Monday, May 26, 2014

BLOOD IN THE CANE FIELD

A few years ago, Anne Simon, a retired district judge in New Iberia, Louisiana, shared with me the news that she had been writing short stories and novels for many years; however, I had to wait several more years before she allowed me to read any of her writings. I knew that she had written many articles and briefs in her practice as an attorney and a judge, and I was prepared to read well-written prose, but what I found was polished creative writing that reminded me of the late Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason series.

Last month, Anne's crime novel, Blood in the Cane Field, made its debut, and I suspect that it will become a runaway publication, perhaps a candidate for the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award. This crime fiction publication, the first in a planned series of crime/courtroom stories, features murder and courtroom action that reflect Anne's legal and investigative abilities, as well as her experience as a noteworthy judge in south Louisiana.

The opening scene of Blood in the Cane Field reveals two bloody bodies lying in sugar cane stubble, discovered by a Texaco oilfield worker's dog, Praline. The action moves from this bloody scene to the narration of Public Defender John Clark III who becomes engaged in defense of Danny Howard, a surly, depressed teenager who has spent his first years of life at the edge of the Atchafalaya Basin in south Louisiana and who has been a participant in a party with the two murder victims. Danny is suspect because of his angry responses to racial slurs made about his dark skin, although he insists that he is white. As the Public Defender investigates the murder, he discovers the teenager's true parentage and attempts to counsel both the teenager and his mother.

The plot centers on Danny's confrontation with the death penalty twice and John Clark's investigation and attempts to keep Danny off Death Row. When John finds major exculpatory evidence in similar killings that have taken place in a nearby parish, the plot becomes highly suspenseful. Romance is interwoven in the story via the appearance of Medley Butterfield, a Mississippi woman with a questionable past, and John falls in love with her despite his resolve not to form a committed relationship. The couple uncovers evidence of political corruption and underground criminal activity that places Medley in danger, and the surprise denouement will delight those who like to see good legal representation/investigation rewarded and romance problems resolved.

Blood in the Cane Field reveals the author's fascination with the Cajun countryside—Anne's home for fifty years. Her descriptions of the area express her appreciation for the natural landscape and wildlife; e.g., "...Driving rain soon billowed folds of white gauze before our eyes, turning the sunlight to dusk, obscuring the trees that a few minutes before had been a radiant backdrop to the scene across the water...a short twenty minutes later the misty curtain rose, and returning sunlight sparkled through the last of the raindrops. White specks dotted the sky as flocks of egrets and ibis came in to roost. Hundreds of birds. They landed in the trees, pulled in their necks, tucked their beaks under their chest feathers, and settled down for the night. Then came the roseate spoonbills, an armada of pink sails heading for port..." (That last sentence is pure poetry!)

Names indigenous to Cajun country are sprinkled throughout the novel and are reflective of the nicknames that Cajuns often assign to their offspring: "Ti-Boy," "Snap-Dog," "Nee Nee"... Although Anne grew up in New Jersey, it's obvious that she feels strong affection for her adopted home in Louisiana, and she accurately depicts colorful folk aspects of south Louisiana culture in this piece of crime fiction. Blood in the Cane Field is an amazing first book in her Blood Crime series and signals the debut of a noteworthy Louisiana writer. It's a page turner—336 pages of fast-paced fiction!

Anne Simon was educated at Wellesley, Yale and Louisiana State University Law Schools and practiced law with her husband, raised a family, then became the first female judge in the Acadiana area.


Brava Anne! May your book writing become so voluminous that it exceeds Erle Stanley Gardner's 80 Perry Mason novels!
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