DeVille’s debut novel, the first in a planned series, is an expansive, detailed history of post-World War I Louisiana as told from the perspective of a principled reporter.
Newly returned from Europe after covering the war for a Maryland-based journal, Teophile Landry (“Téo” for short) finds his native Louisiana in a major state of upheaval. Prohibition has hit, the fight for universal suffrage is raging, labor unions are finding major, sometimes-violent resistance, and panics over Communist infiltration are becoming the norm. Theodore Roosevelt has just died, Helen Keller is a national figure, and Huey P. Long and J. Edgar Hoover are just beginning to rise in their respective professions. Téo takes all of this in while pursuing his new assignment—following Louisiana gubernatorial hopeful John Parker on the campaign trail. His world is populated by a diverse group of friends, including sax-playing dentist Sal and his Italian family; Paul and Emma and their two children, an African-American family trying to start a new life in New Orleans; and Jane, an advocate for women’s suffrage. DeVille has researched every last detail of this world to give readers an immersive experience. They are exposed to the music, movies, and technology of the era, and most extensively, the politics of the day. It’s centered in Louisiana but DeVille manages to provide a global perspective by having Téo follow world events throughout. That’s mostly a strength but it can be a weakness; in parts, DeVille simply lists headlines and short news items for pages at a time and the narrative starts to drift a bit too far from Téo and the main action. The book also gets into the minutiae of Parker’s campaign, including near-transcripts of Téo’s interviews with the candidate. DeVille balances that element with personal stories, however, such as Paul and Emma’s troubles when their former lives come calling.
Often engaging historical fiction that entertains and informs.