Books by Christine Wiltz

GLASS HOUSE by Christine Wiltz
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 1, 2001

Wiltz's careers as mystery writer and TV documentarian influence this sociology-heavy novel, first published in 1994, which was inspired by the shooting of a New Orleans policeman in 1980, and its racially charged aftermath. A reluctant southerner, Wiltz's female protagonist returns to her native New Orleans when she inherits a family home. But the uneasily integrated city disturbs her greatly, and the liberal-minded woman finds herself mired in fear and tension. Kirkus found the plot-driven narrative "gripping" and "thought-provoking," without being "pedantic." A message-novel of sorts, we thought its delivery was "fair," and that Wiltz was "a calm, quiet voice that deserves to be heard." No doubt, it still does. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 1, 2000

Wiltz's biography of Norma Wallace, proprietor of New Orleans's longest continuously operating bordello, exposes the madam's sordid tricks of the trade, yet somehow manages to strip the most titillating frills away from her story. Wallace, learning early in life that sex could pay for many things she otherwise couldn't afford, began her life of prostitution in Memphis at the ripe age of 14. With a savvy knack for self-preservation, she returned to her roots in New Orleans and established her own sporting house, beginning her celebrated career as a New Orleans sexual institution. The city's richest families patronized her establishment, as did movie stars, foreign dignitaries, and local officials. With such a range of clients, Wallace gained access to all the town's dirty secrets, making her more than a match for the many reform-minded district attorneys and mayors who hankered to shut her down. In addition to Wallace's professional life, Wiltz (Glass House, 1994, etc.) depicts her subject's search for domestic bliss with five husbands and many more lovers, including a former boxer punched nearly blind, a hit man for Al Capone, and a young Louisiana buck 39 years her junior who helped her try to go legitimate as the owner of a family restaurant. Wiltz also roams beyond Wallace's professional and romantic affairs to spotlight her state's infamously crooked politics, the licensed depravities of the French Quarter, and Wallace's humorous attempt to realize a pastoral ideal in the backwoods amid a community of righteous citizens. Though using Wallace's illustrious X-rated career to balance a wider range of Big Easy corruption should produce surefire pleasure, only the most ravenous consumers of brothel culture will stand for Wiltz's cutesy wordplay (almost 20 percent of the chapter titles pun on "trick") and pedestrian prose. The real shame here is that Wiltz dressed up her story so licentiously instead of borrowing more of Wallace's own shoddy finery. Read full book review >
GLASS HOUSE by Christine Wiltz
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Jan. 1, 1994

The author of three mysteries (The Emerald Lizard, 1990, etc.) and coauthor of a TV documentary on David Duke, Wiltz was inspired by the 1980 shooting of a white New Orleans policeman and its bloody aftermath to focus on the issue of race relations in her city—resulting in a gripping, thought-provoking drama that begins with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: ``As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.'' Thea Tamborella is not sure she wants the inheritance her Aunt Althea has thrust upon her: a Garden District mansion on the all- white end of Convent Street. The house harbors painful memories for Thea, who was forced to live there after her parents, grocers on the wrong side of town, were shot to death by a robber. Pushed into an exclusive private school, expected to take her place in New Orleans society, teenaged Thea waited out her Convent Street sentence until she was old enough to flee to the East Coast. Returning ten years later, she finds little changed, but everything made more so: Delzora Monroe, her aunt's housekeeper and once Thea's closest friend, still dusts the furniture but is perhaps a little more surly; her son, Burgess, once Thea's playmate, still charms with his smile but makes his living now as a drug dealer; Thea's high-school boyfriend, Bobby, is as ineffectual a rich boy as ever; while Sandy and Lyle Hindemann, once the golden society couple, have created a beautiful home and family, only to live in utter terror of the black ``mobs'' across St. Charles Avenue. As Thea renovates her house, she finds herself swept up again in the city's reciprocal fear, suspicion, and resentment, until the hair- trigger inter-racial tensions are tripped once again and men on both sides of the avenue take up arms. Never pedantic, always fair: Wiltz's message is that fear—and guns—are the enemy, and the choice is to not kill or be killed. A calm, quiet voice that deserves to be heard. Read full book review >