Crawfish Mountain

Crawfish Mountain

5.0 1
by Ken Wells

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Ken Wells’s highly acclaimed picaresque Catahoula Bayou novels introduced “one of the most compelling voices in fiction of the last decade” (Los Angeles Times). Now Wells is back, writing about his favorite subject–the exotic, beleaguered Louisiana wetlands–in a sharp, rollicking tale of corporate corruption and political…  See more details below


Ken Wells’s highly acclaimed picaresque Catahoula Bayou novels introduced “one of the most compelling voices in fiction of the last decade” (Los Angeles Times). Now Wells is back, writing about his favorite subject–the exotic, beleaguered Louisiana wetlands–in a sharp, rollicking tale of corporate corruption and political shenanigans. The fight over one man’s tract of sacred marsh fronts a deeper story of our place in the environment and our obligations to it.

Justin Pitre’s marsh island, a legacy of his trapper grandfather, is a scenic rival to anything in the Everglades, and he has promised to protect it from all harm. But he hasn’t counted on oil bigwig Tom Huff’s plans to wreck his bayou paradise by ramming a pipeline through it. When cajolery doesn’t sway Justin to sign the land over, Huff turns to darker methods. But Justin and his spirited wife, Grace, prove to be formidable adversaries–and the game is on.

Into the fray comes the charismatic Cajun governor Joe T. Evangeline, who seems more interested in chasing skirts than saving Louisiana’s eroding coast. The Guv, though, is a man on the edge, upended by a midlife crisis and torn between a secret political obligation to Big Oil and the persuasive powers of Julie Galjour, a feisty environmentalist. Julie is clearly out to reform more than the Guv’s ecopolitics, but will his tragicomic Big Oil deals wreck both his career and his chances with the brash and beautiful activist?

As Justin and Grace battle to stop this Big Oil assault, the plot thickens–and the Guv becomes snared in the web. Featuring a gumbo of eccentrics and lowlifes, a kidnapping, a sexy snitch, a toxic-waste-dumping scheme, a boat chase, and a fishing trip gone horribly awry, Crawfish Mountain, spiced with Ken Wells’s keen eye for locale, showcases his adventurous storytelling.

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Editorial Reviews

Michael Dirda
…just because such writers are funny, often very funny, doesn't preclude them from addressing serious issues. That's certainly the case for Ken Wells in his entertaining new novel set in Louisiana's Cajun country…The basic plot is classic: Tom Huff, of Standard of Texas Oil, wants to dredge a pipeline through wetlands owned by Justin Pitre. But Justin promised his grandfather never to sell the family's old fishing camp. He refuses the Texan's offer, so Huff naturally ups the pressure, indicating that dire consequences might ensue for those dear to the stubborn Cajun. From here matters grow darker and increasingly, as well as delightfully, convoluted. Before Wells brings his novel to an end, he treats us to industrial sabotage, corporate theft, undercover police work, seduction, kidnapping and a whole lot of Cajun culture. It's the last that makes this book special and gives it the real Tabasco tang. Where else, after all, would you find characters named Roulin Lasseine, Ti-Ray Lajaune, Juke Charpentier, B.J. Duplessis, Minna Cancienne and Sheriff "Go-Boy" Geaux? So if you enjoy crawfish and shrimp and Dixie beer, not to mention good fishing, good ol' boys and good-looking women, you're in the right novel.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal

Wells (Logan's Storm), a native of the Louisiana bayous, is a writer with a purpose, and although his purpose may be transparent, his message is clear and his story is a gem. When Justin Pitre inherited Crawfish Mountain, a 500-acre tract of beautiful bayou wetland, he vowed to maintain it in its pristine condition. However, Tom Huff, regional vice president of Standard of Texas Oil Company, is determined to run a pipeline through the land, and uses threats, intimidation, and political clout to get his way. As Justin and his wife, Grace, plot a strategy to save their land, which takes an unplanned turn toward revenge, some of Huff's activities-illegal dumping of toxic waste, bribery of state officials, and plans for cutting a shipping channel through the bayous-come to light. What evolves is a battle of good and evil, with the governor, a cadre of state and local officials, environmentalists, and private citizens getting involved. A serious tale told in a rollicking style, with large doses of humor, irony, intrigue, and a wonderful sense of time and place, Well's latest novel is a sure winner. Highly recommended.
—Thomas L. Kilpatrick

