Chasing the Devil's Tail

( 14 )


Storyville, 1907: In this raucous, bloody, red-light district, where two thousand scarlet women ply their trade in grand mansions and filthy dime-a-trick cribs, where cocaine and opium are sold over the counter, and where rye whiskey flows like an amber river, there's a killer loose. Someone is murdering Storyville prostitutes and marking each killing with a black rose. As Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr begins to unravel the murder against this extraordinary backdrop, he encounters a cast of characters drawn ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (49) from $1.99   
  • New (1) from $58.77   
  • Used (48) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.


Ships from: Chicago, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
Chasing the Devil's Tail

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49 price
(Save 25%)$13.99 List Price


Storyville, 1907: In this raucous, bloody, red-light district, where two thousand scarlet women ply their trade in grand mansions and filthy dime-a-trick cribs, where cocaine and opium are sold over the counter, and where rye whiskey flows like an amber river, there's a killer loose. Someone is murdering Storyville prostitutes and marking each killing with a black rose. As Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr begins to unravel the murder against this extraordinary backdrop, he encounters a cast of characters drawn from history: Tom Anderson, the political boss who runs Storyville like a private kingdom; Lulu White, the district's most notorious madam; a young piano player who would come to be known as Jelly Roll Morton; and finally, Buddy Bolden, the man who all but invented jazz and is now losing his mind.
No ordinary mystery, Chasing the Devil's Tail is a chilling portrait of musical genius and self-destruction, set at the very moment when jazz was born.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A beautifully constructed, elegantly presented time trip to a New Orleans of the very early 1900s."—Los Angeles Times

"A wonderful rendition of a particular world at a very distinctive time."—The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

"Captures Storyville in all its creative, mystical and sordid excess."—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Debut novelist David Fulmer has created an amazing story, and he makes it look easy."—The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

Jeffery Deaver
In the tradition of The Alienist, Chasing the Devil's Tail gives us top-notch suspense fiction in a delightfully evocative and harrowing time and place: New Orleans' Storyville at the beginning of the twentieth century. We immediately fall under the author's spell and are soon roaming the authentic haunts of that neighborhood in the company of his characters, some good and some not so, but all wonderfully colorful and as real as the blues.
Publishers Weekly
Storyville, New Orleans, the most historic red-light district in the United States, where the music of Jelly Roll Morton and "King" Buddy Bolden is ushering in the jazz age, provides the stage for this riveting and provocative debut mystery of sex, alcohol, drugs, insanity and murder. When two prostitutes are found murdered and marked with a black rose, Tom Anderson, political boss and the "King of Storyville," calls in Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr. While the death toll mounts, St. Cyr doesn't want to believe that all indications point to his childhood friend, Buddy Bolden. Bolden, who has risen to fame with the "jass" music of his horn, has become more than erratic in his behavior. As St. Cyr watches his friend self-destruct, he wonders if Buddy is indeed the killer. The author vividly describes early 20th-century New Orleans, from the large and elegant houses of the madams to the infested rooms of the crib girls that reflect the distinct and rigid caste system of the day. After a frustrating investigation, the pieces of the puzzle come together in a surprising and satisfying conclusion. Fulmer's use of historical figures such as Tom Anderson, Buddy Bolden, piano player Ferdinand LeMenthe (who would later be known as Jelly Roll Morton), E.J. Bellocq, the photographer of New Orleans whores, and the famous madam Lulu White authenticate an already believable and spellbinding story, which will echo in the reader's mind like the mournful notes of good blues. Agent, Laura Langlie. (Nov. 1) Forecast: With Italian rights sold to Rizzoli, blurbs from Jeffery Deaver and James Sallis, as well as a regional author tour, this first novel should generate a lot of buzz and generous sales.Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In turn-of-the-century New Orleans, the red-light district called Storyville is unrivalled in notoriety, a center of drugs, booze, prostitution, and the musical craze called jazz. Since Storyville's many bordellos have a racial hierarchy that mirrors that of the district, the murders of two black prostitutes in separate incidents raise little concern. Creole private detective Valentin St. Cyr is hired by political boss Tom Anderson, the King of Storyville, to investigate the killings. The only clue is a black rose left on the body of each victim. Valentin moves gingerly through Storyville's colorful subcultures, "steeped in a gumbo of race, color, and class." His helpers include Beansoup, a resourceful preadolescent street urchin, and Justine, a melancholy working girl who at length becomes his lover. When police tag womanizing jazzman Buddy Bolden-like Anderson and such other characters as Jelly Roll Morton, notorious madam Lulu White, and photographer E.J. Bellocq a real-life figure-as their chief suspect, Valentin, who grew up with Bolden, stands alone in the conviction that his childhood friend is innocent. As the death toll rises, police step up their investigation, and Valentin finds himself regularly butting heads with racist police lieutenant Picot. Secret lives abound (Valentin himself confesses that he was born Valentino Saracena in Sicily). Is Bolden's increasingly erratic behavior the cause or the result of widespread suspicion? Brimming with backstories and historical tidbits, Fulmer's debut works better as period evocation than as mystery. The plot doesn't so much thicken as cover the same ground over and over in repetitive circles.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156027281
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing (DIP)
  • Publication date: 6/9/2003
  • Series: Valentin St. Cyr Series, #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 348
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVID FULMER's first novel, Chasing the Devil's Tail , was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Mystery/Thriller Book Prize and the winner of the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel. Fulmer lives in Atlanta.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

