Monday, October 10, 2011

The 'Axman' cometh

The killings began in 1910, when a large man broke into a New Orleans grocery store owned by an Italian couple. Mrs. Crutti awoke to a man grasping a meat cleaver demanding money, while her husband groaned, injured, next to her in a pool of blood. When Mrs. Cruitti did as she was told, the man rewarded her with a whack on the head.
            More “burglaries” followed, although it quickly became clear that this was the work of a serial killer, since most of the time after killing the occupants of grocery stores the criminal either stole only small change to disguise his work or took nothing at all. He also abandoned the cleaver for an ax and became known as the “Axman,” mostly targeting Italian-owned groceries of the Crescent City.
            This horrific but fascinating tale opens “The Axman Came from Hell and Other Southern True Crime Stories” by Keven McQueen, published by Pelican of New Orleans. Other stories include the unsolved murder of an LSU professor, the serial killer of Austin who targeted servant girls, the Memphis socialite who slit the throat of her lesbian lover and the bad actress who took out her leading man in Chattanooga. As interesting as the unusual crimes is the police response, sometimes so bungling you wonder how anyone kept the peace in the 19th century and early 20th century South.
            McQueen offers an entertaining writing style that brings the stories to life, making this page-turning captivating. He pokes fun at times, mostly at the ineptitude of law enforcement and the irrational thinking of the criminals. All in all the book makes for a fascinating read, and a must for those who love true crime, particularly crimes of the weird and unusual.

‘Flower Picker’
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Marie Spallino has been writing ever since she can remember, religiously keeping diaries and journals. She grew up along the Vermilion River and dreamed up a story about the land where her house was located.
“I was seven at the time, and thus the story didn’t get too far,” she wrote me by email. “Still, it was a start. Even as a young child, I knew writing was something I wanted to someday do.”
             In the seventh grade she made an important friendship, but when her friendship took a turn, she used writing for solace. Her first novel, “Flower Picker,” was the result.
“Over the years I have re-written and developed this story further, making it the saga it is now,” she wrote. “'Flower Picker’ is a perfect reflection of who I am and of the way I honestly think. It's an expression of Olivia Spallino at my most genuine, honest point. It communicates what I was feeling, and most importantly, what all adolescents feel when we come to an understanding that people aren’t always who we think they are, we can’t change someone who doesn’t want to be changed, and that sometimes we have to move on even though what we want more than anything else in the world is to stay.”
             Spallino’s book is available in Lafayette at J&R Educational Supplies, Teche Drugs & Gifts, The Bookrack, The Little Paintbrush And Books Too, A-Bryans Jewelers and Cocolare Spa. You can also find it at Books on the Teche, New Iberia;  The Percala, Ville Plate; Back In Time Café and Teacher’s Playground, Opelousas; Thriftyway Pharmacy, Abbeville; and Carmichael’s Drugstore, Crowley.

Grand Reveil
The Grand Réveil Acadien or Great Acadian Awakening presented by Louisiane-Acadie is occurring now throughout South Louisiana. The GRA concludes in Lafayette with the Fête des Familles on Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Cajundome Convention Center and at Festivals Acadiens et Creole on Sunday, Oct. 16, in Girard Park. Authors such as Warren Perrin (“Vermilion Parish”) and Francois Paradise (“Evangeline: A Coloring Book for Children”) will be selling books and Maine filmmaker Brenda Nasberg Jepson will be selling her DVDs all day Thursday at the Cajundome. I will be there selling “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Tour of Acadiana.” For more information, visit

Author Dinner
            The 2011 Friends of the Library Author Dinner features Jeff Duncan, author of “From Bags to Riches,” Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Petroleum Club. Admission is $20 and books will be sold at the event. Duncan will speak on how the struggling New Orleans Saints, once called the “Aints” as fans put paper bags on their heads during a poor season, came back after Katrina to win the Super Bowl. The social part of the evening begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by a dinner buffet at 7 p.m. The reservation deadline is noon Friday; call 984-8661.

Book events
Ann McCutchan will sign copies of “River Music: An Atchafalaya Story” on Friday, Oct. 14, at Books Along the Teche, 106 E. Main St. in New Iberia. For information, visit
Irene S. Di Maio, LSU professor and translator and editor of “Gerstäcker’s Louisiana: Fiction and Travel Sketches from Antebellum Times through Reconstruction” (LSU Press, 2006) will discuss the book at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at The Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal St., in New Orleans. Admission is free. For reservations, call (504) 523-4662 or
The Friends of the Jefferson Public Library will conduct its semi-annual Big Book Sale Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 13-16, at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.
The Peauxdunque Writers Alliance will host a new literary series titled “Yeah, You Write” with Emcee Nick Fox on Thursday, Oct. 13, at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. The event will feature performances by Amanda Boyden, Bill Loehfelm, Gian Smith, Kelly Harris-DeBerry, Mat Johnson and Terri Stoor. Doors open at 7 p.m., performances start at 7:30 p.m. Cover is $5 and reading includes a dance party with deejay. For more information, visit
John Wukovits, author of “Black Sheep: The Life of Pappy Boyington,” will lecture and sign copies from 6-7 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the World War II Museum in New Orleans. The book details the Marine’s early life, his military career and service with the Flying Tigers in Burma and China, his feats as a Corsair pilot in the South Pacific and his time in Japanese prison camps. The event will be preceded by a free reception at 5 p.m.