LOUISIANA BREAKDOWN, by Lucius Shepard. Illustrations by J. K. Potter. Golden Gryphon Press, 2003,148 pp., $21.95. ISBN 1.930846-142
De place is funky. I mean, the laws of physics don't always apply. I mean, you have to see this place to believe it — and Shepard obviously has done a lot of seeing.
This place is Louisiana, a little town called Grail, and the tale is about strange town rituals and a stranger in a strange place who meets a girl and falls in love.
The very STUFF of tales, right?
Well, Breakdown traces the angst and joy of guitarist Jack Mustaine, who roles into the town of Grail, almost rolled over by a bunch of what can only be described as redneck cops. Luckily for Mustaine, Joe Dill, who almost single-handedly operates a one-man company town (Joe Dill's shops and stores and influence stretch throughout Grail) saves him. Vida Dumars, Shotgun Row, owner of Moonlight Diner, becomes more than a fascination for the rambling Mustaine — he falls in love with her. Only trouble is, St. John's Eve is here, and a Midsummer Queen has to be picked to appease the Good Gray Man, a sort of psychic, Forbidden-Planet type entity appeased by the rituals of St. John's Eve and the selection of a new queen, after a deal was made by the founders of Grail.
What makes Grail so interesting and so diabolical is described well by Shepard on page 97. Here, Mustaine is caught up in trying to understand Grail through the words of Miss Sedele, who operates her own bar, Le Bon Chance:
|"Sedele took another hit from her cigarette and blew smoke down into her glass, making the green liquid appear to seethe like a magic potion. 'New York, Los Angeles . . . Omaha, you look beneath the surface, it's nuts everywhere. Difference 'tween the rest of the world and Grail, our surface been peeled away for a couple hundred years. We in what'cha might call plain fuckin' view."|
The strangeness, magic, mystery, and overall schmaltzy southern gothic weirdness are here. And as usual with a Shepard novel or story, you cannot see where this novel is going — it doesn't follow any of the accepted Hollywood-entrenched boy-meets-girl narrative paths — which makes it all so much more delightful to read. You'll be surprised and probably enchanted.
— Andrew Andrews, True Review, October 2003