My Juliet

My Juliet

by John Ed Bradley

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In his most enthralling novel since the acclaimed Tupelo Nights, John Ed Bradley tells a scorching story of sex and death in sultry New Orleans.

After years as an “actress” in California, Juliet Beauvais is drawn back to town with the promise of a big inheritance. But she finds her “dying” mother all too healthy and making other

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In his most enthralling novel since the acclaimed Tupelo Nights, John Ed Bradley tells a scorching story of sex and death in sultry New Orleans.

After years as an “actress” in California, Juliet Beauvais is drawn back to town with the promise of a big inheritance. But she finds her “dying” mother all too healthy and making other plans. Fortunately for Juliet, Sonny LaMott has been carrying a torch for her all these years, and he’s easily lured into a scheme that’s sure to get Juliet what she deserves. Twisted, gothically atmospheric, and replete with surprise, My Juliet is a deliciously dark and mordantly funny tale.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Combines a plot that sizzles with mystery and a perfect sense of the city.”
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

My Juliet lives up to the shining promise of his brilliant first novel Tupelo Nights. [It] is a dazzling virtuoso performance.”
—Harry Crews, author of A Feast of Snakes

“A tale as torrid and enticingly dangerous as the back alleys of New Orleans.”
—Scott Anderson, author of The Man Who Tried to Save the World

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
No New Orleans story is complete without murder, sex and family secrets, and Bradley (Tupelo Nights) amply supplies all three in this moody, sadly comic novel, his first in six years. Juliet Beauvais, 32, is the prodigal daughter of a waning aristocratic family whose patriarch, Juliet's father, died many years ago under mysterious circumstances. After a 15-year exile, she hears that her mother is moribund, and gleefully returns to Nawlins to collect her inheritance. Problem is, her mother isn't really sick at all: it was just a trick to get Juliet away from Los Angeles, where she'd been working in porn films. Disappointed and flat broke, Juliet is forced to confront (i.e., have sex with) the men from her past, including a bisexual sax player, a one-legged petty crook and a down-on-his-luck painter named Sonny LaMott, who's been obsessed with Juliet since they went steady in high school. Inevitably, LaMott still can't resist her. But Juliet proves to be less interested in LaMott than she is in claiming her birthright and uncovering the secret behind her father's death. Both eventually come to pass, though not in ways she expects--Juliet's ultimate fate is tragic but unsurprising, at least to anyone familiar with Blanche DuBois. In fact, the novel pays a self-conscious homage to Tennessee Williams, and if Bradley is unable to duplicate the playwright's masterful atmosphere, he still manages to muster some evocative observations. An affected kiss is "the sort of half-felt gesture that college sorority girls, too sophisticated for handshakes, reward each other for just being wonderful." At time the depravity seems to be piled a bit high--how much drug abuse, pedophilia and kinky sex is really necessary?--but for the most part, Bradley's seamy story is balanced by enough witty dialogue and lush scenery to make a wild, suspenseful and ultimately bittersweet read. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Complete with a dark mood, an ensnared protagonist, and a beautiful femme fatale, Bradley s (Smoke) newest novel reads like a classic film noir script. Upon notification that her estranged mother is dying and that she is about to inherit the family estate, Juliet Beauvais, actress, stripper, and daughter of a prominent New Orleans family, returns home after 15 years in California. When she discovers that her mother s imminent demise is a ploy, vengeful Juliet turns to Sonny LaMott, an ex-lover obsessed with her since she left him many years before. Readers who love nail-biting, gut-wrenching thrillers may be disappointed in this novel. Its pace is as slow and lazy as a hot, Southern summer s day. Those who like a story with the flavor of a sultry New Orleans night, though, might find this work intriguing. Recommended for large public libraries. Leslie Madden, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Rhonda Johnson
A darkly powerful noir thriller dominated by the alluring, troubled Juliet...
Entertainment Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
The steamy ambience of suburban New Orleans tartly flavors this latest (following Smoke, 1994, etc.) of Bradley's wistfully comic portrayals of likable losers and the hardhearted women who rev up, then clog their engines. The helpless male is Sonny LaMott, a moderately gifted portrait and landscape painter, into his 30s and going nowhere, idling along on hopeful dreams of reunion with the girl who left home (and him) 15 years earlier. The fateful femme is Juliet Beauvais, a heedless beauty who walked out on her wealthy family for a brief "career" in California as an "actress" (in porn films, Sonny sadly learns). Juliet returns, hell-bent on shocking her kinfolk and neighbors, retrieving her share of the Beauvais fortune—and proving that her nice-as-pie mother "Miss Marcelle" had engineered her beloved daddy's "accidental" death by drowning. Soon the passive Sonny finds himself spinning dizzily in Juliet's orbit (and clutches) once again. Thereafter, the story veers agreeably between murder mystery and R-rated demonstration of the assertion (made to Sonny by an older fellow artist) that "Love is a torture and women the whip." Some vivid supporting characters pop up, including Sonny's bartender buddy Louis Fortunato, planning to "whack" the veterinarian he holds responsible for the death of his pet cat Frank; bisexual jazzman Leonard Barbier, who seems to have slept with just about everybody who's anybody; and the Beauvais' iron-willed black housemaid Anna Huey (who might be the half-sister of creepy Mrs. Manders in Du Maurier's Rebecca). There's a lot going on in this novel, whichdistinguishesit some from Bradley's earlier, laxly plotted, more self-indulgently sentimental work. The identity of Miss Marcelle's killer isn't much of a surprise, and the explanation for Juliet's bizarre behavior is both a little too neat and much too conventionally Freudian. Still, My Juliet has energy, and its fair share of hangdog southern gothic-comic charm. Bradley's best yet, and an encouraging sign that he's finally starting to put it all together.

