I'm a day early with my "Wicked Cool Overlooked Book" but as we are headed out of NY this morning for RI and then other points south, I thought I better get my entry up while I had a chance. (And yes, if you're keeping track I have now gone from Washington State over and down to Florida and then up to upstate New York - all by car!!!)
I've just finished writing my review of Poppy Z. Brite's upcoming collection, Antediluvian Tales, and in writing about it I was reminded of just how much I have enjoyed her series of novels set in New Orleans. All of her recent books have been set in the city and revolved around two young chefs and lovers, Ricky and G-man. The guys grew up together as good friends, realized as teens they were actually in love with each other (This story is told in the Sub Press release, The Value of X) and later went to work in restaurants across the city. By her latest book, Soul Kitchen (which I reviewed over at Voices), they now own their own successful restaurant and find themselves unwittingly embroiled in the complexities of local politics. The books involve a lot of drama (relationship and professional), a ton of atmosphere and even a bit of a mystery (most notably in Soul Kitchen when they befriend a fellow chef who was wrongly convicted of murder). The point to these books is the relationship between Ricky and G-man, and then on a broader scale, how they relate to friends, family and the city of New Orleans. All the parties and events are here, as well as the society politics and petty differences found between groups of all kinds in the city. Reading them is like spending time with old friends who change with each book but still remain, at their hearts, the guys I enjoyed meeting in the very first book.
They are just great regional stories about the working class of a great American city and why they are undersold, under-appreciated and all too often part of a conversation about "cult authors" I will never know. You like literary fiction? Well then you should be reading Brite because that is what she is writing here and she deserves a heck of a lot more credit then she seems to be getting from either the literary establishment (whoever the heck that is) and the publishing world (that has no idea how to adequately market her books and thus gives her too little time and attention).
It seems like most authors who write about New Orleans do so with some kind of agenda - they feel like they have to be outrageous or exotic because they think that is what people what to read when it comes to the Crescent City. What Brite does is write in a much simpler way about two guys, their families, their passion for food and the world they make together as they try to succeed in their hometown. Oddly enough, given the two main characters are gay, these are very old fashioned stories. I hope that Brite is able to write more in the series - according to her live journal, her struggles with her publisher and the impact of the post-K world have left her with not compulsion to write fiction these days. It would be a great loss if she did not return to Ricky and g-man though; they really are a couple of truly All-American characters.
I'm opening up the comments (here's hoping the spammers have forgotten about me!) so do add a link if you have your own Wicked Cool Overlooked Post to link to.
UPDATE: 250 spam comments in 24 hours - I'm afraid we are stuck going through the authentication process for typekey for the time being. Sorry guys!
UPDATE 2: Be sure to check out Jason's post on PZB's Liquor books as well!