We have been visited by a sad affliction. Several coons armed with pieces of brass have banded together for what personal good we are unable to say, except that it be for two dollars a week and glue, but we are able to swear that if their object was to inflict torture upon the suffering community, they are doing right well.


Valentin heard the horn while he was still two blocks from Jackson Square. It was quicksilver shooting from a Gatling gun, exactly the kind of rainbows of loud brass, he imagined, that would announce the New Orleans version of the Second Coming. As he stepped from Chartres Street into the square, he saw a familiar profile juking across the open bandstand, looking from that distance like a country preacher cajoling his congregation.

They hadn't run up on each other in a few weeks, so when Buddy saw Valentin step from the crowd, he broke into a wicked grin and went careening over the rough boards, blowing steam from the bell of his horn. He finished the rowdy version of "Careless Love" with a shower of staccato notes, then hopped down from the bandstand to cut a rolling path through the crowd. Men clapped his back and women gave him sloe eyes, but he didn't notice, rushing up to Valentin, happy as a kid.

"Tino!" he shouted and threw arms that were all gawky angles around his friend.

They sat in the shade of a live oak. The day was hazy with heat and from that distance, the scene around the bandstand looked like an unfinished painting. Another band was playing, and Buddy was half-listening to the raggedy waltz, his fingers absently tapping out his own choice of notes on the valves of his horn.

Valentin took the moment to study Bolden with sidelong glances, taking in the almond-shaped eyes, the nose thin like an Egyptian, the lower lip full and the upper one peaked in the middle, as if they had been placed on him already fit for a horn. His hair, as always, was cut very short and parted with a razor. The one oddity was his clothes, now all dirty and in disarray. He had always been particular.

The band reached the end of the song and Buddy turned on him with a sudden frown. "What brings you out in the light of day?" There was a brittle edge to his voice.

Valentin let it pass, leaning back against the trunk of the tree and twiddling a blade of grass between his fingers. "Annie Robie," he said.

At the mention of the name, the dark cloud that was over Buddy's face lifted and he smiled again. "She sent you round?" he said, "Is that right?"

The band started up again and the strains of a slow waltz drifted from the hazy distance.

"Were you at Cassie Maples' last night?" Valentin asked.

The smile widened, all white teeth. "I was, yes."

"What time did you leave?"

Buddy served up a curious look. "I don't know. Musta been round one o'clock."

Valentin hesitated for a moment, then said, "They found Annie this morning, Buddy. Dead."

Buddy blinked as if he didn't understand, his smile collapsing inward. "Did you say dead?" Valentin nodded. "How?"

"Miss Cassie found her in her room. It was like she went to sleep and never woke up."

Buddy shook his head slowly. "She was up and about," he said. "She took me to the door," he said. Valentin saw him struggle with the somber news, then sigh and say, "She was just a young girl," as if that mattered.

They sat in the shade of the tree for another ten minutes, as Buddy lapsed deeper into silence, answering Valentin's questions shortly, then not at all. Finally, he got to his feet and walked away, not a word or a gesture or a look back, a tall figure in a stained cotton shirt and white linen trousers, horn dangling from one hand, wavering off into the pool of afternoon heat that hung over the park.

A few minutes later, Valentin stood up, brushed the Louisiana dust from his trousers and made his way out of the park, wondering why he had even bothered to come there.

It had started early that morning. Too early.

