Cajuns battle Big Oil to protect their bayou patrimony in Well’s farcical fourth (Logan’s Storm, 2002, etc.).
Justin and Grace Pitre haven’t a worry in the world, except getting pregnant at the bayou “camp” left to Justin by his grandfather and wondering if Justin will ever best Grace’s record catch of a 40-pound redfish. But the forces of capitalism have no concern for the idyllic existence of a couple of Acadians, nor for the fragile ecosystem of the Louisiana bayous, where habitats are compromised by pollution, salt water inroads on freshwater swamps and the heavy footprint of the oil industry operating in the Gulf of Mexico. Tom Huff, diminutive tyrant who runs Big Tex’s oil interests in Louisiana, wants to speed up oil shipments by dredging a channel through Justin’s land. He’s also illegally dumping toxic sludge in coastal swamps, causing massive fish kills. Louisiana’s “Guv,” Joe T. Evangeline, sympathizes with a coalition of swamp rats opposing the destruction of the state’s wetlands. A reformed womanizer, he longs to court jolie-laide Julie, environmentalist attorney. He regrets accepting a bribe from Huff during a booze-fueled jaunt to Vegas. Big Tex’s rival Oka-Tex is surveilling the dumping, as is tree-hugging rabble-rouser “Dr. Duck.” Meanwhile, Tom’s new secretary and paramour Daisy is spying on him for whatever tiny segment of law enforcement is not on Tom’s payroll. Remember Justin? Through a corrupt chain of events, his father Wilson’s job and retirement are threatened, forcing Justin to cede the right-of-way to Big Tex. But he can’t resist sinking the dredging rig sent in to dig up the Camp. Now fugitives, Justin and Grace kidnap Evangeline. But Huff is about to be brought down anyway. Big Tex is fixing to sell him out, along with their Louisiana division, to Oka-Tex.
Despite a less-than-formidable villain in Huff, and a tortuously convoluted plot, there’s much to entertain and engage crawfish, jambalaya and Dixie beer aficionados, not the least Wells’ sharp ear for dialogue and his Cajun nostalgia for the “forest primeval.”