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)

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Last of the whiskey consumed, the butt of his cheap Honduran cigar smoldering in a glass tray, Louis Fortunato staggers to his feet finally and slips the unlabeled videocassette into the VCR. It's what he came for, after all. And Sonny, if not yet drunk, is having a hard time staying awake.
"You sure you want to see this?" Louis says, punching buttons on the machine. "Hey, Sonny? I need to know, man. You sure you want to see this?"
Sonny LaMott, slow to open his eyes, sits up tall on the little Naugahyde sofa by the window. "It's not that I want to," he says. "I need to, brother. We both do."
The audio is poor and she makes more noise than either of them remembers but it's Juliet all right: the great head of hair, the hungry mouth,
the breasts capped with nipples no different in color than the too-pale flesh around them. She's sitting on a corduroy love seat with panties looped around one ankle, a thin gold chain around the other. Her legs are spread open. A mound of expertly trimmed pubic hair, the same golden shade as the hair on her head, holds the middle of the screen.
"Jesus," Louis says with a whistle, then abruptly breaks it off.
A man has entered the picture. He is tall and narrowly constructed, with a mole on his lower belly. It looks like a mole, anyway, although as easily it could be a botched tattoo. When after some encouragement from Juliet the man's penis comes up, Sonny lowers his head and looks away. He has to swallow, and this is difficult. Where on earth do they find guys like that? he wonders.
Juliet is happy and energetic, loud when expressing her pleasure, all too eager to please. Give her partner credit, he doesn't pander. He goes at it, working with concentration so high in his face that he could be trying to solve a math problem.
"This way . . ."
"Like that?"
"Come on, you. Give it to me. . . ."
Even louder than in the old days, if that is possible. To end it, Juliet uncorks a cry that sounds like an animal being tortured.
Sonny is about to say something when Louis, leaning close to the screen, snaps his head back and lets go a low gurgle of laughter. "God, man, can you believe the dick on this guy?"
The screen dissolves to bands of crackling white on a black field. The whole room, they're in Sonny's house, buzzes in the sudden silence.
Louis puts a fresh cigar in his mouth and lights it leaning into a burner on the kitchen stove.
Sonny, able to control himself no longer, retreats to the bathroom and weeps at the sink, scooping hands of water to his face.
He isn't there long when the sound of the movie comes again, the sound of Juliet like that.
"Hey, Sonny, does she still have her mannerisms?" Louis says to the empty space, his words mangled for the stogie in his mouth.
When Sonny returns to the living room Louis is crouched in front of the TV, pressing buttons and making the tape squeal in the box. "You want me to leave this with you?" he says. "Or you want me to take it? Better I take it, huh?"
"Leave it," Sonny says. "Leave it so I can put it out with the trash in the morning."
He throws the curtains open, a cloud of sun-bright dust spiraling around him. The effects of the whiskey have dissipated and all that remains is a taste of aluminum in his mouth. Sonny stands looking out past Chartres Street in the direction of the river, eyes drawn to a squint, lips bunched up close. Past the top of the levee and the Pauline Street Wharf the spires and funnels of a freighter move by.
