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eBook Redemption ePub

by Frederick Turner

eBook Redemption ePub
Author: Frederick Turner
Language: English
ISBN: 0151014701
ISBN13: 978-0151014705
Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (November 1, 2006)
Pages: 368
Category: Genre Fiction
Subcategory: Literature
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 191
Formats: lrf rtf doc lit
ePub file: 1949 kb
Fb2 file: 1790 kb

Francis Muldoon is a special policeman in the notorious Storyville District of New Orleans in 1913. His job is to see that the District’s volatile mixture of sex, alcohol, and gambling doesn’t boil over but instead rolls along at a continuous simmer. Once a member of the city’s regular police force, he now works for the District’s vice lord, Tom Anderson, patrolling his patron’s honky-tonks and saloons and whorehouses—both the high-priced bordellos and the coffinlike cribs where the girls work with only a cot and a washbasin. When Adele, a beautiful singer at the Tuxedo dance hall, draws Francis into a contentious rivalry for her affection, a fatal shootout is the inevitable conclusion, sending the District into a scalding eruption and revealing the central characters for what they are.Filled with the rich atmosphere of America’s most colorful city, Redemption is the powerfully told tale of a man’s efforts to restore the integrity of his soul.
As a fan of New Orleans jazz, I bought this book because Frederick Turner has written "Remembering Song," an excellent, very personal if somewhat impressionistic book on the music. "Redemption" Is quite well written; a few passages are moving and lyrical. But, while pianist Tony Jackson, cornet player Freddie Keppard and Mamie Desdaumes, acknowledged by Jelly Roll Morton as the source for his "Mamie's Blues," make cameo appearances, there's very little about the music. This despite Turner's writing in "Remembering Song" that Storyville, New Orleans' legal red-light district until 1917 and one of the few places where the jazz musicians could find work, was a unique hotbed of creative activity.

The novel instead focuses on Francis "Fast Mail" Muldoon, a one-time policeman who now works as a kind of errand boy for Tom Anderson, who is portrayed as a typical gangster czar. Muldoon may be modeled on "Fast Mail" Burrell, a Storyville police officer mentioned by Jelly Roll Morton who is cited in "Remembering Song." The novel seems mostly fascinated by the gangster milieu. Muldoon has a moral turning point and leaves his work with Anderson after meeting the photographer E.J. Belloq, another real-life figure in the novel. Belloq was known for his portraits of Storyville prostitutes. Muldoon looks at these and is struck by the dead look in the women's eyes. His susceptibility to this awareness is not fully motivated; but it leads to his leaving Anderson at the end of the book. The novel doesn't seem to me to carry and develop its moral weight effectively, and without a fuller development or more use of the artistic musical activity that was flowering alongside the squalor and exploitation, the book ultimately seemed disappointing and just another well-written criminal fiction.
In atmospheric New Orleans' Storyville of 1913, Tom Anderson is the undisputed master, running the red-light district with an iron hand, masterfully manipulating those who do his bidding to get their piece of a very lucrative pie. From politics to vice, Anderson is the nerve center of the operation, hand-picking his men with a penchant for violence when necessary. Among Anderson's trusted cadre, Francis Muldoon serves various purposes, reporting on incidents as well as any usurpers on Anderson's turf. A mere shadow of his former self, a significant wound has slowed Muldoon's once formidable gait and given him a marked limp. Dealing with his own emotional problems, Francis works his night shifts, collecting crib keys as required. That is, until he runs across a beautiful young singer who is working for Anderson's competition, Muldoon indulging in fantasies that are unlikely to come true any time soon.

Muldoon is brought up short when he realizes that Anderson has a very personal interest in the songstress, a history that goes back to an unflattering and highly disturbing episode when she lived in Anderson's home as a child, her mother the big man's mistress. The singer, who currently calls herself Adele, is no passive observer; and given her past with Anderson, revenge may be a motivation in her endeavors. As issues and participants collide, Storyville is revealed in all its decadence, exploitation and greed. Dark forces are at work when control of the district is at stake, Muldoon and Adele caught in a maelstrom of violence and unexpected revelations, a conflict of epic proportions on the horizon. At the heart of Muldoon's awakening, no matter how convoluted the plot in delivering the coup d'grace, is that the women of the district are essentially damaged goods by the time they arrive, simply playing out the rest of lives already turned bad. Storyville has its own rules and happiness is never an option. It is this fact that Muldoon resists in his foolish affection for Adele.

Rather than the more benign historical perspective of Anderson as Storyville's wheeler-dealer extraordinaire, Turner's limping and ineffective Muldoon has reason for cynicism: "It had occurred to him... that he worked among dead people, and that the district itself was a kind of giant charnel house, bordered by its formal cemeteries." Indeed, Anderson is the evil architect, building his success upon the broken backs of others, discarded when their usefulness is over. Storyville is not the brilliant, laughter and alcohol-fueled celebration of wine, women and jazz, but rather the dregs of humanity shuffling slowly to their uniquely macabre dance, the tune played by one man, impervious to anything but his own greed. Muldoon's moment comes at the cost of his illusions, his only option to flee from that which would only destroy him. Luan Gaines/ 2006.
Frederick Turner is a wonderful writer. I read "Redemption" in two nights, and couldn't put it down. One does indeed feel a part of the time and place while reading "Redemption," and it is a remarkable historical entity one visits. I'm usually wary of a historical figure making an appearance in a novel, but even that is handled with grace and purpose here, and the novel (and Muldoon's process of self-discovery) profit from from Bellocq's cameo appearance.

But there is too much left up in the air here, and the ending is far from satisfying. A mystery concerning a deformed piano player--given much attention and many pages as the novel progresses--is never resolved. Actions by characters familiar to us immediately preceding the novel's bloody confrontation seem to be at odds with what has been carefully arranged. Why ex-policeman Muldoon was shamed as a coward after being maimed in a police action simply doesn't ring true. And the ending, apparently put in motion by the last thing the girl singer says to Muldoon, makes no sense whatever to me.

An often brilliant bit of story-telling and a wonderful slice of intriguing Americana, this. But such an effort should not leave the reader closing the book and wondering what has happened. I understand the themes in play here. I understand the progress of Muldoon's education and self-discovery. I was prepared for an ending that was, minimally, itself understandable. And I've tried, without success, to discover such an ending in what is given to us in the book's final pages.

To which I would only add that the review attacking "Redemption" as foul and obscene seems to me misdirected and foolish. The use of wording some may find personally offensive is never gratuitous here, and is always in character. The subject and the setting do not admit of an atmosphere suitable to "golly" and "gosh darn it." Characters in novels have a tendency to speak to each other. If you're offended by rough language, man, stay away from novels set in rough historical places.
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