This short story is one third of an anthology called The Chicken (or 3 Weird Tales). In A Slinking Agent, the author brings us to New Orleans at a very unique time in history. It’s 1919 and the decadent city is on the verge of Prohibition. The rise of the religious right is changing the good time destination. It comes with a price though. This is the time of the Axman.
The Axman has been most recently popularised and brought to attention by the third series of American Horror Story, which featured him in the plot. The premise of the Axman is that anyone who is not playing jazz on a specific night is at risk of the Axman calling. The Axman doesn’t discriminate in who he kills, be it man, woman, or child, if the music is not playing.
The author brings us a rich and lively New Orleans, and is clearly familiar with the location and history. The city of music is recreated along with the social issues of the time. There is racism and distinct ethnic neighbourhoods. The culture is tangible. We meet Dr. Stillman Ball, returned from service in France during World War I, and his mixed race wife, Marie. We spend an evening in their company. We see the racial divide from both sides, as they are looked at differently when out of what society would see as their natural place. Stillman is fascinated with the Axman and who he may be.
The book is rich in atmosphere and sense of time and place. Hildred Rex gives us a concise look into the world of the Axman, and this is recommended reading.
Reviewed by Andrew Tadman @thebooksofblood.