Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?
I certainly do, and with their annual queerlit gathering,Saints and Sinners, just around the corner, that unique morning-in-the-Quarter smell of bleach, vomit, stale beer and jasmine lingers in my thoughts.Thankfully, I have Jameson Currier’s marvelous new novel, The Wolf at the Door to tide me over until I get off the plane
It’s the story of Avery Greene Dalyrymple III, co-owner of Le Petite Paradis, a Dumaine Street B&B, his current business partner and former bed-mate, Parker, and the many ghosts who occupy the hotel with them. A death in the hotel unravels Le Petite Paradis’s spirit world, bringing to light a cruel slave past that manifests itself in foo-lights, wolf apparitions and dead lovers that threaten the living.
The plot is a bit complicated and difficult to summarize, but it unfolds so naturally and organically that you never lose track or become disengaged. Currier’s writing is up to his usually high standards, which means that he can make you smile and scare the crap out of you in the same paragraph. And I believe his work here to be his richest, most personal and heartfelt yet.
More than being a good ghost story, The Wolf at the Door is one gay man’s spiritual journey, though not as boring and dry as that sounds. Though he’s been looking mostly in the bottom of bourbon bottles, Avery’s search for spiritual belonging – finding God in ghosts– is as universal as it gets, and Currier brings it to life with both wit and wonderment. Blending philosophy with good old-fashioned scares, Currier makes the impossible look effortless. The ending, which I won’t spoil for you, actually brought a catch to my throat and a tear to my eye.
The book even looks good. I rarely comment on cover art, but I have to give props to Bryan Cunningham, whose paintings on both the front and back conjure up the French Quarter as vividly as Currier’s writing, which is no easy feat.
So, forget the beach reads this spring – the tawdry dramas of all those pretty muscle boys fade away quicker than watercress sandwiches. Sink your teeth into Jameson Currier’s spicy all-you-can-eat ghost and God gumbo. It’ll stick to your ribs, stir up your brain cells and lodge in your soul.
Until I get to walk the cracked sidewalks of Bourbon Street again, that’ll do just fine.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler