Blood to Drink
New Orleans, 1934. No vampires in sight despite the title, but worse — demons abound on the Mississippi River as bootleggers scramble to make their final fortune just before the repeal of Prohibition. The Volstead Act (1919-1934) criminalized alcohol in the United States for moral reasons resulting in higher crime and illegal, tax-free earnings. Wesley Farrell, a small time operator who eluded the Coast Guard on many occasions, ponders his future in a local bar when a brawl breaks out. He and a well-dressed stranger fight their way out and the stranger introduces himself, offering Wes a ride. Out of the blue, his new pal is shot to death by a drive-by hit man. Wesley escapes but tells no one, to keep the law out of his affairs. He ignores the slight twinge in his conscience and gets on with his life.
Five years later, the dead man’s brother arrives in New Orleans to investigate the unsolved case. Criminals who believed themselves safe crawl out of the woodwork to cover their tracks by any means possible.
Skinner’s novel is a hard-boiled slice of life during segregationist New Orleans, when “whites and negros” each had their own societies and law enforcement systems. In this novel, they are called to work together, and insight into both races and their interrelationships are exposed as Wesley Farrell walks the many streets and parishes of the area to right a wrong and bring the crooks to justice. New Orleans ambiance is detailed in the street names, landmarks, music and attitudes ultimately demonstrated that, despite the hard-core crime, there is always that human element in all of us. (#3 in the Wesley Farrell series.)