Jazz, Louisiana, and death. None are real characters in this (magnificent) story and yet, I feel like they are as needed as any other real character.
The book is Mamma’s Moon (The Hoodoo of Peckerwood Finch) by Jerome Mark Antil, a historical mystery.
“Jerome Mark Antil’s Mamma’s Moon does for Acadiana what Truman Capote did for Tiffany’s or Tennessee Williams did for streetcars. This is a novel about a lot of things, including sex, crime, life, and death. But most of all, it’s a novel about hope and about love.
Mamma’s Moon gives the reader a dramatic and insightful glimpse into the very special world of today’s Louisiana French Acadians, whose early tragic history was immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his classic poem, Evangeline, even before the heartless bayou’s more contemporary history was buried deep and forgotten.” Tom Hyman (LA Times bestselling author: writer for LIFEmagazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, Washington Post Book World and New York Magazine.)
This novel, Mamma’s Moon, is a sequel to the novel, One More Last Dance. It stands alone as an entirely self-contained story, but for those of you who may not have read the earlier novel, I include here a brief description of the main characters and of the events that preceded this story.
A bond that can only happen on a dance floor happened in a cafe off Frenchman Street among four unlikely characters: a man who was about to die; his friend, an illiterate Cajun French yardman; and two of the most successful women in New Orleans.
Aging Captain Gabriel Jordan, retired, was given two months to live, three months before he met “Peck”–Boudreau Clemont Finch–a groundskeeper on the back lawn of his hospice on Bayou Carencro, Louisiana. It was at the hospice that Gabe told Peck his dream of seeing the Newport Jazz Festival before he died. They became friends, and Peck offered to help grant his wish by taking him there.
And they began their journey.
It quickly became a journey with complications and setbacks. They saved each other many times, but they were in turn saved by two extraordinary women: Sasha (Michelle Lissette), a real estate agent in New Orleans’s posh Garden District, and her best friend, Lily Cup (Lily Cup Lorelei Tarleton), a criminal attorney.
Less than a year before the events in Mamma’s Moon, Gabe and Peck wandered into Charlie’s Blue Note, a small jazz bar in a side alley just off Frenchman Street, where the music was live and mellow and the dancing warm and sensual.
Here they encountered Sasha and Lily Cup, and amid the music, the dancing, the food, the flirting, and the cigar smoke, the four formed an unusual and lasting friendship that would see them each through a series of crises, disappointments, life-threatening situations, and moments of great joy and satisfaction.
Other buy link: B&N
Chapter 2 Good Morning, Murder
Did you murder the kid, Gabe?” Lily Cup asked. The aging army captain, veteran of Korea and Vietnam, lowered his newspaper just enough to see over the entertainment page.
“Close the door, honey, AC’s on,” Gabe said.
In a tight, black skirt with a tailored matching waistcoat and white Nike walking shoes, she leaned and propped a black leather briefcase against the wall by the door. She stood like an exasperated tomboy, adjusting and refastening the diamond brooch on her lapel.
“I heard you’ve been walking with a cane, dancing man. What’s that all about? You’ve never carried a cane. You jazz dance for hours a couple of nights a week and Sasha tells me you started carrying one everywhere you go when you don’t need one. It’s smelling pretty premeditated to me, Gabe. What’s up with the cane thing?”
“Does Sasha know about this morning?”
“I haven’t told her anything. She’d have a canary.”
Gabe lifted the paper again to read.
“I need to know if it was murder,” Lily Cup said.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Gabe said.
He closed the paper, folded it in half, and in half again. Dropping it on the arm of the chair, he stood and left the room.
“Define murder,” he said from the kitchen.
She tossed a handbag and white driving gloves onto the other chair, lifted Chanel sunglasses to the top of her head.
“Gee, I’ll have to think on this one. Hmmm…Oh, I know. How about the police have a cane with blood on it and there’s a dead man.”
“It’s a walking stick. My cane is over by the door.”
“Well now it’s a goddamned murder weapon. They checked for prints, and yours are the only prints on it, and their guess is the lab will say the blood has his DNA.”
Gabe came out with a coffee urn in one hand and his finger and thumb through two empty cup handles. He held the cups out for her to take one.
“No more,” Gabe said.
“You’re rather nonchalant for the spot you’re in. Why’d you clam up on me like that at the precinct? It didn’t set well with any of them. The DA entered a charge of second-degree murder. The police chief put out a warrant for you from lunch at Brennan’s.”
He held the empty cups closer to her.
“Just made it. Chicory and cinnamon.”
“If you had television you’d have seen it—‘Daylight killing on St. Charles Avenue.’ It’s all over the news, freaking out the DA and the Visitors Bureau. No telling how many videos from streetcars going by will wind up on You Tube.”
“That’s enough,” Gabe said.
“People can live with violence after dark. That’s expected in any city, but when it’s in broad daylight, forget it. The DA pushed for an early docket with a magistrate and it’s Tulane and Broad for you at nine a.m. tomorrow.”
“What’s Tulane and Broad?”
“Magistrate Court. Congratulations, Gabe, you made the big time. You have to appear before a magistrate to hear the second-degree murder charge against you.”
She took an empty cup in one hand, pinched his arm with the other.
“Look me in the eye and swear it wasn’t murder,” Lily Cup said.
Chatting with the Author
JEROME MARK ANTIL writes in several genres. He has been called a “greatest generation’s Mark Twain,” a “write what you know Ernest Hemingway,” and “a sensitive Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.” It’s been said his work reads like a Norman Rockwell painting. Among his writing accomplishments, several titles in his The Pompey Hollow Book Club historical fiction series about growing up in the shadows of WWII have been honored. An ‘Authors and Writers’ Book of the Year Award and ‘Writer of the Year’ at Syracuse University for The Pompey Hollow Book Club novel; Hemingway, Three Angels, and Me, won SILVER in the UK as second-best novel.