He had been lying half-asleep, curled around a coffee-colored dove named Justine, when he heard the shuffle of footsteps in the hallway outside the door.

His right eyelid twitched and his hand stretched directly to the inside pocket of the linen suit jacket that hung from a chair beside the bed. He folded his fingers around the mother-of-pearl handle of his Iver Johnson revolver and drew the pistol down under the sheets, all without moving a muscle on his left side. Justine didn't stir, flat wearied from their tussling atop the cotton coverlet, her dark curls splayed across the pillow and one of her arms flung palm-up over the side of the bed.

The rustle of movement in the hall grew busier and there came the hesitant tapping of a feminine hand on the door. "Mr. St. Cyr?" Though muffled, the name was pronounced the American way, saint-sear. The door creaked open a few inches. "Beg your pardon." The voice was a brown whisper.

Valentin relaxed his grip on the pistol, pushed himself to a sitting position and said, "Come in." One of Justine's dark eyes opened halfway. He made a small sound and she sighed and dug deeper into the sheets.

The door opened another few inches and the face of Antonia Gonzales appeared like the rising of an ochre moon. Miss Antonia slipped into the room and crossed through the gray morning shadows on feet that were light for so ample a woman. She bent down to whisper in his ear. He listened, yawned, rubbed a hand over his eyes, and nodded.

The madam led him around the corner from Bienville and onto Franklin Street as the first true light of day poked through the mist off the river. They made a small parade on the deserted street, Miss Antonia in a shirtwaist of pale pastel buttoned at the neck and a silk moiré skirt that draped down to the wooden boards of the banquette, Valentin natty in a tight-fitting Cassimere suit of gray checks.

Though the hour was early, it was April and humid. All over the cobbled avenues, puddles of rainwater had collected skeins of green scum that gave up a sour stench. The two citizens of the swamp that was 1907 New Orleans marched west, taking bare notice. By noon this Sunday, the city would sweat enough to raise the Mississippi and the streets of cobble and dirt would grow rank, as dead animals, human waste, and kitchen slops steamed in the sun, attended by clouds of green flies. But from the hallowed pews of St. Ignatius Church to the lice-ridden, dime-a-trick cribs that lined Robertson and Claiborne streets from Canal to St. Louis, only a fool would bother to complain.

They continued on to Franklin Street at an even pace, though the madam took two steps for every one of Valentin's and twisted her plump fingers in a constant fidgety roil. Valentin noticed, but wouldn't be hurried.

Still, in the space of fifteen minutes they had crossed Gravier Street, leaving behind the stately brick façades, ornate colonnades, stained-glass transoms, and galleries adorned with potted ferns to enter a dank, shadowy neighborhood of narrow dirt streets lined with houses that had weathered to a bleak gray, half their windowpanes stuffed with newspaper, their balustrades teetering on the galleries like loose teeth. The banquettes here were empty and the streets were quiet, but Valentin now glanced into every doorway and down every alley until they reached the corner of South Franklin and Perdido.

They stopped before a narrow two-story house of dull gray clapboard. He turned with a questioning look to Miss Antonia, who waved one fluttering hand, a pudgy brown bird, at a second floor balcony. He looked up at the wrought iron railing, once sturdy, now rotting away in the damp air, the French doors with their rusted hinges, and the dirty, cracked windows that stared back at him. He gestured for the madam to precede him up the wooden steps to the gallery.

Cassie Maples, short and fat, her skin as black as an African night, pushed the door to the second floor room wide and stepped back.

Valentin went inside. It was a small room, not much bigger than a crib, just enough space for a divan, a wash basin, a folding screen in one corner with a Japanese design of peacocks on flowered branches, and a sampler on the wall. The French doors were closed and locked, odd for an already-sticky April and considering the sweaty business conducted within those walls. The divan was draped with a faded silk shawl, and stretched upon the shawl was the body of a young girl.

But that was all. He frowned vaguely and ran an irritable hand over his face. He hadn't gotten his sleep out, not nearly. Then he made the ten block walk with Miss Antonia all fussy at his side, to be greeted by the body of a dead whore in a cramped upstairs room in a rundown sporting house. He wondered why the madam hadn't just gone ahead and called the coppers. He couldn't raise the poor girl from the dead, nor could he make the corpse vanish into thin air, so he wasn't going to be much good at all.

He was about to mutter some excuse and take his leave, but then he saw the two women standing in the doorway, watching him anxiously. He let out a quiet sigh and made himself step across the room to view the body.

