Archive for New Orleans

1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose

Posted in Lisa, Non-Fiction with tags , , , on June 1, 2008 by Lisa
Review also posted at Books. Lists. Life.
One of the books that I read while on maternity leave was 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose. As you can probably tell by the title, this was about Hurricane Katrina.  Rose is a writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and chronicled the aftermath of the hurricane in it’s pages. This book is a collection of his columns spanning the next 18 months or so. He addresses the death, the smell, the expectations, the mayor, the New Orleans Saints, Mardi Gras and, near the end, depression and PTSD.

I feel odd saying this was a great book. It seems a little cruel to enjoy a book about such a tragedy. However, it’s a very readable book. Since it began life as a series of newspaper columns, it’s written in a very conversational way. You can imagine Rose sitting there and telling you these things over coffee. Rose is very open about his own life and how he was directly impacted. His family evacuated and his house was not lost and he doesn’t pretend otherwise. He does, however, take you on a tour of the areas that were devastated.

Rose addresses the topic of how people can go on over and over. Why have Mardi Gras? Why celebrate the return of the N.O. Saints? Why spend money to rehabilitate small businesses instead of building homes and streets? All of these things are directly tied to the morale of the city. New Orleans is a city people love. It has a personality and a character all it’s own and those who live there are invested in recovering that feeling. At times it seems an uphill battle and near the very end of the book Rose includes this editorial about his depression following the hurricane. I found this particular one, and the one that immediately followed it in the book to be very powerful. I highly recommend that anyone who loves New Orleans pick this one up.

This is the second book I’ve read about New Orleans post- Katrina lately. The first was fiction (The Tin Roof Blowdown) and this is non-fiction.  I have a soft spot in my heart for Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour. Does anyone have any suggestions for other New Orleans flavored reading, fiction or non-fiction?

The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke

Posted in Fiction, Lisa with tags , , , , on May 1, 2008 by Lisa

The Tin Roof Blowdown is the 16th Dave Robicheaux novel.  It is set in New Orleans and the surrounding area during and directly after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I read a review that said it offered a very good look at what life was really like for the survivors and that lead me to request it from Paperbackswap. I had never read a James Lee Burke novel before this one. It doesn’t seem to have impacted my enjoyment of the book not to have read a Dave Robicheaux novel before.  This type of book is outside of my normal reading habits, but that’s really a good thing.

Dave is looking for the person who shot and killed a couple of looters. The owner of the loot is a gangster who is also looking for the surviving looter, who may be a rapist as well. There is an unknown stalker-like character who may have been hired by the gangster and a missing heroin addicted priest. There is an alcoholic bounty hunter who is also looking for the looter. There is missing loot to be found, but by who? It’s a busy story.

The Katrina stuff is horrifying, but doesn’t really follow through to the end except for in the lack of police interest in some things because the police are overloaded. I started off thinking it was going to be a great illustration of all that was done wrong, but it really wasn’t. (Guess I should finally finish watching Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke if I want that.)  The mystery itself was full of coincidence.  The different threads to it all end up being connected in convienent ways and the final solution was both obvious and unsurprising. The big surprise (one of the relationships between two characters) was so carefully avoided that it was obvious that it was being avoided. (Why would you talk about a character and then never think of them again, unless they are key? I just kept thinking, but what is X’s connection to all this?) There was one big plot point that wasn’t really addressed, and I thought could have been left out completely. (Hint: lights) I didn’t find Dave to be such a great detective as to have 16 books.

That said, I suspect that this series is to some people what Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books are to others. A nice comfortable read, no big surpriases, lots of familiar aspects. Even having not read other books, I bet I can pick out some things that are mentioned over and over. (Molly was a nun before he married her, really.  Characters kept speaking with “mashed potatoes” in their mouth as a way of mumbling- like three or four times.   Dave kept noticing Cletus’s alcohol because he was an alcoholic himself.  Stephanie really likes her mascara (oops, wrong books!) You get the idea.) I wouldn’t go out seeking the rest of the books. It didn’t draw me into the characters enough to want to have them, but it was a good book and not a waste of time. It was a nice break from routine, which is something I should do more often.