According to journalist and author Chris Rose, “You can live in any city in America, but New Orleans is the only city that lives in you.” The statement certainly feels true for me. Although I’ve spent less than two weeks in New Orleans over the last two years, I feel like it’s become a part of me. Between the history, music, and greenery there’s an indelible life and spirit that has remained with me long after I’ve left and I look forward to my next visit. It’s even more poignant on this tenth anniversary after Hurricane Katrina. Tragic as that event was, the city’s recovery and forward march inspires me.
During my last visit to New Orleans, I was surprised and honored when Alys Arden, author of The Casquette Girls came to the shop and bought one of my novels. I had been considering buying a copy of her book and had the presence of mind of to grab one and have her sign it for me while she was there. Now falling back into my work routine, I’ve just had a chance to read the novel and was pleased to find the New Orleans I’ve fallen in love with well represented in the novel’s pages.
Well, that’s not exactly true. The New Orleans of the novel is a wasteland that has barely survived the worst storm in the city’s history. The storm is unnamed, but clearly inspired by Katrina. What we see in the novel is the weaving of a magical, mystical, and sometimes horrific tale around the courageous tale of those New Orleanians who returned to the city to rebuild. Alys Arden creates a wonderful sense of place from Cafe Orleans to the mysterious Ursuline Convent, whose locked, top-story shutters suddenly blow open over the head of the novel’s protagonist, Adele Le Moyne, soon after she’s returned to the city with her father.
Underlying the harsh realities of rebuilding a city and a life, Arden weaves in a story inspired by the three legends I heard about during my recent vampire tour of New Orleans. Adele’s journey starts at the Ursuline convent of the present, but takes her on a journey through her family’s past and its connections to Voodoo and witchcraft.
My only real disappointment was that the novel’s vampires, once revealed, lacked a certain gravitas worthy of the history and lore weaved so deftly into the intricate plot. I’m willing to chalk that up to a minor matter of taste, given how much the novel otherwise satisfied me. The Casquette Girls took me back to New Orleans, reintroduced me to many of the colorful people I met, carried me back in time to the city’s early days, and also to the days post-Katrina. In that trip, I felt I got to know the city, it’s history, lore, and diverse cultures just a little better. You can order copies of the novel from Boutique du Vampyre. Laissez les bon temps rouler!