The fate of New Orleans rests in the hands of a wayward grifter in this novel of gods, games, and monsters.
The fate of New Orleans rests in the hands of a wayward grifter in this novel of gods, games, and monsters.
The post–Katrina New Orleans of The City of Lost Fortunes is a place haunted by its history and by the hurricane’s destruction, a place that is hoping to survive the rebuilding of its present long enough to ensure that it has a future. Street magician Jude Dubuisson is likewise burdened by his past and by the consequences of the storm, because he has a secret: the magical ability to find lost things, a gift passed down to him by the father he has never known—a father who just happens to be more than human.
Jude has been lying low since the storm, which caused so many things to be lost that it played havoc with his magic, and he is hiding from his own power, his divine former employer, and a debt owed to the Fortune god of New Orleans. But his six-year retirement ends abruptly when the Fortune god is murdered and Jude is drawn back into the world he tried so desperately to leave behind. A world full of magic, monsters, and miracles. A world where he must find out who is responsible for the Fortune god’s death, uncover the plot that threatens the city’s soul, and discover what his talent for lost things has always been trying to show him: what it means to be his father’s son.
In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Void, and Ice in the North and Fire in the South, and the Great Waters. A universe created in a day and a night, or billions of years, or seven days, or a cycle of creations and destructions. The waters were made to recede to reveal the land, or the land was formed from the coils of a serpent, or half of a slain ocean goddess, or the flesh and bones and skull of a giant, or a broken egg. Or an island of curdled salt appeared when the sea was churned by a spear. Or the land was carried up to the surface of the waters by a water beetle, or a muskrat, or a turtle, or two water loons. However the world was made, it teemed with life; populated by beings who evolved from a single cell, or who were molded from clay or carved out of wood or found trapped in a clam shell. They wandered up from their underworld of seven caves, or fell through a hole in the sky, or they crawled out of the insect world that lies below. All of these stories, these beginnings, are true, and yet none of them are the absolute truth; they are simultaneous in spite of paradox. The world is a house built from contradictory blueprints, less a story than it is a conversation. But it is not a world without complications. Not without conflicts. Not without seams.
One of those complications was a man named Jude Dubuisson, flesh and blood and divine all at once, who stared out at Jackson Square, at the broad white expanse of St. Louis Cathedral, at the plump, fluttering mass of pigeons, at the tidal ebb and flow of tourists on the cobblestones, and saw none of it. He was likewise deaf to his surroundings: the constant mutter of the crowd, the hooves clopping on pavement, and the hooting echo of the steamboat’s calliope coming from the river. His attention was fixed inward, on thoughts of the old life he’d done his best to forget. All those years of standing between the worlds of gods and men, of the living and the dead.
For his entire adult life, he’d straddled the seam between two worlds and brought trouble to both: a walking, breathing conflict with a fuck-you grin. That had been before the storm, though. Those memories belonged to a different man. In the six years since those fateful days in 2005, he’d tried to put it all behind him. Tried to ignore all the impossible things he knew. But the last few days, the past was like a storm cloud on the horizon, a rumble of thunder that refused to stay silent, a gloom that refused to disperse.
The past just refused to stay dead.
Jude was what the more liberal-minded in the city these days ?— ?those for whom the term “mixed race” sounded somehow offensive ?— ?would call “Creole,” and what older black folks referred to as “red-boned,” some indeterminate mix of white and African heritages along with whatever else had made it into the gumbo. All Jude knew was that he had light brown skin, a white mother, and a father he’d never met. The rest of the world always seemed more concerned about his ethnicity than he was.
He kept his hair shaved close to his scalp and a scruff of beard that was more stubble than style. He wore jeans and a long-sleeved dress shirt despite the cloying wet shroud that clung to New Orleans in the summer, the heat that made any act an effort, even breathing. The damp shirt pressed tight against his skin, the sweat tickling down the small of his back. Jude reached up, absently, to wipe off his face with the handkerchief his mother had taught him a gentleman always carries, but stopped himself, pulled from his introspection by the self-conscious awareness of the leather gloves he had on. He tucked his hand back into his lap, out of sight.
