". . . Almost Aristolean in its unity, the novella possesses the beauty of language, clearness of construction, and mythological inspiration that make great tragic drama. Any expansion of this little masterpiece would be nothing but bloat. Shepard's authorial juju is potent stuff and Louisiana Breakdown casts a significant and powerful spell."
— Paula Guran, Cemetary Dance #45, 2003
"Louisiana Breakdown is sumptuously written, oozing sweat, sex, and strangeness with heady insouciance. . . . a gorgeously intense experience."
— Claude Lalumière, The Montreal Gazette, April 26, 2003
Welcome to Grail, Louisiana! A little hole of a town near the Gulf — next to nothing and just beyond reality — where hoodoo meets Jesus and the townsfolk pray to them all.
When there ain't nowhere else to be in Grail, you'll find folks at Miss Sedele's bar, Le Bon Chance — dancin', shootin' dice, knockin' back beers and those weird green drinks she'll mix up for you called "cryptoverdes." The Chance is the kind of place you just might get lucky in . . .
Then there's Vida Dumars. She's the Midsummer Queen, but her reign ends tomorrow evening. Vida's got the kind of body that turns heads and makes a guy's jaw drop, wishin' he could get himself a piece of that. Vida owns the Moonlight Diner, but she's a strange one. Scares people even. Why she can see right through you, into your deepest heart, as if . . . well, as if you was a picture window. But Vida's got her own secrets — down deep, dark secrets.
And a new guy arrived in town today, name of Jack Mustaine. His BMW broke down and now he's stuck in Grail for a few days. Jack's one of those singer-songwriters from L.A.; he can bend the strings on that steel guitar and make music that damn near wrenches the soul right outta your gut. But Jack's a man on the run — though whether he's running from somethin' or running to somethin' even he don't rightly know. Jack hooked up with Vida at Le Bon Chance this evening, so sparks are sure to fly. Vida seen a strength in Jack that even he don't know he got, but is he strong enough to stand against what he and Vida will face in the next twenty-four hours?
You see, a coupla hundred years ago, the founders of Grail made a deal with somebody they called the Good Gray Man. Some kinda spirit that's supposed to be hangin' around these parts. He promised good fortune to the town so long as they kept up the tradition of the Midsummer Queen. So every twenty years, on Midsummer Night's Eve, the town chooses a ten-year-old girl to be the new Queen. She's the luck o' the town. She draws all the bad luck to her so's Grail can prosper. And tomorrow Vida Dumars passes her scepter to the new Midsummer Queen. Tomorrow Vida will no longer be the luck o' the town. Tomorrow the Good Gray Man comes callin'. . . .
Author Lucius Shepard uses the trappings of the dark fantasy story to delve into the psychological and motivational depths of his characters, including the town of Grail itself. Novella Louisiana Breakdown reveals the author at the peak of his writing prowess — a tour de force of character, imagery, and tone. With a Foreword by New Orleans author Poppy Z. Brite; and an Afterword, interior illustrations, endpapers, and wraparound cover art by New Orleans artist J. K. Potter.
"Louisiana Breakdown is one of Lucius Shepard's most powerful novellas yet, beginning and ending with astonishing sweeps of rageful poetry, and containing in its fevered middle a love story that is emblematic of the yearning and hypocrisy and despair of America and the entire world. It takes enormous skill to make the rich hollow bluesy particularities of a setting such as Grail, Louisiana, a convincing microcosm of all human life, and vast creative courage to face the heart of darkness within romantic love as clear-sightedly as it is faced here."
— Nick Gevers
Winner of the 2004 International Horror Guild Award for Best Long Fiction of the Year!
Cloth, ISBN: 1-930846-14-2
Out of Print
Read the Nick Gevers review in Locus Magazine
Read the Lucius Shepard interview by Nick Gevers on SciFi Weekly
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Read another Lucius Shepard interview in the Austin American-Statesman
Read Claude Lalumière's review in the Montreal Gazette
Read Paula Guran's review in Cemetary Dance Magazine
Read the Kansas City Star review
Read the review in the Midwest Book Review
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Read Rick Kleffel's commentary in The Agony Column for 07-08-04 (scroll down)
Read the review in Ireland's Albedo One magazine