Kirkus Reviews
Cajuns battle Big Oil to protect their bayou patrimony in Well's farcical fourth (Logan's Storm, 2002, etc.). Justin and Grace Pitre haven't a worry in the world, except getting pregnant at the bayou "camp" left to Justin by his grandfather and wondering if Justin will ever best Grace's record catch of a 40-pound redfish. But the forces of capitalism have no concern for the idyllic existence of a couple of Acadians, nor for the fragile ecosystem of the Louisiana bayous, where habitats are compromised by pollution, salt water inroads on freshwater swamps and the heavy footprint of the oil industry operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Tom Huff, diminutive tyrant who runs Big Tex's oil interests in Louisiana, wants to speed up oil shipments by dredging a channel through Justin's land. He's also illegally dumping toxic sludge in coastal swamps, causing massive fish kills. Louisiana's "Guv," Joe T. Evangeline, sympathizes with a coalition of swamp rats opposing the destruction of the state's wetlands. A reformed womanizer, he longs to court jolie-laide Julie, environmentalist attorney. He regrets accepting a bribe from Huff during a booze-fueled jaunt to Vegas. Big Tex's rival Oka-Tex is surveilling the dumping, as is tree-hugging rabble-rouser "Dr. Duck." Meanwhile, Tom's new secretary and paramour Daisy is spying on him for whatever tiny segment of law enforcement is not on Tom's payroll. Remember Justin? Through a corrupt chain of events, his father Wilson's job and retirement are threatened, forcing Justin to cede the right-of-way to Big Tex. But he can't resist sinking the dredging rig sent in to dig up the Camp. Now fugitives, Justin and Grace kidnap Evangeline. But Huff is about to bebrought down anyway. Big Tex is fixing to sell him out, along with their Louisiana division, to Oka-Tex. Despite a less-than-formidable villain in Huff, and a tortuously convoluted plot, there's much to entertain and engage crawfish, jambalaya and Dixie beer aficionados, not the least Wells' sharp ear for dialogue and his Cajun nostalgia for the "forest primeval."

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.42(h) x 1.29(d)

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Chapter 1  

The Origins of Paradise a hand-scrawled letter dated october 4, 1990

To my Grandson Justin Pitre,

I’m sory that I don’t write or spell so good but this is something I wanted to put down on paper. Yor PawPaw is getting to old to fish but I appreciate how you still try to get me to the camp. I still like to go out there and sit in my rocking chair on my front porch. I guess I don’t mind my beer neither. You know that porch got to have the pertiest view in South Louisiana. We’ve had us some good times out there and caught us some fish. You keep on catching them because yor Daddy and Momma like them redfish and speckle trouts. Me to. Can you believe I will be 89? When I was 79 I didn’t feel like an old man. But now I feel old as the swamp and I don’t remember everything good as I used to. So before I get to old to write clear I wanted to let you know I’m giving you the camp and all the land around it. I’ve talked it over with yor Daddy and he thinks this is right. He likes going to the camp ever so often but he wulnd’t know what to do with it. Nobody loves the place more than you and me. You were perty much raised out there. You know when I bought the place 62 years ago from the sugar company I gave pennies an acre for it because people then didn’t think the marsh and swamp was worth nothing. But swamp rats like us know that’s not true. That cypress grove we got on the north side got trees older than me and you put together. You ever seen more spider lilies in the spring than what we got out there? That bird fellow who come out long ago told me that he went all over the country down in Florda to that place called the Everyglades and didn’t see nothing there that we don’t have at Crawfish Mountain. In the old days, I trapped so many muskrats in our marsh that people thought I had me a muskrat ranch hid someplace. Not too many places have muskrats left but we still got some and some otters to. And more gators than you can count. Funny I spent my life trapping and hunting and skinning them critters but now I just get a kick out of watching them. I only have a few things to ask you. I know the little shack is not the pertiest but I built it good with my own hands. If it burns down or if the hurricane comes and knocks it down I want you to build it back facing like it was, with the front porch toward the Gulf and the back porch facing our swamp. I don’t know about heaven but if there is a heaven that’s where yor Mawmaw Myrsa is. So that’s where I’m planning to go when I die (though maybe I’m not in charge of that.) Its nice to think me and her could be sitting up there together and see you looking out at the same things we saw. I know I don’t probly need to say this but don’t let nobody mess with our marsh and our swamp. A lot of that prairie out around us is going to hell and sinking but our land is good because we always kept it just the way God made it. Don’t sell the camp to nobody, neither, no matter what they say they will give you. I never told you but I had more offers to sell the place than crawfish got legs. I know a lot of those rich sports up in Black Bayou town would pay an arm and a leg to put a fancy hunting camp on our land. But when I first paddled around our island all them years ago I knew there were things about that place that money can’t buy. And you won’t find a chenier that’s higher nowhere. Twenty five foot isn’t much to people who live in hills or such. But out in that flat country, where hurricanes can bring a lot of water, its as close to a mountain as you going to find. I don’t have the spring in my step I used to but maybe we can go to the camp on my birthday if it don’t turn to cold. One day you probly going to have to put me in that old wheel barrow and push me up the ramp from the dock. That’s going to be a sight, huh Justin?

Yor PawPaw who loves you,
Jack Pitret

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Crawfish Mountain 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good read in itself but I have the audio version also & hearing it read by a good orator as Dick Hill makes a world of difference! Suggestion, if you plan to travel any distance &/or just listening in your vehicle is great to have. I replayed this on several occasions & a daughter that took it with her on a trip to Wisconsin & back to visit in-laws absolutely enjoyed the audio play. Even her mother-in-law as requested an audio copy my daughter ordered thru B&N & had it shipped to her!