She was naked except for a Liberty dime on a thin lace of leather around one ankle and a silver crucifix on a chain hanging from her neck. Her skin, deep black, had taken on a gray pallor. Her arms and legs were willowy and her breasts were round and firm, perfect circles. Her hands were folded between her legs, as if in blushing modesty. Her hair was jet black, cut short and pulled back severely from her forehead.

He studied her face, carved from soft ebony, a young face that had reached its final age. She was actually quite pretty, rare for what was called a "soiled dove" in the lingo of the penny newspapers. Valentin was relieved, as always, that the eyes were closed.

The rose was the first thing he had noticed when he stepped into the room, but it was the last thing he paused to regard. And the one thing he touched, lifting and replacing it with gentle fingers. A black rose in full bloom, stem attached, laid carefully across her torso, with the petals just touching the point of her heart.

He took another look around the room, saw nothing else unusual, turned away and walked into the hall. He closed the door behind him. The two madams searched his face.

"May I trouble you for a cup of coffee?" he said.

Miss Maples' girls had been sent away for the morning and the house was quiet. In the spare light, Valentin surveyed the usual trappings: Persian rugs, tasseled lamps, textured fabric full of blood-red swirls on the walls, heavy furniture covered in brocade, a tiered chandelier overhead. But he wasn't fooled. The hard light of day would reveal that the furnishings were all shabby secondhand goods and that the chandelier was missing half its pieces. There would be small dunes of ancient dust in the corners and ragged stains on the mangy upholstery. Footsteps would send an army of cockroaches and who knew what other vermin skittering along the baseboards.

He sat down gingerly on a café chair. The remains of the night's incense did not mask a damp, sour odor, evidence of a roof that leaked; and even from across the room he could tell that the maid-all sharp bone and nappy hair, homely and gap-toothed and looking as timid as a country mouse-had gone without a bath for more than a few days.

But he nodded politely, so startling the girl that when she stepped up with the china cup and saucer, her hands shook.

The two madams sat stiffly on the edge of a horsehair couch that was threatening to burst along its seams. Shafts of pale, dusty sunlight drifted through the tall, narrow street-side windows over Valentin's shoulder and across the thick rug. He sipped his coffee, feeling awake for the first time this day.

Cassie Maples paused in her fretting over the dreadful business upstairs to study the visitor. So this was the dangerous fellow Miss Antonia had whispered about. She looked him frankly up and down. She noticed the frayed cuffs of the suit jacket, a shirt collar gone yellow with wear, a haircut of no recent vintage. He was on the short side and put together like a banty prizefighter. She caught the distant set of his eyes and the way he settled in his chair, lazy and tense at the same time. A pint of Cherokee blood there, she guessed. Indeed, the man displayed a Creole that was odd even for New Orleans: light-olive Dago skin and curly African hair hanging down to his collar in back. A jagged nose like an Arab and eyes the gray-green color of the Mississippi. Though mustaches and beards were the fashion of the day, this one went clean-shaven. He was one of those types who missed being handsome, but would catch a woman's eye anyway, something about the way he-

"What has Miss Antonia told you about me?" The visitor interrupted her thoughts. His voice was slow and even, with a rough, almost hoarse edge to it. His gaze had settled on her.

"Only that you were a copper," the darker woman said, her hands now assuming a nervous flutter. "Before, I mean. But that now you are a Pinkerton man and you help out over in the District."

Valentin nodded. "That's right, except I'm no Pinkerton. I work on my own. I provide protection and fix disputes. Handle confidential matters, investigations and whatnot." He tilted his head toward Miss Antonia. "And I help my friends. When I can," he added, letting her know he hadn't crawled out of bed to spend his Sunday with her dead Ethiopian girl.

He sipped his coffee with its bitter hint of chicory. Miss Maples was staring at him anxiously and Miss Antonia narrowly, so he softened his tone. "I understand you want to keep this quiet," he said. The black-skinned madam let out a grateful sigh, but her frown returned when he said, "That's not possible. You'll have to call in the coppers. But we do have a little time. You can tell me about the young lady upstairs."

Miss Maples clasped her hands in her lap. "Her name," she began, "is Annie Robie."

As the madam recounted it-and as she had herself heard it late one night from the dead girl's own mouth-Annie Robie was descended from slave stock, her grandparents recognized as property of the family of the same name of the Mississippi Delta town of Leland, which was where she grew up, pretty and long-legged, with her mother's black-on-black skin and her father's high, West African cheekbones and slanted eyes.

