San Francisco Chronicle Review

Louisiana Breakdown (Golden Gryphon; 145 pages; $21.95) by Lucius Shepard, with illustrations by J.K. Potter, continues the specialty publisher's growing tradition of offering first-rate collections and novels by the most accomplished talents in science fiction and fantasy.

When Jack Mustaine's BMW overheats outside the small Louisiana town of Grail, the last thing the musician is looking for is true love. But he immediately finds himself attracted to Vida Dumars, the owner of the Moonlight Diner and a regular at Le Bon Chance roundhouse.

Her forthright approach to sex is almost enough to allay Jack's anxieties about what he's left behind in Los Angeles and what might be in store for him in a town full of clairvoyants, rednecks and voodoo practitioners.

Meanwhile, the town's preparations for the crowning of the new Midsummer Queen proceed apace. For 20 years, Vida has worn the crown, but now it's time for another 10-year-old girl to become the repository of Grail's fortune. Once the scepter is passed, Jack and Vida plan to leave Grail far behind.

Louisiana Breakdown is a sharp, effective short novel, long on local color and pungent dialogue. Shepard, author of The Golden and Life During Wartime, has a knack for bringing the rural South to life, and it's clear that he's having a fine old time with Louisiana Breakdown.

The novel plays with the stereotypes of swamp gothic — a luscious and lascivious heroine, an artistically inclined protagonist in over his head, and a Good Gray Man who stalks the bayou — and gives them its own sly, accomplished spin.

From the first page, it's clear that the story of Louisiana Breakdown can't end well for its characters, but Shepard makes sure that his readers get everything they've bargained for and more. . .

— Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, May 4, 2003

Copyright © 2003 San Francisco Chronicle


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