Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Orleans Mourning, A Skip Langdon Mystery by Julie Smith

New Orleans Mourning (Skip Langdon #1) (Skip Langdon Mystery) (The Skip Langdon Series)Oh, how I do love featuring Louisiana authors and I have another one for you this week! Julie Smith! She is the author of the Skip Langdon Mystery series that leaves you roaming the streets of New Orleans to solve crimes. Julie has also written a wonderful guest post, and we are giving away a copy of the book - so be sure and leave a comment!

New Orleans Mourning
It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and after spending most of his life trying to reach high society, Chauncy St. Amant has been crowned Rex, King of Carnival. But his day of glory comes to an abrupt and bloody end when a party-goer dressed as Dolly Parton guns him down. Skip Langdon, a rookie police officer and former debutante turned cynic of the uptown crowd, is assigned to the case. Scouring the streets for clues, interviewing revelers and street people with names like Jo Jo, Hinky and Cookie, and using her white glove contacts, the post-deb rebel cop comes up with a motive for murder that surprises even herself. New Orleans Mourning won the 1991 Edgar Award for best mystery novel.

Julie Smith
Image of Julie SmithAuthor of the Skip Langdon and Talba Wallis mystery series; Edgar-winner; New Orleans resident.
Also founder of, an electronic publishing start-up, and author of the YA paranormal adventure, CURSEBUSTERS!
Latest adventure:
I've reworked my writing class as an ebook called WRITING YOUR WAY (, with special emphasis on first chapters and marketing. You can see The Prose Nazi video below for an idea of my approach--i.e. flexible; designed to find YOUR best writing method, not force mine on you. We also have outtakes for your amusement. The third video, which I'll call GTFA, is a trailer for a fun parody book booksBnimble couldn't resist doing one rainy afternoon. Check out my websites,, www.booksBnimble,com (where I also blog) and

Some things being said about New Orleans Mourning:

Winner of the 1991 EDGAR ALLAN POE AWARD for BEST NOVEL and first mystery in the highly acclaimed Skip Langdon series.

"Smith is a gifted writer."

"Murder at the Mardi Gras and the flavor of New Orleans ... old secrets are highlighted in this wonderful story that is as filled with topical information as it is with a great story about murder and history. Smith writes with authority about her city."
--Ocala Star Banner
Guest Post

My Endlessly Beguiling Favorite Subject

“Research is endlessly beguiling, but writing is hard work.” So goes the saying they teach you in your first writing class, meant to get you off your lazy butt and hitting those keys. Ah, research! Such a seductress. Such a naughty distraction from real work.

Well, to me, yes and no. I spent the first 15 years of my professional life as a reporter, so I’m a bit of a fact fanatic. On the other hand, I think there was a point at which I got tired of asking questions that are none of my business and realized it was a lot more fun to make things up.

But sometimes, life and research kind of overlap. When I first moved to New Orleans, a green and eager graduate of Ole Miss, I was lucky enough to get any journalism grad’s dream job—feature writer on a big city newspaper, in this case the Times-Picayune. As such, I could set my own assignments. Enthralled with my new city, I set about getting to know it in a way that would permit me to go places I’d never have gotten into otherwise, ask questions the average person wouldn’t get away with. Kind of a license to steal—steal intel, anyhow! And I was as curious as a barnyard cat.

Naturally, my dear, I went to the Rex and Comus Balls--but I also rode with cops and thought up stories that would get me into the Desire and St. Thomas Projects. I even went into the convents of contemplative nuns. I peered into every corner—nothing was too fancy to be intimidated by, nothing too dangerous or seemingly forbidden. I wanted to see it all, and I did see quite a good chunk. What a year!

But I was also getting acclimated to New Orleans in the way any new resident might.  “Hey, did you say drive-in daiquiri stand? Say wha’?” “Pinch me, okay—can that be Fats Domino playing piano in this tiny club?” “Mynez? What’s that?”

Having no idea how rich a cultural scene I was actually witnessing—indeed had become a part of—I moved on to San Francisco, and came back some twenty years later to write about New Orleans. Things came back to me then—the funny way different kinds of people pronounce the city’s name (and mayonnaise!); the smells—oysters frying, tea olive--and vomit, of course; the endless crazy ways people celebrate Mardi Gras, especially the utter nuttiness of having clubs for the sole purpose of parading. (It was really hard to write “clubs” instead of “krewes” but this is after all the Internet—it’s possible someone outside Louisiana is reading this. If you are, these clubs are “krewes.”)

