Association national conference was held in New Orleans this past week. I ran into humor author Christee Atwood (“In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands”) and her equally funny husband, David, who makes a living as a voice author (movies trailers, ads, you name it). We toured the convention, running into Louisiana authors Ciji Ware, Johnette Downing and Dianne de Las Casas, in addition to Louisiana librarians. Other state authors at the convention were Judy Christie, Joyce Magnin, Christa Allan and Mo Willems, to name a few.
            Ware was promoting her latest book, “Midnight on Julia Street,” to be published in August by Sourcebooks. Ware once lived on Ursulines Street in the French Quarter but now makes her home in San Francisco, but you could tell she was glad to be back in New Orleans, especially since she continues to write about the city. An Emmy award-winning TV producer and journalist, Ware’s latest novel concerns a reporter who comes to New Orleans and discovers a great story.
            Ocean Tree Books introduced me to “Anna Christiana’s ‘Un-a-fancii’ New Orleans Cookbook,” by Deborah J. Lindsey and Anna Christiana, the latter of which lives in New Orleans and once owned a seafood shop on Oak Street. The cookbook is filled with interesting recipes and history of the Carrollton Street area.
            Russell Freedman signed his award-winning “Lafayette and the American Revolution,” a beautifully illustrated chapter book of the American hero who helped the American colonists win independence. And, of course, I had to tell him I hailed from one of the many Lafayette towns in America.
            Deborah Heiligman signed her nod to July 4, a “Holidays Around the World” book from National Geographic titled “Celebrate Independence Day” and a great book to have on hand this weekend.
            At the Pelican Publishing booth, the New Orleans publisher touted De Las Casas and Downing’s numerous titles, plus Rickey Pittman, Sheila Hebert Collins, Cecilia Casrill Dartez, Denise McConduit and Holly Stone-Barker, among others.     

Ebook news
New Orleans playwright Rosary O’Neill has just published an ebook titled “Tropical Depression” (Smashwords). The romantic woman’s novel tells the story of a wealthy student and housewife who runs off with a college professor only to be caught by a hurricane in a Louisiana swamp. The book cost $2.99 and can be downloaded at
Also at Smashwords is “A Darker Shade of Midnight” by Baton Rouge author Lynn Emery. The paranormal murder mystery takes place in Louisiana. 

Seminars, contests
The Writers’ Guild of Acadiana will host a one-day seminar titled “Scare ’Em and Sell ’Em: How to Write a Paranormal Novel” with author Deborah LeBlanc, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, in the annex building attached to the Rice Theater in Crowley. The cost is $45 for non-members, $35 for members. To register, mail your check or money order to Writers’ Guild of Acadiana, P.O. Box 51532, Lafayette, LA 70505-1532.
            Entrants are now being accepted for the Sixth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Contest, sponsored by Southern Louisiana Romance Writers of America. Submission fee is $15 with cash prizes offered to the winners. The deadline to enter is July 15. For more information, visit or email contest coordinator Nick Genovese at