She had been swept up one dizzy Delta night by a handsome Negro with pomaded hair, a gambler and moonshiner wandering far from his Georgia home and carrying a two-dollar Sears & Roebuck guitar, like many of the young men did nowadays. She was delivered two weeks later on Cassie Maples' doorstep with nothing but the rough cotton dress on her back. The guitar player had gotten all he wanted and had run off and left her as soon as they reached New Orleans. She was wandering along the riverbank when a local sporting woman found her, took pity, and carried her to Cassie Maples' South Franklin address directly.

Because, like all the bordellos in New Orleans, Miss Maples catered with an eye to color. It was a matter of specialty, and Cassie Maples' back-of-town door was open to the deep browns and "Ethiopians," as some called the true black-skinned girls like Annie Robie.

She was nineteen, the madam explained, and except for when she went off for a few days with some fancy man, she had been a regular for two years, first as a maid to the working girls, later as a full-fledged member of the house, paying her fifty cents a night for the use of the room.

She was well liked and she did not cause trouble. She did not drink whiskey in excess, was never a hophead, and did not get into brawls with other girls and cause the police to be called.

"What about her male guests?" Valentin inquired.

"Only the better class of Negro gentlemen," Miss Maples replied with quiet pride.

"Creoles of Color?" The madam nodded. "White men?" She hesitated, glanced at Miss Antonia. "Now and again, yes," she said in a low voice.

Nothing odd had been heard or seen last evening. Miss Maples had gone off to bed, and the maid, making late rounds, had found Annie lying in that posture, complete with black rose. The maid had run to rouse the madam.

"If it wa'nt for that rose, I would have thought she was just sleeping," Miss Maples told him, her voice trembling.

Valentin drank off his coffee and stood up to stretch his back. The madam dabbed her eyes with one hand and gestured tragically with the other. The maid scurried from the shadows to replace his cup, bringing a gamy cloud of sweat. She shook some more, rattling the china, then ran back to her corner and faded into the furnishings. Valentin glanced at his pocket watch, replaced it and said, "Did Annie have any special friends?"

Miss Maples pondered. "Well, there was that fellow that brought her down here in the beginning. I believe his name was McTier or McTell, something like that." She saw the strange look the detective gave her at the mention of the name. "But I haven't seen him around in a year or more," she finished.

Valentin was staring down at the worn carpet, seeing a handsome Negro with pomaded hair stretched out on a sawdust floor, blood bubbling from the hole in his chest. "That would be Eddie McTier," he said. "And he had no part in this. He was shot dead in a card game over in Algiers some months ago." The news was delivered in such an odd, muted way that the two women exchanged a glance that produced a question mark.

"What now, Mr. Valentin?" Antonia Gonzales said.

It took him a moment to raise his head and meet her gaze. "Now you can call the coppers," he said. "But don't worry, they won't cause you any trouble. They'll have a look around and write a report and ask after her next of kin. Then the girl will become an entry on a page which will go into a file and be forgotten." The women stared, astonished twins, at the muttered oration. "When they get here, send them up to the room," he said. "I'll be waiting." He turned for the stairs.

A half-hour later, a horse-drawn New Orleans Police wagon turned the corner at Gravier and pulled up to the banquette. Lieutenant J. Picot stepped with a grunt of irritation from the seat of the wagon and raised heavy-lidded eyes to the balcony. St. Cyr, the private detective, leaned there, one languid hand on the railing. Picot muttered something under his breath and motioned the two blue-uniformed patrolmen to follow him inside.

The copper quite filled the doorway of the room. He glanced over at Annie Robie's body and then his eyes, dusty marbles, turned on St. Cyr. "You are going to have to go easier on these girls," he said, smirking. He stepped across the room, stood over the divan, and shook his head. "No, she's a bit dark for your blood, ain't she?" Valentin didn't bother to answer.

The policeman raised both of the girl's eyelids, felt for lumps about the head and looked for finger marks around her throat, all the while yawning with disinterest. Finally, he picked up the rose, frowned, and glanced at the Creole detective. "What's this about?" Valentin gave a shrug. Picot peered at the tiny thorn pricks on Annie's breast, then tossed the flower aside.

He spoke over his shoulder to the patrolmen, who stood on either side of the door with their tall, round-topped helmets in the crooks of their arms. "Carry her downtown," he said. "Maybe we'll have them take another look at the morgue, and maybe not." He yawned again. "Nigger sluts is one thing this city has in surplus." The two patrolmen walked out of the room.

