“Lost River” by David Fulmer Houghton Mifflin ($25)
For more than 20 years, New Orleans’ Storyville was the country’s only legalized prostitution district. Until it was shut down in 1920, opulent mansions as well as seedy single rooms made up the red-light area’s myriad blocks.
David Fulmer’s evocative prose captures the sights, sounds and smells of 1913 Storyville in his superior “Lost River.” The Shamus-winning author’s fourth novel about this fabled area works as an old-fashioned private detective novel as well as a story about outcasts, women’s rights and the exploitation of the poor. Storyville’s lucrative “economy of sin” pumped millions of dollars into New Orleans’ coffers and created its own hierarchy of society.
Creole private detective Valentin St. Cyr is pulled back to Storyville when several men are murdered in some of the area’s better brothels. The investigation puts him in touch with a society matron with a secret life, the variety of Storyville residents and the cops who both respect his work and resent him.
Fulmer melds actual people such as Tom Anderson, known as the king of Storyville, and several infamous madams to give “Lost River” a sense of historical realism.
“Lost River” is a testament to the never-ending saga of New Orleans.