Elysian Fields - Tor/Forge Blog

A Killer Around Every Corner

Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson

Written by Suzanne Johnson

In his book Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans, author Winston Groom says of my adopted hometown: “New Orleans is so romantic you leave it either crying or drunk.” (And, I might add, frequently both.) He also points out that, in 1814, it had the nation’s highest murder rate. Sadly, it’s a distinction the city has maintained throughout its history.

Which meant that when I went in search of the perfect New Orleans killer to resurrect via necromancy in Elysian Fields, I had ample choices.

There was Delphine Lalaurie, who in the 1830s tortured out-of-favor members of her house staff in her attic. Let’s just say sex changes and transplanted body parts were involved. Delphine creeped me out, so I decided to avoid her. Besides, the LaLaurie Mansion on Royal Street is said to be the most haunted spot in New Orleans. I don’t want her ghost hunting me down.

Next, I looked at a guy who met his true love in the French Quarter. They were blissfully happy…until the point where he chopped her up, boiled parts of her on the stove, roasted others in the oven…and maybe had a snack before leaping off a building. I know New Orleans is known for its fine dining, but one has to draw the line somewhere. Mine, apparently, gets drawn at the border of body-part roasting. Plus, like our friend Delphine, he wasn’t democratic enough in his choice of victims.

Then there were multiple sets of vampire murders, most notably in 1933 and again in 1994, when nine victims were found in the vicinity of the French Quarter with slashed throats and yet a noticeable absence of blood. In the 1933 case, witnesses even reported a tall figure leaning over one of the bodies and then leaping effortlessly over a 12-foot wall. And, of course, he was wearing a black cape.

Decisions, decisions.

Finally, I settled on the Axeman of New Orleans. In 1918-19, a series of murders-by-ax were committed throughout New Orleans. The police were clueless, people were panicked, and the Axeman taunted them all from the pages of the Times-Picayune. In a letter dated “Hell, March 13, 1919,” the murderer claimed to be “a fell demon from the hottest hell.” He taunted the police, who had been “so utterly stupid as to amuse not only me but His Satanic Majesty.” (Glad to know His Satanic Majesty has a good sense of humor since I’m resurrecting his axe-wielding minion.)

Axeman also announced that the following Tuesday “at 12:15 earthly time,” he planned to visit New Orleans again, but would spare every home where jazz music was playing. The jazz spewing from homes all over the city was said to be deafening.

In the end, the Axeman of New Orleans provided the perfect villain to resurrect for a fantasy novel. He was never identified; odd enough to be interesting; megalomanical enough to be excited about returning to the scene of his crimes a century later; and narcissistic enough to test the control of even the strongest necromancer. Because if you can’t have an out-of-control undead serial killer, what’s the point?


From the Tor/Forge August 19th newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.


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Book Trailer: The Sentinels of New Orleans by Suzanne Johnson


The Sentinels of New Orleans by Suzanne Johnson

Elysian Fields, the third book in the series, publishes on August 13, 2013!

Elysian Fields is the fun, fast-paced third book in the Sentinels of New Orleans, a series of urban fantasy novels filled with wizards, mermen, and pirates. These novels are perfect for readers of paranormal fiction and “fans of Charlaine Harris and Cat Adams” (Booklist) and RT Bookreviews agrees that “for readers missing Sookie Stackhouse, this series may be right up your alley.”

The mer feud has been settled, but life in South Louisiana still has more twists and turns than the muddy Mississippi.

New Orleanians are under attack from a copycat killer mimicking the crimes of a 1918 serial murderer known as the Axeman of New Orleans. Thanks to a tip from the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, DJ Jaco knows the attacks aren’t random — an unknown necromancer has resurrected the original Axeman of New Orleans, and his ultimate target is a certain blonde wizard. Namely, DJ.

Combating an undead serial killer as troubles pile up around her isn’t easy. Jake Warin’s loup-garou nature is spiraling downward, enigmatic neighbor Quince Randolph is acting weirder than ever, the Elders are insisting on lessons in elven magic from the world’s most annoying wizard, and former partner Alex Warin just turned up on DJ’s to-do list. Not to mention big maneuvers are afoot in the halls of preternatural power.

Suddenly, moving to the Beyond as Jean Lafitte’s pirate wench could be DJ’s best option.

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