"And what do you have to do with this?" Picot asked St. Cyr.

"Nothing," Valentin said. "A favor for a friend."

"Well, just so you know, there won't be no investigating here," the policeman said. "Not by me, not by you, not by nobody." He waited, but Valentin wouldn't rise to the bait. "We got more important things to do. And more important people to serve." He drew himself up and took a last look at Annie Robie. "Kinda pretty," he said. "But, by Jesus, she's black, ain't she?"

The rose was kicked aside when the policemen stepped up to wrap the body in a sheet of muslin. After they carried it away, Valentin picked up the flower and laid it on the divan. He went downstairs.

Picot had spoken briefly and with a barely veiled disgust to Cassie Maples and now closed his leather-bound notebook with a sharp snap. He threw a last cold glance at the Creole detective, who had just reached the bottom of the stairs and left to see the body downtown.

Valentin stood at the parlor window, watching the police wagon roll off, sipping the fresh cup of chicory coffee that the homely maid had pushed into his left hand even as he held a lukewarm one in his right.

Miss Antonia and Cassie Maples were whispering near the front door. He didn't have to hear to know what it was about. There had been a death in the house and a remedy was required immediately. The madams were discussing which hoodoo woman should be called in to rid the premises of whatever foul spirits were lingering.

Valentin set his coffee cup aside. The maid hurried from a corner to snatch it up and replace it. When he shook his head, the girl dropped her eyes and turned away, but he caught her by a dry, rough hand. Country. Country, and in grave need of a bath. "What's your name?" he asked, so startling her that she said it twice.

"Sally. Sally." Her eyes blinked crazily.

Valentin let go of the trembling hand. "You got any idea what happened to Annie?" he asked her. Sally shook her nappy head. "You remember the last man to see her?" he said, holding his breath.

The girl managed to find her voice. "She was up and about after that last one left," she squeaked. "She walk him to the door and then come back in. She was downstairs for maybe a half-hour after. Then I didn't see her no more."

"That so?"


Valentin lowered his voice. "You know the man? That last one?" The girl's eyes grew wide. "You can tell me," he said and bowed his head like a priest at confession. Still, it took a few moments for Sally to decide to go ahead and whisper the name. Valentin raised his head and looked at her sharply. "You're sure?"

"Oh, yessir, I'm sure." He could barely hear her. "Miss Maples and the girls get all excited when he come in. Yessir, it was King Bolden, all right."

Valentin walked out of the park and onto the quiet, sultry Sunday streets.

King Bolden.

Kid Bolden.

Buddy Bolden.

Charles Bolden, Jr.

The names were like stepping stones that wound back to morning-bright avenues that fanned out from the intersection of First and Liberty. That was when they were kids, students at St. Frances de Sales School for Colored on Second Street. They had been best friends all through their childhood and until they were young men, until things changed for both of them.

Even then, in those long ago days, amid the grinding, grating, clanging, banging noise of the city, Buddy heard things. He would stop in the midst of their frantic play and pose suddenly, his ear cocked to the wind. "You hear that?" he'd say. "You hear?"

To Valentin it was just a wash of city noise bursting around his head, but Buddy caught something there. Even when it was quiet, when the darkness had fallen and the streets had gone still and their mothers had not yet stepped out on their galleries to call sweetly for them to come home, he would hold a finger to the night and whisper, "You hear, Tino? You hear?" Valentin tried, but only Buddy heard.

Later on, he became a family man who attended church socials and a cornetist of no particular distinction. He gave lessons to young boys who would rather have been playing baseball. His horn announced, in stately tones, births and confirmations and weddings and funerals, all the momentous occasions of life in the Uptown neighborhoods.

But then he got hired for a job with a band that worked a Rampart Street saloon, a dank, sweaty, bucket-of-blood patronized by no-good rounders, cheap whores and assorted minor criminals who didn't give a good goddamn what he played, as long as it was loud. Which suited him just fine; he was sick to death of polite music and polite audiences. And so he began spending long nights in that smoky back-of-town beer hall, turning New Orleans music upside-down.

He left the standard styles in the dust and stumbled onto his own sound, a crazy quilt that was sort of like ragtime, sort of like the gutbucket music that some now called "blues," with touches of the old quadrille and schottische dances, and fat chunks of loud and happy church music thrown in for good measure. All of it blasted out at maximum volume in a frenzy of motion, like a one-man drunken parade.

