Books by Albert Belisle Davis

MARQUIS AT BAY by Albert Belisle Davis
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 8, 1992

Davis's second novel (Leechtime, 1989) is another Faulknerian effort, convoluted and tortured, that again uses mock-oral history to tell the story of small-time intrigue—this time in a bayou town southwest of New Orleans. An outcast attorney from an old New Orleans family tries to find redemption amid characters who are by turns grotesque and Rabelaisian. James Marquis, the lawyer, comes to the bayou town and, representing indigents, meets Lineman, a black determined to succeed at whatever the cost, and Zeema, a local singer. Marquis gets drawn into the town's best-kept secret: Lineman's father, years ago doing some underhanded work for Roussell, the town's powerbroker, caused a baby to be killed, and Roussell secretly replaced the baby with an adoption. Forever after, Lineman, unscrupulous, has had leverage on Roussell. (Much of this narrative is pieced together after the fact by Molly, Marquis's wife, mostly from tapes her husband recorded.) Roussell's idea to import Zulu, a Mardi Gras club and celebration, to the bayou town serves as catalyst for much of the byzantine plotting that follows. That plotting involves elements from the Chronicles, a bizarre series of published histories of the Marquis family; the civil-rights movement; and a conversation with Albert Einstein. Roussell and Lineman reach an understanding, divide the town into separate ``kingdoms,'' and the book finally becomes mainly a series of transcriptions of interviews. Davis creates a unique world here, not easily penetrable but not like any other, either, and the reader is willing to forgive some murkiness and loose ends in return for originality: ``Just as in sleep [Marquis writes to Molly], one finds that any nightmare worth its name is in control throughout....'' Hard going, but the odd intricate contours of Davis's southern Louisiana world can be found nowhere else. Read full book review >
LEECHTIME by Albert Belisle Davis
Released: May 12, 1989

A tortured, convoluted first novel, set in the southern Louisiana cypress marshes, about a violent Cajun placed under a curse. The story, pretending to be oral history, concerns Adrian Cancienne, a man born in the Louisiana swamp during a dry autumn—or leechtime (the lowest days for the soul)—and takes place on a single day: October 20, 1976, the day a ferry collided with a tanker on the Mississippi. Full of violence, the threat of violence, and a haunted bayou atmosphere, the novel uses multiple voices: Adrian, nearly deaf from a water-tower accident; his confidant Simon, a former seminarian who saved Adrian's life; Adrian's wife Sara, who leaves him; Renard Perilleaux, the parish sheriff and Adrian's former Vietnam buddy; and Monsieur Red, a mad preacher. Sara, college-educated, moves with Adrian to a marsh fishing camp; there, spooked by Adrian and the marsh, she gets involved with another man, and finally wreaks vengeance for Adrian's violent reaction by taking up with Simon. But she leaves them both on October 20 via the doomed ferry. The fateful day includes a hunt by Adrian and Simon for a mythical manatee; lots of worked-over folklore and high-strung dialogue among the feverish denizens of the marsh; and a climax at the water tower that brings most of the characters (as well as reporters and cameras) together for a reunion orchestrated by Renard. The sheriff becomes a hero on the evening news, and Adrian survives his curse, though barely. Gothic anti-romance—sometimes shrill and self-indulgent, but worth reading for its sense of place and its bedeviled cast of grotesques. Read full book review >