“If there can be vampires in the French Quarter, why not werewolves in the bayou?”
– Caught Forever Between by Adrian Phoenix
(The quantity and diversity of self-published works, in particular, is just mind-boggling – just visit the PubIt! eBookstore to see what I mean.)
Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking: reading a self-published ebook – just like the Gumpism – really is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. But from someone who has been reviewing self-published works way before the advent of e-readers, this is familiar territory for me. Although there has always been a stigma surrounding self-published works – I think it’s mostly unfounded. In fact, some of the most memorable books I’ve read in the last year have been self-published. Mel Nicolai’s The Shake and J.R. Bailey’s Impure: Resurrection were exceptional and James Bannon’s recently released debut novel i2 was a science fiction thriller that was jaw-droppingly good.
One such gem is Caught Forever Between, a masterful little short story from Adrian Phoenix set in the world of her Hoodoo saga (Black Dust Mambo, Black Heart Loa, and the forthcoming Black Moon Mojo).
The novels are set in and around New Orleans and feature Kallie Rivière, a sexy 20-something Cajun hoodoo apprentice who is described as a “dark-haired swamp beauty” with “mysterious purple eyes and heart-stopping curves.” Powered by a cast of undeniably sexy (and sexual) characters – and erotic plotlines (Black Heart Loa, for example, features an unforgettable, I’ll-have-what-they’re-having tantric sex sequence), I’ve described this series as “down-and-dirty, dark juju-powered literary gold.”
The cool thing about Caught Forever Between is that heroine Kallie Rivière isn’t even in it – the standalone story revolves around secondary characters Gabrielle LaRue, a Voodoo priestess, and her “loup garou” godson Devlin Daniels. When Intuitive tattoo artist Cass Danzinger finds her partner Alex “Michelango” Paris in a pool of blood on the floor of their New Orleans tattoo shop, she vows to do anything to bring the would-be murderer to justice. As Alex lays in a coma in a nearby hospital – and his assailant walks the streets – Cass becomes desperate and eventually enlists the services of Voodoo mambo Gabrielle and her sexy, wild and very dangerous godson Devlin. Cass believes that her older sister Helena – “an ink-slinging outlaw” who is jealous of Alex’s talents and his relationship with Cass – did the deed but after she sets the werewolf lose to mete out bloody justice, she realizes that someone else may in fact be the would-be murderer…
I loved the tightness of this narrative – Phoenix was in top form here with her rich, fully immersive description of the bayou and her ability to flesh out characters quickly and insightfully – but the reason I enjoyed Caught Forever Between so much was in the way in which Phoenix worked the story on multiple levels. I’ve described her writing style as poetic in the past and this is a great example of that aspect of her writing. Intertwined with the story of retributive justice was a real poet at work. A noteworthy focus of Phoenix’s writing style is imagery and symbolism, and the utilization of it in various ways. Needles, for example, were a powerful symbol throughout – both in the hospital (“Needles pierced his flesh and IVs dripped fluid and medication into his veins”) and in the tattoo parlor (“Cass focused on… the skin under her needle and forgot about everything else”). The story itself is forceful but so too is the subtle symbolism and imagery.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
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