Title of the book: Parish the Thought
Release date: December 2nd, 2020
Tell us about your latest book.
This will be the first book in the series that takes place outside of New Orleans. It remains on the timeline of the previous, and subsequent, books, but it was necessary to set the story in a fictional location to avoid implying negative things about existing locations and people.
Tell us about the journey that led to you writing this book.
I was attracted to the subject of underage marriage during a surprisingly, and depressingly, fierce fight among Louisiana lawmakers over a proposal to change the laws. The changes were meant to make it more difficult for underage children to enter into marriages, and I was stunned that there was such adamant support for maintaining the old laws. I began doing research on the topic and was shaken by the horrifying statistics and testimonials I found.
Tell us about one of the people at the center of this book, and what makes them interesting.
Senator Chester Donovan. He is the patriarch of a powerful family that has literally owned and controlled an imaginary coastal parish since the 1800s. He and his son have a law practice that has made their parish a one-stop shop for anyone looking to marry an underage girl or adopt a young boy. He has spent his life facilitating these unions and lost sight of the devastating impact they have on the children involved. He is the means I have for setting forth actual arguments in favor of them, and the debates against changing the laws.
Why does this book (or this subject) matter to you?
I want to believe it matters to everyone who becomes aware of this practice. A group called Unchained at Last reports that there were 167,000 marriages in which one or more of those being married were under the age of eighteen in just thirty eight states between 2000 and 2010. Girls as young as twelve were among this number. The majority of marriages involved age differences of greater than ten years between spouses, often double that. Internationally the issue is even more dire, but also largely overlooked.
Why was it worth spending a year (or five, etc.) of your life on it?
The Cadillac Holland Mysteries series has focused on social issues related to rebuilding New Orleans, including the decimation of the police force and gentrification of what were low income neighborhoods before the hurricane. This issue seemed no less worthy of attention, but I had to move the scene to a fictional place to give it a proper stage to tell the story. I did not want to falsely accuse an actual parish of engaging in the systemic abuse in my story, much less to lead anyone to believe my characters are pseudonyms for living persons. All of my locales and people are purely fictional, but the practices and statistics are accurate.
What do you love about this book?
Bringing another important issue forward for discussion. This will be a hard book to read and not want to pursue relief for those whose lives have been affected, and to help end the practice.
What makes this book special to you?
It is the first purely fictional book I have written. The previous books, and next books I will be writing, are set in a very real locale and point in time that I personally lived through. I always have that cloak of familiarity when I am writing one of these books, while I had to create an entire universe for this story to take place within.
Is there a part that makes you cry?
When a young man who was adopted by a male pedophile details the abuse he suffered at that man’s hands, and how the legal system only served to abuse him further. While this is not taken from a specific individual’s testimony, it is consistent with hundreds of documented cases.
Makes you laugh?
The central detective has a non-sanctioned K-9 partner, a pit-bull involved in one of his very first cases, which he uses to vex suspects and other police officers. His encounter with a sheriff’s deputy when he brings the dog into the parish courthouse early in the book is intended to set a tone for his interaction with the local police.
Is there a part you’re secretly most proud of? What is it?
The reveal of the person behind a string of retaliatory homicides late in the book. I had to build a case for their being such a murderer, and then kept their identity hidden until the detective finds himself face to face with them. Even he does not expect this to be the person responsible.
Describe the reader who ought to know about this title.
Obviously anyone who cares about the society they live in. Readers who are looking for more than escapist fiction, ones who enjoy stories that make you think and challenge you to outsmart a pretty smart detective. I follow the rule of giving readers every clue the detective has, so it is always a challenge to keep readers from solving the crime before I do.
What do you hope this book can impart to its readers?
I hope it inspires people to contact their political representatives to encourage changes to their local and state laws regarding underage marriages. A surprising number of states have changed their laws in the four years I have been writing this, but so much more needs done.
What is next for you?
I have two books in mind, both once again set in New Orleans. One of them has a strongly supernatural twist that I initially considered writing as a separate book. I changed my mind after reading James Lee Burke’s latest book in his Robicheaux series, as it has a very unexpected spooky element that showed me how to incorporate New Orleans’ spirit world underbelly into my own series.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
Just that I hope this intrigues people to read the book, and to catch up with Detective Holland by reading the previous books as well. He is a unique and fresh take on the detective genre.