The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp is not generally a book I would select for myself; but for this week’s New Title Tuesday pick, I chose to step out of my usual reading routine. And I’m glad I did. Besides, who can resist the siren-song of New Orleans – its music, losses, and its mysteries?
The Publisher’s Weekly described this debut novel: “Camp’s fantasy reads like jazz, with multiple chaotic-seeming threads of deities, mortals, and destiny playing in harmony. This game of souls and fate is full of snarky dialogue, taut suspense, and characters whose glitter hides sharp fangs.”
Publisher’s Summary: In 2011, Post-Katrina New Orleans is a place haunted by its history and by the hurricane’s destruction, a place that is hoping to survive the rebuilding of its present long enough to ensure that it has a future. Street magician Jude Dubuisson is likewise burdened by his past and by the consequences of the storm, because he has a secret: the magical ability to find lost things, a gift passed down to him by the father he has never known—a father who just happens to be a god. When the debt Jude owes to a fortune deity gets called in, he finds himself sitting in on a poker game with the gods of New Orleans, who are playing for the heart and soul of the city itself.
Bryan Camp is a graduate of the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop and the University of New Orleans’ Low-Residency MFA program. He started his first novel, The City of Lost Fortunes, in the backseat of his parents’ car as they evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. He has been, at various points in his life: a security guard at a stockcar race track, a printer in a flag factory, an office worker in an oil refinery, and a high school English teacher. He lives in New Orleans with his wife and their three cats, one of whom is named after a superhero.
The mythologies in The City of Lost Fortunes are from all points of the world – the old favs – Carribean, Egypt, Greece, Rome, but Camp also uses Dante’s Hell, angels, vampires, zombies, and the characters from a deck of Tarot cards. Comparisons will be made between this book and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. But, there’s room for both approaches and Camp possesses his own distinct voice.
Excerpt from The City of Lost Fortunes:
In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Void, and Ice in the North and Fire in the South, and the Great Waters. A universe created in a day and a night, or billions of years, or seven days, or a cycle of creations and destructions. The waters were made to recede to reveal the land, or the land was formed from the coils of a serpent, or half of a slain ocean goddess, or the flesh and bones and skull of a giant, or a broken egg. Or an island of curdled salt appeared when the sea was churned by a spear. Or the land was carried up to the surface of the waters by a water beetle, or a muskrat, or a turtle, or two water loons. However the world was made, it teemed with life; populated by beings who evolved from a single cell, or who were molded from clay or carved out of wood or found trapped in a clam shell. They wandered up from their underworld of seven caves, or fell through a hole in the sky, or they crawled out of the insect world that lies below. All of these stories, these beginnings, are true, and yet none of them are the absolute truth; they are simultaneous in spite of paradox. The world is a house built from contradictory blueprints, less a story than it is a conversation. But it is not a world without complications. Not without conflicts. Not without seams.
One of those complications was a man named Jude Dubuisson, flesh and blood and divine all at once, who stared out at Jackson Square, at the broad white expanse of St. Louis Cathedral, at the plump, fluttering mass of pigeons, at the tidal ebb and flow of tourists on the cobblestones, and saw none of it. He was likewise deaf to his surroundings: the constant mutter of the crowd, the hooves clopping on pavement, and the hooting echo of the steamboat’s calliope coming from the river. His attention was fixed inward, on thoughts of the old life he’d done his best to forget. All those years of standing between the worlds of gods and men, of the living and the dead.
The City of Lost Fortunes is a perfect fantasy vacay with a good balance of exposition, tension, and mystery a Trickster has to offer.
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