Not that anyone paid him any attention. He’d been out on the corner right across from Muriel’s since early that morning, had set up folding chairs and his rickety-ass table, laid out a chalkboard sign, a cash box, and a battered paperback atlas the same as he did most days, but in all the hours he’d been in the Square, only a few people had bothered to ask what the sign meant. None sat down. His services, unlike the tarot card readers and the brass bands and the art dealers, weren’t part of the cliché of the Quarter, and thus flew under the average tourist’s radar.
But today the lack of clients suited his mood. He’d have found it hard to feign interest in anyone’s problems with the way his thoughts had been circling nonstop. Pacing back and forth, as tense and feckless as an expectant father. Or a criminal awaiting execution.
A young street performer ?— ?Timmy? Tommy? Jude could never remember ?— ?stopped in front of Jude’s table, casting a long shadow. Jude frowned at the intrusion into his thoughts, even as he appreciated the shade. The white kid’s face, streaked with the sweaty remnants of clown paint, was split by an unguarded grin. He wore a golf cap and a tweed vest with no shirt on underneath. Less than ten years separated the two men, maybe as little as five, but to Jude’s eyes he was just a boy.
Grown more used to silence than speech, Jude had to search for his voice before he could speak. “You need something?” he asked, the words scratchy.
“About to ask you the same thing,” the boy said, pulling off the cap and swiping sweat from his forehead. “Headed to the grocery ’round the corner.” He gestured with the limp hat in the store’s direction before slipping it back onto his head.
Jude shook his head. “Thanks anyway.”
“Ain’t nothin’,” he said. He turned to go, then looked back. “You coming tomorrow night?” Jude shrugged and raised his eyebrows. The boy threw his hands into the air. “I only told you, like, twelve times already. My band finally got that gig? At the Circle Bar?”
“Oh, right,” Jude said. He imagined being crammed into a tight space with a crowd of strangers and lied to the kid. “Yeah, I’ll try to make it.”
The boy’s grin widened into a smile that took another five years off his age and made Jude feel like an older, more cynical version of himself. Tommy moved on to the next table, the sole of one of his shoes flapping, pitiful, on the street.
Jude sighed, inhaling the rich odor of the Quarter: stale beer and musky humanity and the moist, dark scent of the river. It was hard to live as he did, hidden in the seams between the life he had known and this new life he wore like a mask, but ?— ?because of those things he tried not to think about ?— ?Jude belonged there.
Or so he believed.
A short while later, Jude got his first and only customers of the day, a couple of out-of-towners. College kids, judging by the Greek letters on their T-shirts and the bright green plastic drink cups in their hands. She was a white girl who had spent hours in the sun darkening her skin, and he was vaguely West Asian, but spoke with a tap-water American accent. Lovers, Jude guessed, from the way the boy rested his hand on her shoulder, and the way the girl introduced the both of them ?— ?Mandy and Dave ?— ?like the conjunction made them a single unit. The girl seemed by far the more eager of the two. When she asked Jude what his sign meant, Dave looked toward the other side of the Square, as if searching for an escape.
“It means what it says,” Jude said. “If you’ve lost some...
