What do New Orleans, St. Louis, St. Roch,
DNA, voodoo, Mikimoto, fertility clinics
and hurricanes have in common? That would
have to be Sinners and Saints, my next medico-forensic
suspense due out in September from St. Martin's
Press. Yes, it's a bit of a departure for
me. It's such a departure, in fact, that
I ended up being late on my deadline. I
did the inexcusable. I fell in love with
my research, and my editor was forced to
remind me that I was writing suspense, not
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
So there are 102 pages of quaint stories
(sadly, the cop and the porpoise was sacrificed)
that will never see the light of day(at
least in book form. Keep an eye out here,though,
for the new OUTTAKES page, coming in October).
I'm afraid, though,
that my editor was right. From what my New
Orleans experts have said(I always have
my research sources read my manuscript for
veracity), they didn't miss my deathless
prose at all. Sigh.
So what's left?
What's left is what
I thought was a fish out of water story.
I've always set my stuff in St. Louis, because
I was born here and know its idiosyncracies
better than anywhere else. But I really
wanted to take a break from terrorizing
every trauma nurse in St. Louis.
And so there I was
in New Orleans a few years ago, and walking
by the Eight District police station in
the French Quarter, I see a big paper mache
fish dressed like a cop hanging from the
fence. It's a big, bright grouper with a
cop's hat, a loaded gunbelt, and a suspect's
feet hanging from his mouth. I mean, come
on. How could you not want to spend more
time in a place like this?
Then I learned that
my own St. Louis is really New Orleans lite.
We have the third largest Mardi Gras celebration
in the world, after Rio and New Orleans.
We have the Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball,
which is a stepchild of Mardi Gras. We have
a largely Catholic, multicultural society
that cherishes its blues and jazz, its neighborhoods
and its traditions.
But even St. Louis
doesn't have St. Roch's Campo Santo. I found
that little gem while doing general research,
and then tracked it down when I was in New
Orleans. For those of you who don't know,
St. Roch's is a cemetery. Now, everybody
knows about the cemeteries in New Orleans,
but everybody hears about St. Louis 1, where
Marie Lavou, the Voodoo Queen is buried.
Nobody much stops by St. Roch's. But here
is where people have come for over a hundred
years to plead for intercession. Here's
where they leave casts and braces and plaster
hearts and ears and eyes and noses and feet
to thank St. Roch for his intercession.
And the part of the equation that really
speaks to me is that when St. Roch bestows
a boon, he takes one away. Now, how desperate
do you have to be to go to somebody like
How could I not
make use of St. Roch? Of course I did. In
fact, I think he gets the creepiest scene.
But there's also
that hurricane, (my editor accused me of
controlling the weather. I turned the manuscript
in three weeks before the hurricane threatened
New Orleans last summer), the fertility
clinics--did you know that human eggs are
so in demand for infertile couples that
they are now being auctioned off?--voodoo,
and all the rest. I'm putting up the prologue
and first chapter. The rest will be available
in September. And I'll include more about