Sunday, December 27, 2015

Two fun Louisiana popular fiction titles out now

Looking for some great popular fiction reads, especially if they’re set in Louisiana?
Ellen Byron may hail from New York City and live in Los Angeles but she nails South Louisiana in her debut “Cajun Country Mystery” set on the River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
In “Plantation Shudders,” Maggie Crozat has returned home from New York following a nasty breakup, helping her parents run the family plantation bed and breakfast in the small town of Pelican, Louisiana. It’s August, which means the summer festival Fete L’ete is in full swing and visitors to the B&B include a group of women known as the Cajun Cuties, a family from Australia, rabid newlyweds, Georgia fratboys and a tall drink of Texan water.
            Naturally, there’s a murder. An elderly couple expire during a thunderstorm blackout with the woman’s death ruled a homicide. Police Chief Rufus Durand is all too happy to see scandal at the Crozat Plantation; there’s a myth that the Crozats put a curse on the Durand family years ago. Thankfully Durand’s cousin from Shreveport, Detective Bo Durand, is more level headed — and good looking, which helps Maggie bounce back from her love problems.
            It’s a fun and fast-moving cozy mystery with a heavy dose of Louisiana flavor that doesn’t make Louisiana readers’ eyes roll. Byron attended Tulane and did her homework, so the people and their personalities feel authentic. There’s lots of drinking and good eating, for instance, and Byron includes recipes in the back. Some of the details, such as the bakery Fais Dough Dough, are pretty good ideas.
            Byron is a TV writer, playwright and freelance journalist. Here’s hoping there’s more Louisiana cozies in her future.
***
            Adelaide McCauley takes a bad fall and receives a head injury, so doctor and family insist that the elderly photographer move out of her house in Wedding Tree, Louisiana, and into the care of her son and partner. Before she makes the life-changing move, she and her granddaughter Hope Stevens must sort through her decades of things cluttering her house.
            The weeks of this process make up “The Wedding Tree,” the latest novel by Robin Wells of New Orleans. With each box comes a story by Adelaide, reaching back to World War II New Orleans, lost loves and the pain that followed and a woman’s hopes and dreams. Meanwhile, Hope, who’s between jobs and recovering from a painful divorce, finds her heart rekindling love with the widower next door, along with his two adorable children.
            Library Journal said of the book: “Sympathetic, memorable characters, a touching story, gentle humor, and evocative writing.”

New releases
Southeastern Louisiana University English Professor Norman German has published a new collection of short stories, “Dead Dog Lying,” published by UL-Lafayette Press. a series of stories placed along the I-10 corridor from New Orleans to Texas. Many of the characters in the stories take their names from towns along the corridor, such as Elton, Jennings, Iota, Cecilia and Henderson. A native of Lake Charles who earned his doctorate from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette), German is the author of several other works, including “A Savage Wisdom,” a reconstruction of the life of Toni Jo Henry, the only woman executed in Louisiana’s electric chair; and the baseball novel “Switch-Pitchers,” copies of which reside by special request in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Book news
McNeese State University alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Adam Johnson has been awarded the 2015 National Book Award in fiction for his short story collection, “Fortune Smiles.” This award — one of the nation’s most prestigious literary prizes — is given in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature by the National Book Foundation. Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner are among the many critically acclaimed writers who have won the award. Winners receive $10,000 and a bronze statue.
The collection features six novella-length stories and confronts themes of imprisonment, illness and loss, technological surveillance and the struggle of sympathizing with the morally abhorrent. The stories take place throughout the world, from Louisiana to Palo Alto, Calif., and from Germany to South and North Korea.
Johnson graduated from McNeese’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program in 1996. In 2013, he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with his novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son,” set in North Korea. His other books include the “Emporium,” a short-story collection, and the novel, “Parasites Like Us.” His fiction has appeared in Esquire, Harper's, Playboy,Paris Review, The New York Times and Best American Short Stories. Johnson is currently the Phil and Penny Professor of Creative Writing at Stanford University, where he teaches courses in fiction and creative nonfiction. He earned his doctorate in English from Florida State University.


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 cherecoen@gmail.com.