Within a year, he was filling the Rampart Street saloons every night and people all over the city were talking. A local newspaperman, after venturing a trip back-of-town to witness the spectacle, reported that what Bolden played was musical "chatter," using the French jaser to dramatize his disdain. It stuck; and soon everybody back-of-town knew what it meant when a band went to jassing a tune.

But nobody jassed like Buddy, especially late at night, when he'd find himself a gutbucket moan, blowing his horn so deep blue it was almost black, and so hot it was like the pit of a burning coal; that, or he'd be in one of his famous rants, rushing up and down the stage like he was about to run right out of his mind, tearing jagged holes in the night, loud enough and rough enough, some swore, to rattle the bones of the most recently deceased in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.

Though a nickname was an honor reserved for veterans, people started calling him "Kid" Bolden. Then he did what no other New Orleans musician, veteran or otherwise, would dream of doing: he put his own name on his band. No Pickwick or Eagle or Excelsior for him; that wouldn't do at all. It was the "Kid Bolden Band." Then it was "King Bolden," and for the better part of two years, he truly was the king of New Orleans music. And then it began to fall apart.

No one could say for sure whether it was the Raleigh Rye that flowed through the streets like an amber river, or the hop or cocaine they sold at the apothecary, or the sweet, beckoning lips and heavy breasts and wide-spread legs of those lowdown whores, or some evil hoodoo woman, or even Satan himself that got to him. But whatever it was, his crazy business went into the street, and people were whispering to Valentin, back after a long time away, telling him how his mulatto boy Buddy Bolden was breaking into frantic pieces in front of uptown New Orleans and that maybe he just ought to look into it.

Valentin did, and discovered that Buddy had just stopped minding his manners altogether and was pushing his insides to the outside, right through the silver bell of his cornet. He did whatever he wanted, drank too much, fucked any woman he could get his hands on and hit the pipe when the yen came upon him. Meanwhile, he remained loving to his wife and daughter and kind to his friends.

But soon the cracks turned into gaping holes and Valentin heard regular reports of his fits and tantrums and blue funks. There were brawls in the music halls, spats with the fellows in his band, shouting fights that erupted from the windows of his house and echoed up and down First Street. The whispered word was that King Bolden was flat losing his mind.

Valentin saw it happening, but there was nothing he could do. Buddy, always headstrong, was a fast train careening down the track, all engine and no engineer, and God help anyone who got in the way. Anyway, Valentin had been gone too long, and things just weren't the same anymore.

The evening found him on the narrow balcony outside the rooms he let over Gaspare's Tobacco Store at the bottom of Magazine Street, a few blocks from the river. He sipped lemonade laced with rye whiskey as the darkness fell, bringing a cooling breeze. The Mississippi flowed by in the twilight, but he was conjuring the image of Annie Robie laid out on that divan. It was one of those things he should have gotten used to in his line of work, but never had. Maybe someone would write one of those mournful songs about her, he mused, a "blues" like all the guitar players were making up. Eddie McTier might have done it, but his singing days were over; Valentin had seen to that; and what an odd happenstance that he should be called to the scene of Annie's death just months after sending her man McTier down that last lonely road.

Now she was gone, and she'd soon be forgotten. Once the hoodoo woman cleared the haunted air, Cassie Maples would have no trouble finding someone to take the room. Come next Saturday night, the rounders would fill the lamp-lit parlor, drinking Raleigh Rye, listening to the Victrola, playing cards or dice, and waiting for a turn at whatever new dark-skinned girl lay across the divan with the faded silk shawl.

He looked south down Magazine, and as he watched the moonbeams flicker off the surface of the river, something familiar began to take shape, rising like an unformed ghost into the New Orleans night. For a moment, his gaze was fixed on nothing. Then he took a step back and shook his head and the shape fluttered away as if chased by a gust of wind off the water.

He poured what was left in his glass over the railing and heard it splash into the gutter below. He went inside, through his front room to the bedroom in the back. He unbuckled the stiletto in its sheath from his ankle, took his whalebone sap from his back pocket, and put both atop the dresser, then drew his pistol from the pocket of his jacket and slipped it under his pillow. He stripped down to his undershirt and drawers and crawled beneath a cotton sheet worn soft and thin. The window overlooking the tiny back lot and the alleyway was open, and mosquitoes buzzed around the electric lamp overhead, but he left the baire folded up over the headboard. He reached under the mattress for a volume of O. Henry that he kept hidden there. He had read only a few lines before his thoughts turned back to Annie.

