Skip to main content

Jewell Parker Rhodes publishes second voodoo book

November 05, 2008

Kind Dog is back, as is Dr. Marie Laveau.

But an unwelcome character joins them in Jewell Parker Rhodes’s newest book, “Yellow Moon,” the second book in a trilogy about voodoo, set in contemporary New Orleans.

Wazimamoto – a vampire who drains the blood out of innocent people – is the sinister presence in “Yellow Moon.”   

The creature begins to make his presence known as the book opens, giving the reader a clue that something supernatural is beginning to happen, and that it is not good:

“Drifting in darkness, lost in the vast Atlantic, it woke. Where had it been? Where was home? No answer. Only longing as it drifted in icy waters, among currents and tides, shipwrecks and murdered slaves’ brittle bones.

“What was it? Who?

“It couldn’t remember.”

Dr. Marie Laveau, who is the fictional great-great-granddaughter of legendary 19th century voodoo queen Marie Laveau, is at home in her New Orleans apartment with Kind Dog, her good and faithful canine friend, and her adopted daughter, Marie-Claire, when she is summoned to Charity Hospital.

At the emergency room, however, she learns that she has been called to view a corpse, not a living patient in critical condition.

The victim, a dockworker, shows no apparent cause of death. But the body shockingly and mysteriously has been drained of blood.

“The body wasn’t much more than a skeleton, brown flesh stretched over bone. Lying on the gurney – bones stiff, skin deflated – the body seemed a cruel joke. A papier-mâché or wood-cut of a body. A made thing, not a dead man,” Rhodes writes.

More people are found dead, drained of blood, and it becomes apparent that the killer is after Marie, too.

“Voodoo Season,” the first book in the trilogy, introduces the contemporary Marie Laveau, who changes her name from Marie Levant to Marie Laveau after she begins to feel the stirrings of her spiritual gift, which she inherited from her great-great-grandmother and moves from Chicago to New Orleans.

The murder-mystery series actually is a spin-off of Rhodes’ first New Orleans book, “Voodoo Dreams: A Novel of Marie Laveau.” which was historical fiction. (Those who have read “Voodoo Dreams” will begin to figure out who the murderer is in “Yellow Moon” as the book comes to an end.)

Writing the murder mysteries – which also contain a bit of romance – was a chance for Rhodes, who is known for her historical fiction, to “stretch her wings as a writer,” she said. 

She currently is working on the third book in the series, “Hurricane Levee Blues,” which is about New Orleans post-Katrina and the discriminatory practices and subsequent injustices residents suffered after the hurricane.

Rhodes additionally is writing a children’s book, “The Ninth Ward,” which also focuses on New Orleans’ residents suffering post-hurricane.

The murder mysteries and children’s stories are but a side road for Rhodes, whose first love still is writing stories about significant events and people in the past.

“I plan to write more young-adult literature, then go back to my historical fiction,” said Rhodes.

Though she usually bases her stories on historic people and events, her segue into New Orleans after Katrina was accidental.

“’Voodoo Season’ was published the day Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the levees broke,” Rhodes said. ”I have never worked on a book where present-day history has impacted in so much.”

Rhodes, who is currently artistic director for global engagement for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, will read from “Yellow Moon” at 7 p.m., Nov. 20 at Barnes & Noble, Desert Ridge.