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From Barnes & NobleAcclaimed author David Lozell Martin returns to the forefront of the crime field with his strongest novel since Cul-de-Sac. Here, he gives us the wonderfully bizarre PELIKAN, a mixture of humor and vice that is also a literary feast of eccentric characterization and a twining of illicit events that's bound to delight the reader and hold his attention to the final outlandish scene.
Thirty-something Charlie Curtis is summoned to his estranged father's deathbed and sent on one final "assignment" for his brazen old man: track down Charlie's uncle James Joseph, better known in New Orleans's French Quarter as Pelikan. Pelikan is a savvy hustler infamous for his outrageous schemes, philosophies, felonious activities, and his even more unusual troupe of street-folk followers. He is beloved by most but reviled by a few of the nastier denizens of the Quarter. Charlie, who during his teen years was raised by Pelikan amidst the bars, whores, and misdeeds of New Orleans, hasn't visited his uncle or the city since Pelikan stole the love of Charlie's life, Amanda, over a decade ago. Despite the time that's gone by, Charlie still harbors pain and resentment, but follows out his dying father's wishes.
Charlie has barely arrived in New Orleans when he witnesses the murder of one of Pelikan's cronies, Three Jacks on the Floor, committed by a naked woman who disappears beneath the waters of a dyed-green pool. Knowing he'll immediately be suspected, Charlie flees and tries to bury himself among the mayhem of the French Quarter, but it takes no time at all before former friend and police detective, Mean Gene Renfrone, shows up. Gene may or may not be working with Pelikan's nemesis Gallier, a one time accomplice who is now at odds with Pelikan over an upcoming heist that involves an ancient religious relic. Somebody has set Charlie up, but is it the roguish Pelikan who is about to betray his own blood, or the high-mannered Gallier who seeks to reclaim his lost inheritance of treasured paintings?
Written in alternating chapters, from Charlie's first-person account and an omniscient point of view, David Lozell Martin takes the reader on a journey that no single narrative voice could completely convey. In the character of Pelikan, Martin has skillfully captured the intensity and vast contradictions of a city known for its beauty, history, corruption, and depraved excesses. Pelikan is the living embodiment of a culture founded on piracy, refinement, and dishonorable family tradition.
Martin makes the microcosm of the French Quarter come to life while skirting all the clichéd pitfalls a place like New Orleans offers. You'll find no Cajun lingo, crawfish, or Anne Rice vampire wannabes here, but you will discover a unique mixture of uncommonly off-center characters, including nuns with guns, heartbroken clowns, a swamp dweller known as "Papa Gator" who makes peculiar use of snapping turtles, and plenty of thieves of every stripe.
Only the proficient David Lozell Martin could convincingly make use of the urban myth of a traveling salesman whose kidney is removed and harvested in a hotel room -- and utilize the heinous legend to benefit the unusual story line. The street grittiness of prostitution and street hustle crime is balanced with so much tenderness, poignant family bonding, and outrageous humor that the reader will be touched by flashes of whimsy even while horrified by the slow unveiling of grotesque circumstances. Pelikan is a rare and thrilling experience as intoxicating and breathtaking as the French Quarter itself.