Foreword’s Book of the Year Finalist for The Book of Charlie – historical fiction and The Long Stem is in the Lobby – nonfiction humor. Library Journal selected Hemingway, Three Angels and Me for best reads during Black History Month.
Before picking up the pen, Antil spent his professional career writing and marketing for the business world. In this role, he lectured at universities – Cornell, St. Edward’s, and Southern Methodist. His inspirations have been John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway.
Hello Jerome, and thank you for being here today.
Take us behind the scenes – where did “One More Last Dance” and “Mamma’s Moon” come from?
Three people inspired One More Last Dance. After he was given his Last Rights by the priest and the doctor gave him two hours to live, I inspired a 94-year-old friend to get out of his death bed, live a year and a half longer and write his book. Another friend from the 1960s inspired my Gabe; a black man who taught me jazz. My father, the third was second generation Acadian, from Normandy, and a marvelous storyteller. Mamma’s Moon was inspired by an actual attempt on my life.
What will fans of the first book in this series, “One More Last Dance,” enjoy about “Mamma’s Moon?”
That the characters they love from the original novel are alive and well. They’ll like that the sequel is as strong or stronger than the first novel – which is rare.
What can you tell us about your Acadian heritage and its influence on your writing?
I knew our name was changed from Anctil to Antil when my grandparents (on my father’s side) moved to the U.S. from Canada at the turn of the twentieth century. I grew up in New York State, but my father would always tell me stories about the Acadians in Canada and the Cajuns of Louisiana, and he would have shrimp boils and make gumbos.
Why are you so passionate about honoring and preserving Louisiana’s culture through writing?
What’s happening to Louisiana both from outside sources and internal power control is criminal. Baton Rouge has literally become the rectum of America with the Mississippi splitting it in half and along with it the literacy and natural resources so mishandled the entire state is sliding into the Gulf of Mexico. Try to find a full-grown Cypress. You can’t. They been chipped and are stacked in “mulch” bags in big box home store retailers.
What was your research process like? Specifically, how did you go about investigating the culture of Louisiana? Did you learn something you didn’t know previously?
I had a New Orleans young man interview icon Ms. Leah Chase. He asked her several pages of my questions about life in New Orleans in her lifetime. I asked the criminal court in New Orleans to help my legal research and they assigned a criminal attorney to guide me. I spoke with libraries there and got pointed at things of interest. I was overwhelmed at the damage that has been caused to Louisiana by the indiscriminate spillway levees that destroyed entire towns and all the topsoil. A passenger plane crash that was forgotten about.
You wrote part of “Mamma’s Moon” while staying at the Pontchartrain Hotel in uptown New Orleans where Tennessee Williams worked on “A Streetcar Named Desire” – did absorbing the atmosphere there strengthen your writing?
I wrote much of One More Last Dance there, and some of Mamma’s Moon. It absolutely inspired me knowing that Tennessee Williams lived there, and Truman Capote frequented the bar. Hearing the streetcars going by and the jazz in the lobby certainly inspired me.
Chef Leah Chase is known in Louisiana – and around the world – as the Queen of Creole Cuisine. How did you meet this iconic New Orleans celebrity, and how did she help shape your book?
My wife and I ate at the famous Dooky Chase restaurant one evening after a Barnes and Noble book signing. Leah invited us to the kitchen, and we chatted, and I gave her a copy of my One More Last Dance novel. I wrote her a thank you letter. Six months later I hired a young man I had met at the Pontchartrain to visit her and see if he could interview her on my behalf. Leah welcomed him in with open arms and sat with him for more than an hour.
You also turned to Orleans Parish Criminal Court Judge Laurie A. White for some guidance. What role did she play while you were writing “Mamma’s Moon?”
Judge Laurie A. White played three important roles in the Peckerwood Finch novels. She asked for attorney volunteers to guide me in my court scenes. Attorney Lindsay Jay Jeffrey, at the Orleans District Criminal Court spent countless hours helping me. Judge White had me watch court in session for ideas and she also made suggestions to easing the dialect in One More Last Dance – which has since been revised. Judge White will be narrating the audio books of each novel.
What role did your daughter play in inspiring you to become a writer?
She asked me to write the bedtime stories I used to tell her, about growing up during WWII. She also asked me to write a booklet for fathers going through divorce. I wrote the very simple Handbook for Weekend Dads and it was a four-year Amazon bestseller in category. It’s been purchased in every state and 17 countries. My wife Pamela encouraged me to turn my stories into books.
Your favorite writers include Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. While we know these are some of the greatest writers in history – what draws you to their work?
John Steinbeck for his historical integrity and sensitivity for human nature in private moments. Hemingway has taught me most, the more I write. He inspires me to ‘write what I know’ – and talk the way people talk so they can read it. Mark Twain taught me to graft short stories together into a novel. Doyle was always an easy, fun read.
When you were a child, your family moved to Delphi Falls, New York, and the land occupied by your boyhood home is now a state park. And soon, there will be historical markers referencing you and your The Pompey Hollow Book Club series. What can you tell us about that?
A retired Syracuse University professor donated the near million dollars to buy the land and make it a park. The two waterfalls are the draw – but as I grew up there will be advantage to me and my works as it is my childhood home. They will make my books available there – and markers at key points (my campsite – my bedroom – the rock we sat on. I’ll be attending an official opening.)
What’s next for you? Will readers hear from Peck Finch again?
I’m writing about Tall Jerry and the Delphi Falls Trilogy – which are condensed novels that took place in 1953. I’m looking at options for Peck and gang. I’m also several chapters into a novel about America being taken over – but it frightened me enough to step away from it awhile.
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