Sunday, October 25, 2015

Plenty of spooky new books in time for Halloween

There’s a Facebook page that goes with this column and I use it to announce book events and promote great new books. Through Facebook, I also had the pleasure of meeting Ellen Byron of Los Angeles, who loves Louisiana (the love affair started when she was a student at Tulane) and uses our state as the setting for her cozy mystery, “Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery.” Library Journal named it the “debut mystery of the month” and Publisher’s Weekly said, “ Byron’s debut brings energy and verve to the cozy.” I’m so looking forward to reading it and you should too and help Byron’s dream come true. Her hope is to someday retire and spend a month a year in Lafayette and “just tootle around the state.”
Byron is a native New Yorker who lives in Los Angeles and spends lots of time writing about Louisiana, including the second book in the series, “Crawdeaddy.” Her TV credits include “Wings” and “Just Shoot Me” and she’s written more than 200 magazine articles and published plays include the award-winning “Graceland” and “Asleep on the Wind.”
For more information, visit
Michael Murphy, author of “Eat Dat New Orleans,” returns with paranormal tales in “Fear Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Voodoo, Vampires, Graveyards and Ghosts of the Crescent City.” Murphy, a native of Ohio who has lived in New Orleans since 2009, explains the city’s aboveground cemeteries, its love affair with vampires, its over-achieving status as haunted city and its voodoo heritage. There’s also a handy listing of mediums, tarot readers and haunted hotels and bars, plus personality profiles of the some of the city’s paranormal experts and a foreword by Anne Rice.
I (your blogger Chere Dastugue Coen) will sign “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana,” a collection of Acadiana ghost stories, along with my other books — “Exploring Cajun Country,” “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History” and “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets” — from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette.

Literary Week
It’s a great week for book lovers.
On Wednesday, Oct. 28, the Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective hosts an evening of oral history, songs and poetry featuring poet/songstress Angie Joelle and Donald Milton who will share personal stories. The program begins at 7 p.m. at Chicory’s Coffee & Café in Grand Coteau.
            Words and Music, A Literary Feast in New Orleans opens Thursday, Oct. 29, and runs through Nov. 2. For information on the festival that includes paranormal fun this year, visit
            The 12th Louisiana Book Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, on the grounds of and inside the Louisiana State Capitol, Louisiana State Library and the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge. They still need volunteers; call (225) 342-4996. For information, visit
            The Heart of Louisiana’s annual Fall in Love with Romance Readers’ Luncheon will begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, and feature keynote speaker Diana Rowland at Juban’s restaurant in Baton Rouge. Author Lori Leger will emcee.

Book events Oct. 25-31
Writers’ Guild of Acadiana meets at 7 p.m. the last Tuesday of the month at Barnes & Noble Lafayette. The meetings are free and open to the public.
Richard Campanella discusses his book about the work of Del Hall, “The Photojournalism of Del Hall, 1950s-2000 — New Orleans and Beyond” at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Octavia Books of New Orleans. Also at Octavia this week, Kaija Parssinen reads from and signs “The Unraveling of Mercy Louis” at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Ellen Gilchrist signs “Acts of God” at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.
Photographer Judi Bottoni and Carnival expert Peggy Scott Laborde discuss their latest book, a collection of photographs and essays titled “New Orleans Mardi Gras Moments,” as part of the Coffee and Conversation series, at 7 p.m. Thursday at the East Bank Regional Library in Metairie.
            Dr. Camesha Hill-Carter of Shreveport, author of “I Dare You: 31 Days To Fire Up Your Potential And Live Your Destiny Now,” will be recognized by Distinguished Readers Book Club at 1 p.m. Saturday at the West Shreveport location of Shreve Memorial Library.
            Friends of the Ouachita Public Library Book Sale will be 9-3 Friday and Saturday at the West Ouachita Library, 188 Hwy 546 in West Monroe. This is the last book sale for 2015.

Cheré Dastugue 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.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cookbook Thursday: Chef John Besh's new cookbook 'Besh Big Easy' a favorite at my house

