The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

Fine carved angels and lit candles are dust cover background.Imagine a mashup of a novel by Judith Krantz and one by Stephen King and you’ll have an approximation of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour.

Rice begins her story in the present day, when a drowned man is revived by Rowan Mayfair, a neurosurgeon from a family of witches with special powers, who pulls him from the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay.

Michael Curry knows that while dead he was given some task to complete and given some unusual sensory powers. He’s forgotten what the task is and is scared by the powers.

Michael grew up poor, but grew a construction business that has made him wealthy.

By contrast, the Mayfairs are enormously wealthy and have been wealthy for four centuries: Rowan can write a check for two luxury cars on one day more casually than most people would write their monthly check to their electric company.

The duo fall in love and move to New Orleans where both their families have roots and Rowan’s family manages her trust fund.

It’s hard to care about the miseries of the super-rich, and even harder to care about the super-rich who may not even be human. Put their stories in a 965-page novel, and you’ve got a good doorstop.

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
Alfred A. Knopf. ©1990. BCE. 965 p.
(Lives of the Mayfair witches series)
1990 bestseller #9; my grade: C-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Arthur Hailey Dishes Up a Literary Mac-and-Cheese in Hotel

Hotel is a lot like home: The settings, personalities, and action are all comfortably familiar. By the time you’re a quarter way through the novel, you know how the main plot line will end.

Fortunately Arthur Hailey packs his 1965 novel with enough subplots that, although each of them is also familiar, the collection will keep you entertained.

Multi-story hotel is image on front dust jacket of Arthur Hailey's novel "Hotel"


 

Hotel  by Arthur Hailey

Doubleday, 1965. 376 pages. 1965 bestseller #8. My grade: B-.


Peter McDermott is the young general manger of a failing, privately-owned New Orleans Hotel, He’s competent and reliable, though hounded by a youthful indiscretion.

Peter would have fired several incompetent and unreliable senior staff members had the St. Gregory’s dictatorial owner, Warren Trent, not protected them.

Unless Trent can refinance the hotel’s mortgage by Friday, they will have to take their chances under new ownership.

When an elderly guest stops breathing, Peter and Trent’s assistant, Christine Francis, cope with the medical emergency and the staff actions that triggered the respiratory crisis.

They also become aware of each other as attractive, unattached individuals.

Hailey did his research. Right down to the fat security chief who’s never around when needed, the problems and personalities of St. Gregory staff look like those I saw while working in an independently owned hotel.

Hotel will occupy your time without straining your brain.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Unconquered shows unended War Between the States

Natural cotton plant
Natural Cotton

In The Unconquered, Ben Ames Williams picks up the story of the South during the mid-1800s that he began in House Divided.

Having lost their estates, Major Travis Currain and family move to New Orleans where he hopes to revive their fortunes by manufacturing cottonseed oil.

Trav’s old-South family ties and friendship with men of vastly different political persuasions let him see the events of Reconstruction from a variety of angles. Trav refuses to be drawn into Louisiana politics himself, but rising political tensions strike home anyway. Trav’s son, Peter, finds outlet for his sadism in murdering blacks; his daughter, Lucy, marries a former Maine schoolteacher who works for the despised Freedman’s Bureau.

Few writers can handle historical fiction as well as Williams, and here he is in top form.

The Unconquered shows the cauldron of Louisiana politics seething until it boils over, slinging death in all directions. Enough animosity remains for many years of smaller spills.

With the exception of the totally rotten Peter Currain,  the characters are each believable mixes of good and bad traits, but Williams makes even Peter believable.

The Unconquered drives home the point that the war isn’t over when the fighting ends—a truism as valid in Iraq or Afghanistan as in Louisiana.

The Unconquered
By Ben Ames Williams
Houghton Mifflin, 1953
683 pages
1953 bestseller #10
My grade A-

Photo credit: Natural Cotton by robertz65 http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1399348

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Net Is a Great Catch

The Net is a murder mystery and more.

Much more.

Norvin Blake arrives in Sicily in 1886 for the wedding of his best friend, Martel Savigno, who is a Mafia target. When assassins ambush them on the eve of the wedding, Norvin is unable to save Martel and his overseerer. Margherita is  widowed before she is wed.

Norvin is called home his dying mother.  Margherita and her companion, Lucretzia, have left Sicily and disappeared in New York City before Norvin gets his mother’s affairs settled in New Orleans.

Norvin enters the family cotton business. Mindful of his cowardice during the ambush, he trains himself to behave courageously.

When Sheriff Donnelly gets letters about Mafia activity in New Orleans, he recruits Norvin to help root it out. When Donnelly is murdered, Norvin takes over the chase personally.

Rex Beach lets readers enjoy seeing their predictions of the plot realized, then destroys their expectations in an astounding American version of Mafia mentality.

Beach ties up the story neatly, leaving nothing but the definition of justice unsettled.