He wondered if she had made plans for her Sunday, to go to church, to walk along the river, to sit with her face to a hazy Louisiana sun. He wondered if, in her last minutes, she had lost herself in wistful homesick thoughts of her kin back on the Delta. Did she recall Eddie McTier, her first sly corrupter? Or did she think about Buddy Bolden, her last man, with his black eyes full of a wild, white light?

Valentin rose up on one elbow. Bolden. Miss Maples had mentioned the late Mr. McTier, whom she hadn't seen in months, but not Bolden, a regular visitor. That news had been whispered by the homely girl in the filthy maid's outfit. He lay back, staring at the cracks in the ceiling plaster. Why not volunteer that bit of information? Because it pointed to King Bolden, of course, and Cassie Maples and all the others would want to protect him. Crazy or sane, he belonged to them.

They would have little regard for a history winding back to sun-dappled mornings on the corner of First and Liberty. Maybe Valentin and Buddy were friends once, but all the madams and the rounders and the sporting girls saw was a Creole fancy man who talked like a professor and passed so easily for white that he remained in the employ of Tom Anderson himself.

Valentin still knew Buddy better than any of them, but it didn't signify; it wouldn't matter at all that his first instinct would be to protect him, too.

Copyright © 2001 by David Fulmer

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:


    This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The 1900's in New Orleans was a reckless, dangerous and mysterious time. David Fulmer really creates wonderful - colorful characters. The description of the prostitutes, the brothels and the muscicians are fantastic. You will find this book hard to put down. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is the first in a series and I'm going to buy the other three. I can't wait to start reading David Fulmer again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Gritty tale in old-time New Orleans

    Fulmer's portrayal of turn of the century New Orleans explores the seedy side of life against the backdrop of the explosion of a true American art form, jazz. His characters are richly drawn, especially the creole detective, Valentin St. Cyr. Good guys have bad tempers, and bad guys turn this into a good story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2005

    Brings 1900's New Orleans to Life

    This evocative novel puts the reader right down in Storyville New Orleans 1907. You can almost smell the smells and see the sights, such is Fulmer's ability to bring the period to life. The mixing of his fictional detective Valentin St.Cyr with real people of the era left me having to remind myself that this was fiction, it was so well written. My father was a huge fan of New Orleans jazz and yet I had never heard of Buddy Bolden. I hate to slam other people's reviews, but this is definitely not for middle shool readers. It is set in the red light district of New Orleans and does describe some sex scenes between the prostitutes and their johns as well as drug use. I wasn't a bit offended, I imagine that's just what it was like. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but suffice to say if you've ever walked in the area of the French Quarter and wondered what it would have been like in the days of Storyville (which was all demolished long ago) this is the closest I've ever come. It was also a great mystery and I will be looking for Mr. Fulmer's other books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2004


    I was extremely excited when I found out about this book; the era facinates me as well as the subject matter, however, this was a real disappointment. I found it lacking in plot developement as well as character biographies; There weren't many details to help feed the imagination. Although a relatively short novel, it seemed the overall language was geared towards a younger audience (say Middle School?). If you want something to just pass the time in your doctor's office, by all means, pick it up, but, if you are looking for an in depth entertaining read, you will not be satified.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2014

    Better than I expected

    I bought this because it was on sale as an e book and didn't expect much, but it turned out to be quite a page turner! If you are interested in jazz, or New Orleans, or history, read this, especially if you like mysteries.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2014

    Murder and mayhem

    Storyville, jazz, sex and murders all connected by a black rose.
    Quite the recipe for an interesting tale. Listen for the sound of the wildest trumpet. Being played by the wildeyed, whiskey drinking King Buddy Boldon. A retired priest is hastily committed to an Institue for the insane. It is an interesting book. Come on in, the party is just beginning.

    J M Lydon

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2013


    Stands"if youll excuse me i have to get a little pest out of camp"

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2013


    Yeah it was))
    Devil looks at him "good now time for questions." She sat down "if a clanmate is injured and needs help do you keep fighting or help them?"

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2003

    Great Read, historically correct!

    The title certainly describes the content of the story. The history and sad demise of the character Buddy Bolden's mind shows how mental illnes untreated can ruin lives other than just the one afflicted. Prejudices of the last century abound. 'Free America' still had a caste system, it was just covered up or ignored. Characters become startlingly real.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 14 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)