            Heavens rejoice, New Orleans Chef John Besh has published a new cookbook!
Although you can certainly savor “Besh Big Easy: 101 Home Cooked New Orleans Recipes,” admiring the gorgeous photos of food, markets and long-time establishments such as Angelo Brocato’s, it’s also more cook friendly than his past coffee table productions. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
            I’m a cookbook lover, wallpapering my house with bookshelves of Louisiana cookbooks, fascinated by our unique techniques and styles, the fabulous photos and essays. Which my family finds quite humorous since cooking is not my forte. I can make a great gumbo, for instance, because I’m innovative with Cajun Power gumbo starter in a jar. I’m a wiz with those excellent frozen risotto packages from Trader Joe’s; add a few ingredients and viola! But open a John Besh cookbook and create with a massive list of ingredients? Not in my time-constrained life.
            Now, Besh is speaking my language. Apparently, he has the same issues with time now that he’s a dad.
            “I cooked at home like a chef, often bringing in hard-to-find ingredients from my restaurants, cooking delicious renditions of the traditional dishes of New Orleans, but with a deliberate, chef’s spin on them,” Besh writes in the introduction. “Today, I cook more like a scruffy, grizzly, bearded dad.”
            In other words, I’m going to actually cook from this book.
            Here’s some lagniappe to go with those 101 recipes: a list of “Big Easy ingredients” to have in your pantry, Besh’s advice accompanying every recipe, metric conversions and beautiful photos by Maura McEvoy. There’s even a handy index in back that explains where these brilliant photos were taken, places such as Central Grocery and Leidenheimer’s bakery. Talk about a great gift for the New Orleanian in your life! (Note: Christmas list!)
            Recipes include many Louisiana favorites, such as corn macque choux, wild duck and tasso jambalaya, gumbos, grandma’s fried chicken and those seafood dishes Louisiana is famous for. Many recipes require few ingredients to perfect a tasty dish, such as field peas in pot liquor or Creole stuffed bell peppers. And then there’s a few innovative dishes that set taste buds firing like Duck Camp shrimp and grits, seared venison with fig preserves and a luscious blueberry pie (you have to see the photo to truly appreciate why I included it here). Also, Besh’s new book includes plenty of great oyster recipes for Thanksgiving.
            Here’s a simple recipe that’s also healthy and delicious, one that even time-starved freelance writers like yours truly can accomplish. With all this great fall weather in Louisiana — not to mention football — it’s time to crank out the grill.

Grilled Redfish with Herb Garlic Butter
From “Besh Big Easy” by Chef John Besh
2 redfish filets, skin and scales on
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Herb garlic butter (recipe below)
            Directions: Heat a grill to medium high. Season the filets with salt and pepper on the flesh side. Place the filets skin-side down on the grill, cover the grill, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the flesh begins to lift from the skin.
            Slice the herb garlic butter and place over the fish filets in a very generous manner. Leave the fish on the grill for about a minute or two, until the butter begins to soften. Using two spatulas, transfer the filets to a serving platter. Carefully spoon the melted butter over the filets and serve.

Herb Garlic Butter
1/2 pounds butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
1 green onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
            Directions: Combine the butter, lemon juice, parsley, tarragon, green onion, garlic and pepper flakes in a blender and process until well combined. Wrap the butter in plastic wrap and roll it into a tight cylinder; chill until firm, at least an hour.

Cheré Dastugue 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.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lafayette in America and other new releases

Dozens of towns, military ships, schools, town squares and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are named for the teenage French aristocrat who aided George Washington and the American colonists to defeat the British in the American Revolution. Bestselling author Sarah Vowell takes on the young Marquis de Lafayette’s tale in her unconventional, engaging style in “Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.” The book not only explains Lafayette’s vital role in the Revolution, but his spectacular return visit in 1824, where thousands came out to view the American hero during a contentious presidential election.
The corresponding audiobook, which will be available Oct. 20, features an all-star cast of readers, including John Slattery of “Mad Men,” who plays Lafayette; “Parks and Recreation” star Nick Offerman as George Washington; “Boardwalk Empire’s” Bobby Cannavale as Benjamin Franklin; Patton Oswalt as Thomas Jefferson; John Hodgman of “The Daily Show” as John Adams; and SNL comedian Fred Armisen as Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. As with Vowell‘s previous audiobooks, this recording includes original music by Academy Award-winner Michael Giacchino, the composer behind “Up,” “Ratatouille,” “Jurassic World” and more.

New releases
Academy Award-winning filmmaker, animation pioneer and bestselling author William Joyce will sign copies of his latest book, “Jack Frost” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Toy Fair inside the Pierremont Mall in Shreveport. Joyce is the author of “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs” and “Rolie Polie Olie,” among many others. “Jack Frost” is the seventh book in Joyce’s “Guardians of Childhood” books series, chronicling Jack Frost’s earliest adventures saving children from peril. Toy Fair will host a costume contest for children dressed up as one of their favorite “Guardians of Childhood” characters and Joyce will select a winner to receive a signed collection of the “Guardians” books. “Jack Frost” will officially be released Oct. 27 nationally.
Author and geographer Richard Campanella writes about photographer Del Hall and includes some of his unpublished photographs and stills in “The Photojournalism of Del Hall: New Orleans and Beyond, 1950s-2000s,” by LSU Press. With a foreword by Hall, the book examines his life as an award-winning photojournalist and observer of such 20th century milestones as the Civil Rights Movement, Vatican II, the Beatles’ arrival in the United States, Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, among others.
Best-selling author John Grisham has released “Rogue Lawyer,” which follows unconventional Sebastian Rudd who defends people other lawyers wont touch because he believes everyone is entitled to a fair trial, even if he has to cheat to secure one. He hates injustice, doesn;t like insurance companies, banks or big corporations; he distrusts all levels of government and laughs at the justice system’s notions of ethical behavior.

