Sunday, September 18, 2016

New Orleans investigative journalist Ethan Brown revisits Jeff Davis 8 in stirring new book

            The deaths of eight women in Jefferson Davis Parish between 2005 and 2009 have been the subject of many news outlets, including CNN and the New York Times. In 2014, New Orleans investigative journalist Ethan Brown published a long-form article on Medium.com titled “Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8?” that caused quite a stir, eluding that law enforcement officials in Jennings and Lake Arthur were involved in a sex and drug operation that resulted in those women’s deaths.
            Naturally, the fallback was intense. Brown was warned about taking the research further. He ignored that advice and his book “Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8?” hit bookshelves Tuesday.
            “One of my contacts in southwest Louisiana who is deeply connected to the case told me, ‘I’ve already heard more than once that you’ll never get that book out.  You can take that however you want to. But is that book worth your life?’” Brown relates in the book.
            Once again, Brown suggests that the homicides were not the work of a serial killer but the fallout of Jenning’s sex and drug trade, linked to police involvement.
            The book offers in great detail through hundreds of hours of interviews and thousands of public records obtained by Brown that an elaborate system of corruption occurred and is possibly still occurring in Jefferson Davis Parish. He shows us the lives of the eight women and others who have died, pieces together information gleaned from witnesses and interviews and produces a disturbing scenario of crime and injustice. He also suggests that Rep. Charles Boustany, a current candidate for the Senate, had links to the owner of the hotel where crimes occurred.
            It’s a complicated web of intrigue and murder and one that will haunt you long after you put the book down. Why nothing has been done to those accused is even more frightening.
John Berendt, author of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” says this of the book: “Ethan Brown’s daring and dangerous exposé uncovers a murky inferno of violence and corruption in south Louisiana, where it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad, and the brutal murders of eight prostitutes go unpunished, though not necessarily unsolved.”
            Brown will be discussing and signing his book at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at Octavia Books of New Orleans.

New releases
Patricia M. Gaitley was fascinated by the rich culture found in James Lee Burke novels featuring Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux. She studied his novels and their sense of place while getting a Ph.D. at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Gaitley discusses Burke’s rich examination of South Louisiana folkways in “Robicheaux’s Roots: Culture and Tradition in James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux Novels,” published by LSU Press.
“In creating Dave Robicheaux, Burke provides his readers with not only a character, but a culture,” Gaitley writes in the book’s introduction.
            Gaitley will be speaking on her book Oct. 29 at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge and the One Book One Festival section will be “Creole Belle,” a Dave Robicheaux mystery by Burke.
Bessie Senette of Lafayette has published “Cutting the Clouds: a Bayou Mystic’s Poems, Musings, and Imaginings,” an autobiographical collection of poems and essays about the life and culture of her bayou upbringing and the spirituality that informs her traditional healing gifts. Read more about her at https://thebayoumystic.com.
            Tallulah Caibre of Brooklyn, Miss., has a gift, although it’s not as strong as the rest of the family’s talents. It’s because of these quirky abilities that the town’s residents dare not come too close, especially after tragedy strikes and Tallulah realizes her talents are more than she imagined, in Em Shotwell’s gothic Southern novel, “Blackbird Summer.” Shotwell lives in South Louisiana where she writes “Southern-fried fantasy and magical realism.”

National Book Festival
            The 16th Library of Congress National Book Festival, the nation’s largest free book festival, will be Saturday in Washington, D.C. Representing Louisiana is children’s book author Johnette Downing who has just published an adorable book tied with the New Orleans Pelicans NBA Team and Audubon Nature Institute titled “Petit Pierre and the Floating Marsh.” The book is illustrated by Heather Stanley and helps children learn about the beauty and importance of Louisiana’s wetlands. Downing will be discussing and signing her book at 9 a.m. at the festival.
            Other authors participating include civil rights legend and graphic novelist Rep. John Lewis, NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Caldecott Award-winning artist and writer Jerry Pinkney, documentarian Ken Burns, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin, rising star Yaa Gyasi, best-selling thriller writer Harlan Coben, Mexican novelist Álvaro Enrigue, historian Candice Millard, best-selling novelist Kristin Hannah, New Yorker cultural critic Adam Gopnik, Moroccan-born novelist Laila Lalami and two-time Newbery Medal winner Lois Lowry.
For more information, visit loc.gov/bookfest/.
 
Book events
Jack McGuire will talk about his new book, “Win the Race or Die Trying: Uncle Earl’s Last Hurrah,” about Earl Long's successful 1960 campaign for Louisiana's Eighth Congressional District seat, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at South Regional Branch Library in Lafayette.
            Leigh Camacho Rourks and Caitlin Vance will read as part of the Thursday Night Reading presented by the UL-Lafayette English Department, EGSA and Sigma Tau Delta at 7 p.m. Thursday at Poets, 1043 Johnston St.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.