Maybe it was the camera angle that made the guy look like that. What in school when he was a kid they called an optical illusion.
Now Sonny wonders if he ever satisfied her at all.
"Didn't I tell you she went crazy? I believe it now, brother, your girl went nuts."
"Just get out of my house, Louis."
"You remember Adelaide Valentine, right? Well, blame Adelaide for this. Don't blame me. She came in the restaurant the other night and she'd just found out about it herself—"
"Louis, did you hear what I said?"
"Your Juliet grew up to be a head case, brother. In and out of those drug clinics where nobody ever gets fixed. Arrested so many times for possession they named a wing after her in the county jail. Sonny, you have any questions call Adelaide."
"What will it take to make you go home?"
"Sometimes you act like you're the only guy who ever had it bad for a girl. You think you're special that way? Jesus Christ, man, have another look. Look at the little sweetheart you've been pining away for."
"Get out, you sonofabitch. I mean it."
Louis leaves the tape in the machine and limps to the door, his nub sucking and squeaking where it meets the leather sleeve of his prosthesis. It's a noise Sonny has never been able to get used to, even after all these years. At the door Louis turns back around. "Remember I only did this for your own good."
"Yeah? Well, thanks. Do I seem all better now?"
After he's gone Sonny cleans up the room then falls asleep on the sofa and sleeps so hard that when he wakes a couple of hours later he isn't sure where he is. He's a kid again. His father's outside on the lawn with a can of beer watching purple martins cut circles in the air above the birdhouse. His mother isn't dead years now but in the kitchen making supper. If he were to pick up the phone he could dial the Beauvais and hear the voice of Juliet, telling him their plans for the evening: "I was thinking we could start in the Quarter. I have an envie for oysters. Ever have an envie for something, Sonny? Ever get where you have to have it and if you don't have it you feel like you could just die? Do you love me like that, Sonny? Tell me how much you love me, Sonny. Tell me you love me so much that if you don't have me you'll just die. Tell me you have an envie for Julie, baby . . ."
Sonny sits up and lets the world reach him. The noise of ships unloading at the wharf, the stink from the seafood plant down the street. It takes him a minute to understand that he's alone in the Bywater, that he's Sonny at the surprising age of thirty-two: no wife, no kids, no family but what passes as his father in an Arabi nursing home. No birds outside, no food to eat. No nothing, really, but that tape in the VCR.
He watches it again, revisiting the part with Juliet half a dozen times, his face less than a foot from the screen. "Everything," she says. "Give it to me . . ."
Sonny recalls the line from the days when they were together. "What do you dream for us?" he asked her. "I know what I want," he said. "I want everything. Don't you want everything, Julie?"
"Yes," she said. "Oh, yes, Sonny. Everything. Give it to me. . . . Yes . . ."
Now when Sonny cries he doesn't care how loud he is or who hears.

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