Book events
Elizabeth Sanders reads from and signs her novel “The Last Light,” about bonfires and the families that build them, at 6 p.m. Monday at Octavia Books of New Orleans. Also at Octavia this week, John Biguenet discusses his book of short meditations titled “Silence” at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
LaKisha Simmons signs “Crescent City Girls: The Lives of Young Black Women in Segregated New Orleans” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Norman Mayer Library in New Orleans as part of the Big Easy Author Series. Simmons is professor of Gender Studies at SUNY, where she writes and teaches about African American women’s history, girlhood and segregation.
Rick Braggs reads from and signs his latest book of essays on life in the south titled “My Southern Journey — True Stories from the Hearts of the South” at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.
David Armand launches and signs his new novel “The Gorge” at 6 p.m. Friday at Tubby and Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop of New Orleans.
Alice J. Voorhies will sign copies of her latest book, “Once Upon a Time in New Iberia” from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Books Along the Teche in New Iberia, in conjunction with the city’s Artwalk.

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

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Heart of Louisiana RWA hosts Fall into Romance Readers Luncheon Oct. 31 in Baton Rouge

            The ninth annual Heart of Louisiana Fall into Romance Readers Luncheon will feature international bestselling author of paranormal suspense and urban fantasy, Diana Rowland, beginning at 11:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, at Juban’s Restaurant, 3739 Perkins Road in Baton Rouge.

White Trash Zombie Gone Wild, 
Book 5 of the Angle Crawford/
White Trash Zombie series.
            Rowland has lived her entire life below the Mason-Dixon line, uses "y'all" for second-person-plural, and otherwise has no southern accent (in her opinion.) She attended college at Georgia Tech where she earned a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics, and after graduation forgot everything about higher math as quickly as possible. She has worked as a bartender, a blackjack dealer, a pit boss, a street cop, a detective, a computer forensics specialist, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant, which means that she's seen more than her share of what humans can do to each other and to themselves. She won the marksmanship award in her Police Academy class, has a black belt in Hapkido, has handled numerous dead bodies in various states of decomposition, and can't rollerblade to save her life. She presently lives in south Louisiana with her husband and her daughter where she is deeply grateful for the existence of air conditioning.
            Louisiana award-winning author LoriLeger is scheduled to serve as emcee and other local and regional novelists will be on hand to share their experiences. Each attendee is seated with at least one author and all authors are easily accessible during the pre-luncheon "meet and greet" and post-luncheon book signing from 2  p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be goodie bags for each attendee, baskets of books for raffle, and door prizes are among the other highlights of the event.
            Attendees are encouraged to come dressed in costume as your favorite fictional character or Halloween spirit.
            The event is sponsored by Heart of Louisiana, also known as HeartLA, the Baton Rouge chapter of the Romance Writers of America. HeartLa is a not-for-profit professional organization dedicated to the support, encouragement and education of aspiring writers of all romance genres. For more information, visit

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cookbook Thursday: 'The People's Place'

The term “soul food” was created in 1962, used in a poem by Amiri Baraka in defense of critics who claimed African Americans had no unique cuisine. Baraka, of course, rejected this notion and author Dave Hoekstra further defines and celebrates soul food in his new book, “The People’s Place: Soul Food Restaurants and Reminiscences from the CivilRights Era to Today” (Chicago Review Press).
To Hoekstra, “Soul food is love. Soul food is a way to find identity within African American communities (not unlike soul music)."
            Soul food was also the mortar that brought people together and helped form a movement, whether it was Freedom Riders receiving a meal from Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s restaurant in New Orleans or the Big Apple Inn in Jackson, Miss., where Medgar Evans worked upstairs and blues guitarist Elmore James was a regular visitor.
            The book contains history of these restaurants — from New Orleans up to Chicago and Detroit and over to the East Coast — but also oral histories of desegregation, Jim Crow laws and fighting for equal rights. You’ll hear James Meredith describing integrating Ole Miss and his fight for justice ever since, the Rev. Jesse Jackson discussing enjoying soul food during the Civil Rights Movement and the experiences of modern-day celebrities such as Chaka Khan and Pres. Barack Obama (who put Tabasco in Chase’s gumbo and was scolded for it).
            There are recipes, and I’ve included one here, but choose this book for its valuable history lessons, culinary history of a people and the value of a good meal creating community. As musician Sam Moore declared, "Yum and a slice of American history with a side of cultural preservation thanks to Dave Hoekstra."
            In addition to writing books and a former columnist with the Chicago Sun-Times, Hoekstra is the host of the radio program "Nocturnal Journal with Dave Hoekstra" on WGN-720 AM.

Creole Sausage Stuffed Tomatoes
From Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, New Orleans
6 tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 pound pork sausage
1/2 pound Creole hot sausage (Chaurice)
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons chopped bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped celery
1 clove garlic (mashed and chopped)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs

            Directions: Preheat over to 375 degrees. Cut top from tomatoes and remove pulp. In a skillet, place a tablespoon of butter; add pork and Creole sausage. Mix meats together well while cooking (5 minutes). Add onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic, salt, parsley, thyme, and cayenne pepper to the tomato pulp. Mix the ingredients and let cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Tighten the mixture with the bread crumbs. Stuff tomatoes with sausage stuffing and sprinkle tops with remaining bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake for about 10 minutes. Do not overcook or tomatoes will fall.

Cheré Dastugue 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.” She also writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire, “A Cajun Dream” and “The Letter.” Write her at