Monday, February 2, 2015

Tom Cooper builds fascinating cast of characters, Louisiana story in 'The Marauders'

            It’s a tough life for the residents of Jeanette, Louisiana, who make their living by shrimping in The Barataria. When the BP oil spill drifts into south Louisiana wetlands, the residents find breaking even a challenge.
            The oil spill sets the stage for Tom Cooper’s “The Marauders,” but what drives the novel are the colorful characters, working class people not only trying to keep their heads above water but dreaming of a chance to rise above.
There’s Gus Lindquist, a one-armed shrimper who pops pills from a Pez dispenser, desperately searching the cheniers for Jean Lafitte’s lost treasure while drug dealers Reginald and Vincent Toup harass him to stay clear of their massive marijuana crop. There’s two petty criminals who end up in Jeanette cleaning oil off wildlife who discover the Toups’ stash and young Wes, one of the few young people who wants to continue shrimping but who can’t forgive his father for this mother’s death in Katrina.
            In the middle of this unusual cast is Brady Grimes, a Barataria native who reluctantly returns home to play middleman between residents and the oil company.
            The various stories connect toward the book’s conclusion, wrapping up an entertaining ride that intersects with aplomb and tops up with heartfelt introspection by the one character who remains the future of this dying town. It’s an excellent story from start to finish, but don’t take my word for it. Stephen King calls “The Marauders” “one hell of a novel” and I couldn’t agree more.
            As brilliant as Cooper’s storytelling is his authenticity to detail, from Cajun expressions and mannerisms to distinctive south Louisiana flaura and fauna, commands accolades. Cooper lives and teaches in New Orleans but he hails from Florida so extra kudos for capturing a unique landscape and culture so well.
            Cooper will read from his book at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3, at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans. Bill Loehfelm, author of “Doing the Devil's Work,” will interview Cooper following the reading. Cooper will also join Loehfelm and Morgan Molthrop at Reading Between the Wines salon-type event at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4. at the Pearl Wine Co. inside of the American Can Company of New Orleans.

Home remedies
            The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana will host Dr. Eddie L. Boyd, author of “African American Home Remedies: A Practical Guide with Usage and Application Data,” at noon Wednesday in the State Library’s Seminar Center. Boyd will discuss home remedies and herbs used by African Americans to help celebrate Black History Month. The program is free and open to the public and attendees are invited to bring brown bag lunches. Boyd graduated from Cameron Street High School in Canton, Miss., in 1956, then attended the University of California’s School of Pharmacy and earned a doctorate in pharmacy in 1970. Boyd accepted a position as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s College of Pharmacy and remained on that faculty for 30 years before retiring in 2003. For more information, visit www.state.lib.la.us

LSU Press
            LSU Press has published “Hurricane Katrina in Transatlantic Perspective,” a collection of examinations by American and European scholars edited by Romain Huret, a professor of American history at the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris, and Randy Sparks, a professor of history at Tulane and author of “The Two Princes of Calabar: An Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Odyssey” and “Where the Negroes Are Masters: An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade.”
            “The Louisiana Field Guide: Understanding Life in the Pelican State” tackles the unique fabric of Louisiana with contributor essays on the environment, geography, history, politics, religion, culture, food and so much more. The book is edited by Ryan Orgera, who received his doctorate in geography from LSU and serves as the Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and Wayne Parent, Russell B. Long professor of political science at LSU and the author of “Inside the Carnival: Unmasking Louisiana Politics.”
            Times-Picayune political columnist and author Robert Mann explains why the public’s approval rating of Congress has reached an all-time low and offers remedies to the situation in “Working Congress: A Guide for Senators, Representatives, and Citizens.” Contributors include Mickey Edwards, Ross K. Baker, Frances E. Lee, Brian L. Fife, Susan Herbst, and Mark Kennedy. Mann is the author of “Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ,” “Barry Goldwater and the Ad That Changed American Politics,” “When Freedom Would Triumph: The Civil Rights Struggle in Congress, 1954–1968” and many other books.
            The poultry processing industry in El Dorado, Ark., was an economic powerhouse in the latter half of the 20th century, the largest employer in the interconnected region of South Arkansas and North Louisiana. “We Just Keep Running the Line: Black Southern Women and the Poultry Processing Industry” by LaGuana Gray is the story of the rise of the industry in El Dorado and the labor force — composed primarily of black women — upon which it came to rely. Gray is a historian who specializes in the study of African American women’s lives and labors. She is assistant history professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
            Geographer Craig E. Colten addresses how the South can navigate the risks of having too much water and not enough in “Southern Waters: The Limits to Abundance.” Colten is the Carl O. Sauer professor of geography and anthropology at LSU and the author of “Perilous Place, Powerful Storms: Hurricane Protection in Coastal Louisiana” and co-author of “Historical Geographies for the 21st Century.”

Book events
            Anya Kamenetz will discuss and sign “The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed with Standardized Testing — But You Don’t Have to Be” at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Octavia Books in New Orleans. Also at Octavia this week, author and illustrator Joy Bateman signs “The Art of Dining in New Orleans 2,” a restaurant guide with signature recipes, at 6 p.m. Thursday.
            Jami Attenberg will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Columns Hotel in New Orleans as part of a 1718 Society event. The 1718 Society is a literary organization comprised of Tulane, Loyola and UNO students who hold free monthly readings the first Tuesday of each month at The Columns Hotel. Maple Street Book shop will be on-site to sell Attenberg’s novels, “The Middlesteins,” “The Melting Season,” “The Kept Man” and the story collection “Instant Love.” Her most recent work, “Saint Mazie,” is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing in June.
            Nina Solomon (“The Love Book”), Julie Smith (“New Orleans Noir”) and Barbara J. Taylor (“Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night”) will sign copes of their books from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.
            The Student Career Concepts and Enrichment Program Inc.\Just Write Cultural Arts Group will sponsor the African American Authors Round Table from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Acadiana Mall’s Center Court Area. Visitors who stop by and visit with the southwest Louisiana authors will receive free items and the principal or librarian from the school with the most signatures will receive a gift. The Student Career Concepts and Enrichment Program is a mentoring and job shadowing program. For information, contact Sherry T. Broussard at 261-1940, scce@lusfiber.net or visit lacsprograms.org.
            Ann Dobie will discuss her latest book, “Remembering Lafayette: 1930–1955,” from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Alexandre Mouton House/Lafayette Museum in downtown Lafayette.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.