“Voodoo John” by James Russell from Saints and Sinners 2014: New Fiction from the Festival (Bold Strokes Books). Contest runner up.
Full disclosure: I have a story in this anthology.
I really enjoyed this story. For one thing, it’s set in New Orleans, and having been to many of the locations before I read this, it was great fun to “revisit” them on the page. Rooftop pool at the Hotel Monteleone? Check. Carousel Bar in the same? Check. Bourbon Pub? Check. Voodoo shop in the French Quarter? Check.
From the title it wasn’t clear if this was going to be an actual spec fiction piece or if that was meant as a little local flair, but I was primed for either outcome. Early on it seemed the story was going to go one particular way; the fact that it did not I found intriguing and playful.
Jack is a trust fund baby who hangs around the Quarter picking up tourists and the staff members of various establishments, and eliciting jealousy in the locals with whom he regularly interacts. They resent the fact that that he’s good looking and young, doesn’t have to work to earn a living, and has nothing better to do but preen and play all day, every day.
And then it gets bizarre, in a really good way. If you like the sort of deliciously creepy story where things shift so subtly that you don’t notice anything is happening until you look around and—BAM!—find that everything’s changed, you will enjoy this story. If you’re a fan of the Twilight Zone, you will enjoy this story. If you like a well-crafted tale where every element that serves to set up the beginning simultaneously sets up the end, you will enjoy this story.
What a great way to open the anthology.