I put all that in New Orleans Mourning and more—much, much more. I fairly stuffed it with details. I was actually worried that I’d laid it on with a trowel. But you know what? Not one complaint! Everyone loved those details. It turns out our favorite saying here—“too much is not nearly enough”—couldn’t apply more when you’re dealing with a city like New Orleans! Well, make that when you’re dealing with New Orleans. There’s no other city like this.

          The author began the book with a prologue about the history of Carnival, which I thought was quite interesting. Having been raised just outside of the city, and living in Southern Louisiana my entire life, I have to confess to never having studied or researched the beginning of a tradition so large, that the entire Southern half of the state declares it a holiday. Some even think Carnival – known as Mardi Gras – to be bigger than Christmas.

          I have included some of the history on my blog where you can read the review in its entirety. A few facts about Carnival – just enough to whet your appetite – Carnival season last anywhere from thirty to sixty days and there are many who inebriate to the extent they may remember very little of the season.

          “Early on in Arcadia, to purify the soil, the priests painted themselves, the shepherds stripped naked, and for the former chased the latter over the landscape, merrily lashing them with goatskin whips…the church sought to end the hilarity…failed…in the spirit of compromise that has so often saved their bacon, the bishops offered their own celebration, neatly transforming a pagan debauch into a Christian one. It was first called Carnelavare, or “farewell to the flesh”, because it preceeded the forty Lenten days of fasting and penitence before Easter. But, one must be sober to pronounce such a word, and so it became simply “Carnival.”

          The medieval custom of holding parades, masquerades…in celebration…were handed down…”

          Having attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I can say first hand, it’s a wild time. There are also some very interesting tidbits about King Rex and the Boston Club that I was not aware of and I would so hate to ruin a good read by telling you all of the secrets.

          So, (in the book) when King Rex is murdered before he even approaches the Boston Club to toast his Queen, well, that’s Mardi Gras for you.

          Turns out, Skip Langdon, our young detective, much to her mortification, witnesses the murder. Amid all of the ensuing chaos that is Carnival, the murderer, dressed as Dolly Parton, escapes from a friend’s apartment.

          Left to inform the family of the murder, she encounters a family indicative of the colorful people found in New Orleans. And, in good Southern tradition, they all have nicknames; Bitty, Skippy, Cookie.

          Biddy, the alcoholic mother, Marcelle, the perfect, dutiful daughter, Henry, the transvestite trying to figure out if he’s gay son, Tolliver – closet queen or just in love with someone he’ll never have. There’s also Poppoo and Mommoo, and of course, Ma-Me’re and Pa-P’ere; as well as the requisite hooker or two (this is New Orleans!)

          Julia Smith weaves a wonderful who-dun-it that even left me guessing, long after I had the audacity to think I knew who the murderer was (and normally I figure it out.) She weaved a colorful cast of characters that reminded me of people I either know or have met. Skip Langdon even had a few “Lucy” moments that left me chuckling aloud.

          Skip wakes from a dead sleep to find that her apartment has been broken into, again, and the intruder is standing, poised to strike, next to her bed. He flees, with her in hot pursuit, bed hair and nightgown flying in the wind whilst brandishing a gun and yelling “Stop!” Definitely, a “Lucy” moment considering the chase went straight down New Orleans’ infamous Bourbon Street. Just another night in New Awlin’s folks.

          Just as you began to think, when is this book going to wind down because, of course, you’ve figured out who the murderer is, another crimp is thrown in, sometimes in the form of another murder, sometimes in the form of family drama (and there’s a load to draw from in New Orleans.)

          In the world of who-dun-its, I definitely think the book holds its own, and even stands out. For those of you who are fascinated by New Orleans and its culture, you will find the book quite intriguing as you follow Skip through the streets and “boroughs” of New Orleans in hot pursuit of a criminal and trying to prove herself as a cop. Oh! And, did I mention, you’ll get a taste of the political justice system called the New Orleans Police.

          I am going to leave you with a little New Orleans – New Awlins, never mayonnaise but my-nez, and that Na-poe-yun and not Napoleon if you really want to get there.

  '''Laissez les bon temps rouler!'  Let the good times roll! 

Don't forget to leave a comment with your email for a chance to win a copy of the book!
  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

New Orleans Mourning and the other Skip Langdon books can be found on Amazon.

If you found my review helpful, please follow the link below and vote yes for my review on Amazon. THANKS!

As always, thanks for taking the time to visit today!
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