"A complex story that seduces the reader into a Crescent City filled with beauty and danger, loss and hope...seeking New Orleans and finding his own secret city...is Camp’s true magic as a writer."—The New Orleans Advocate
"Camp clearly cares for the Crescent City’s soul, and he brings its scenes to sweltering life: the cafés, cemeteries, flood-damaged ruins, low-life bars, botanicas, pelican-skimmed causeways, diners, guard dogs, festivals — a phantasmagoric panorama of a true urban fantasy." —Seattle Review of Books
"A masterly game played by gods and monsters, a devastated city trying to rebuild, and compelling characters struggling to find their place in a strange world are all pieces of this fantastic and enthralling puzzle of a story. VERDICT Camp's thoroughly engaging debut is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, with the added spirit of the vibrant Big Easy." — Library Journal, STARRED
"A phantasmagoric murder mystery that wails, chants, laments, and changes shape as audaciously as the mythical beings populating its narrative....boisterously ingenious debut novel....For a first-time novelist, Camp shows adroitness in weaving the real-life exoticism of present-day New Orleans with his macabre alternate universe that's almost—what's the word—supernatural. (Among the unique characters attending a burial service for one of the murder victims: a centaur, a hairy giant, and "a fat, brown-skinned man with the head of an elephant.") Things only get weirder and more intense from there, but the engaging style, facility with folklore, and, above all, impassioned love for the city its characters call home keeps you enraptured by the book's most chilling and outrageous plot twists. One hopes for more of Camp's dangerous visions to spring from a city that, as he writes, 'is a great place to find yourself, and a terrible place to get lost.'" — Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review
"There isn’t a dull page as Jude determines who his real friends are. Anne Rice fans will enjoy this fresh view of supernatural life in New Orleans, while fans of Kim Harrison’s urban fantasy will have a new author to watch." — Booklist, STARRED review
"Camp’s fantasy reads like jazz, with multiple chaotic-seeming threads of deities, mortals, and destiny playing in harmony. This game of souls and fate is full of snarky dialogue, taut suspense, and characters whose glitter hides sharp fangs. […] Any reader who likes fantasy with a dash of the bizarre will enjoy this trip to the Crescent City."—Publishers Weekly
"Take a walk down wild card shark streets into a world of gods, lost souls, murder, and deep, dark magic. You might not come back from The City of Lost Fortunes, but you’ll enjoy the trip."—Richard Kadrey, bestselling author of the Sandman Slim series
"In The City of Lost Fortunes, Bryan Camp delivers a high-octane tale of myth and magic, serving up the best of Neil Gaiman and Richard Kadrey. Here is New Orleans in all its gritty, grudging glory, the haunt of sinners and saints, gods and mischief-makers. Once you pay a visit, you won’t want to leave!"—Helen Marshall, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Gifts for the One Who Comes After
"Bryan Camp’s debut novel The City of Lost Fortunes is like a blessed stay in a city both distinctly familiar and wonderfully strange, with an old friend who knows just the right spots to take you to–not too touristy, and imbued with the weight of history and myth, populated by local characters you’ll never forget. You’ll leave sated with the sights and sounds of a New Orleans that is not quite the real city, but breathes like the real thing, a beautiful mimicry in prose that becomes its own version of reality in a way only a good story—or magic—can. You won’t regret the visit."—Indra Das, author of The Devourers
"With sharp prose and serious literary chops, Bryan Camp delivers a masterful work of contemporary fantasy in The City of Lost Fortunes. It reads like the New Orleans-born love child of Raymond Chandler and Neil Gaiman, featuring a roguish hero you can’t help but root for. It’s funny, harrowing, thrilling—the pages keep turning. The City of Lost Fortunes establishes Bryan Camp as the best and brightest new voice on fantasy literature’s top shelf."—Nicholas Mainieri, author of The Infinite
"Anyone who loves New Orleans will love this mystical adventure where gods, magicians, vampires, zombies, angels, and ghouls clash in the only city where a story like this is actually possible. The City of Lost Fortunes expertly blends the real and the surreal, capturing the essence of New Orleans in such a unique way. In this city, just as in this story, the line between fact and fiction blurs, and your imagination is set free."
—Candice Huber, Tubby and Coo's Bookstore (New Orleans, LA)
"Myth and archetype combine with the gritty realism of modern post-Katrina New Orleans in this fast-paced novel. Throughout the twists and turns of a clever, compelling plot, the soul of the city and strength of its survivors shine through. As a southern Louisiana resident, Bryan Camp saw firsthand the devastation and impact on people’s lives caused by Katrina, and the emotion of that experience fuels the power of the story and its unique, well-crafted characters. If you like the work of Neil Gaiman and Roger Zelazny, you’ll enjoy this book. A fun, engaging read. Highly recommended."—Les Howle, director of the Clarion West Writers Workshop
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