The Net
by Rex Beach
Illus. Walter Tittle
1912 bestseller #8
Project Gutenberg EBook #6379
© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Antoine’s Serves Mystery with Dinner

Dinner at Antoine’s is an endlessly pleasing novel. Since I found it on my mother’s bookshelf back in the ’60s, I’ve read it many times. I  never remember reading it until I’m almost done, so I enjoy it every time.

Orson Foxworth gives a dinner at Antoine’s restaurant to introduce his niece Ruth Avery to his New Orleans friends, including Amélie Lalande, the woman he plans to marry, and her family.

Ruth is immediately drawn to Amelie’s married daughter, Odile, but repelled by the sexually charged relationship between her husband and her sister—as well as by Amélie’s refusal to notice anything wrong.

When Odile is found shot to death the day after her doctor diagnoses her trembling as the first sign of an incurable condition that will paralyze her , there’s no shortage of suspects. Everyone from Odile’s mother to Foxworth appears to have a motive for murder—if it was murder and not suicide.

To the murder mystery Frances Parkinson Keyes adds two love stories, a conspiracy to overthrow a Latin American government, and generous dollops of New Orleans insider tittle-tattle, producing as pleasant an evening’s reading as you could hope to find.

Dinner at Antoine’s
By Frances Parkinson Keyes
Julian Messner 1948
366 pages
Bestseller # 3 for 1948, # 6 for 1949
My grade: B
©2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Forgotten History Kept Forgettable inHigh Towers

High Towers is a bodice-ripping historical novel about a lovely lass who becomes one of the early settlers of New Orleans.

Felicite’s father dies on the voyage to Montreal in 1697. Her mother returns to France, leaving the child to be brought up in the new world.

Felicite is adopted by Montreal’s leader, Charles le Moyne.  Le Moyne arranges a marriage for Felicite with a rich Frenchman and ships her to New Orleans to marry him.

Felicite is already in love with a poor carpenter who has preceded her to New Orleans, but she’s willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the French colonies. Her new husband turns out to be too much of a brute even for Felicite’s patriotism.

Thomas B. Costain takes his plot and characters straight from the shelf with nary a variation on the standard pot-boiler romance.

The only novelty here is the historical setting. The le Moynes were a real family of 10 French-Canadian brothers who played a major role in keeping America from falling under Spanish domination.

Costain tries to weave all 10 brothers into this novel. The result is a forgettable novel about an almost forgotten period in American history.

High Towers
By Thomas B. Costain
Doubleday, 1949
403 pages
1949 Bestseller #7
My Grade: C+
© 2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Dinner at Antoine’s always delights

Dinner at Antoine’s is an endlessly pleasing novel. Since I found it on my mother’s bookshelf back in the ’60s, I’ve read it many times. I never remember reading it until I’m almost done, but I enjoy it every time.

Orson Foxworth gives a dinner at Antonine’s restaurant to introduce his niece Ruth Avery to his New Orleans friends, including Amélie Lalande, the woman he plans to marry, and her family.

Ruth is immediately drawn to Amelie’s married daughter, Odile, but repelled by the sexually charged relationship between Odile’s husband and her sister — as well as by Amélie’s refusal to notice anything wrong.

When Odile is found shot to death the day after her doctor diagnoses her trembling as the first sign of an incurable condition that will paralyze her , there’s no shortage of suspects. Everyone from Odile’s mother to Foxworth appears to have a motive for murder — if it was murder and not suicide.

To the murder mystery, Frances Parkinson Keyes adds two love stories, a conspiracy to overthrow a Latin American government, and generous dollop of New Orleans insider tittle-tattle. The result is as pleasant an evening’s reading as you could hope to find.

Dinner at Antoine’s
By Frances Parkinson Keyes
Julian Messner 1948
366 pages
Bestseller # 3 for 1948
My Grade: B
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Readers Keep Coming Back for Dinner at Antoine’s

Dinner at Antoine’s is an endlessly pleasing novel. Since I found it on my mother’s bookshelf back in the ’60s, I’ve read it many times. I never remember reading it until I’m almost done, but I enjoy it every time.

Orson Foxworth gives a dinner at Antoine’s restaurant to introduce his niece Ruth Avery to his New Orleans friends, including Amélie Lalande, the woman he plans to marry, and her family.

Ruth is immediately drawn to Amélie’s married daughter, Odile, but repelled by the sexually charged relationship between Odile’s husband and her sister—as well as by Amélie’s refusal to notice anything wrong.

When Odile is found shot to death the day after her doctor diagnoses her trembling as the first sign of an incurable condition that will paralyze her, there’s no shortage of suspects. Everyone from Odile’s mother to Foxworth appears to have a motive for murder—if it was murder and not suicide.

To the murder mystery, Frances Parkinson Keyes adds two love stories, a conspiracy to overthrow a Latin American government, and generous dollop of New Orleans insider tittle-tattle.

The result is as pleasant an evening’s reading as you could hope to find.

Dinner at Antoine’s
By Frances Parkinson Keyes
Julian Messner 1948
366 pages
My Grade: B
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni