Thursday, May 21, 2009

Author Interest: Poppy Z. Brite

Poppy Z. Brite is a name I've long heard in the book world, though I have yet to pick up any of her writing. After years of looking over her stuff, I know enough to realize that she's a horror writer. Books like Wormwood, Lost Souls, and Exquisite Corpse pepper the shelves under her name. I'm not much of a horror reader myself, so I actually sat up and took notice of Brite's catalog of work when a fellow group member at Shelfari mentioned Liquor several years ago.

Liquor is something of an homage to New Orleans, and it's foodie fiction! Given my recent fascination with foodie memoir, Julie and Julia, I started thinking about Liquor after a long time of...not thinking about it. Since I have a gift card for Half-Price Books burning a hole in my pocket and I have another week before the summer classes I'm teaching kick up, I think now is the time to go on a Poppy Z. Brite hunt.

If you're interested, here's the blurb for Liquor:

As much a love letter to the Big Easy as it is to the demanding (and sometimes debauched) lifestyle of a chef, horror maven Brite's (Lost Souls) first foray into the trendy genre of foodie lit is a winsome entree. New Orleans natives and lovers John Rickey and Gary "G-man" Stubbs, affable characters from Brite's recent coming-of-age/coming-out tale The Value of X, decide to capitalize on Rickey's brainchild of opening a restaurant with a "whole menu based on liquor." Word passes through the gossipy Nola restaurant scene that two up-and-comers have a hot concept but no money, and soon enough, Rickey and G-man find themselves backed by celebrity chef Lenny Duveteaux, known as "the Nixon of the New Orleans restaurant world" for his habit of taping his phone conversations. At first doubtful of Lenny's motives, the two come to regard him as a mentor even as they question some of his choices. In one of the many conflicts that Brite embroils her main characters, the yats (colloquial for natives) have to fend off increasingly threatening actions from Rickey's former boss, cokehead Mike Mouton, while experimenting with dishes like white rum–laced fettuccine Alfredo and veal kidneys √† la li√©geoise.

Sounds fun, right?? There's also a follow-up novel called Soul Kitchen that sounds promising. If you happen to have read Brite's work before was it her horror or one of her other offerings? Where would you recommend I start, even if I decided to jump on the horror train?

Poppy Z. Brite is one of those rare authors that gets stuck in my head purely by chance and keeps resurfacing time and again. Now if I'd just get off my readerly butt and read some of her work!


  1. I've heard of her! But never read any of her stuff - I read something by an author who's supposed to write the same sort of books, and didn't like it, so I never bothered with Poppy Brite. Can't wait to see what you think of her!

  2. Poppy Z. Brite was at World Horror 1997 in Niagara Falls and I saw her on several panels, but didn't get a chance to speak to her. She was very engaging, as I recall. (And yet I still haven't read any of her books!)

  3. I've never heard of Brite but she sounds right up my alley. I need to check my library to see if they have any of her books. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. I love New Orleans, I'm rather fond of liquor and I am digging the foodie lit so this sounds right up my alley. I'm totally going to check her out. I'm not big on horror lit so I think I'll pass on that but let me know how you like it. You're usually a good gauge for things I tend to like too. Ooohh, I'm excited to find her books! Thanks for doing all the leg work Andi!!

  5. Jenny, I can't wait to see what I think of her, too! I have no idea if I'll like her stuff, but I'm willing to try. In fact, I need to go check the library website right now.

    Dennis, cool! Her website is really fun and laid back, and she seems like she'd be quite engaging.

    Nik, I'll keep you posted! I have no idea which way it'll go for me, but I'll certainly share the love (or not) when I read some of her stuff.

    No problem, Funky! The legwork is the fun part. hehe Now if I just had more time to read these days. Oy!

  6. How can you not remember someone with that name too right? love it.

    One of these days I do plan to try out one of her books. By the way, this weekend would be the perfect one to head on over to HPB to use your gift card - they are having a sale!

  7. Oooh! I LOVE Poppy Z. Brite. My first encounter with her was Lost Souls, which is now one of my favorite books ever, and officially one of my "desert island" books (you know, if you were stranded on an island and could only have three books). I do love a good vampire story. Her horror writing is deeply erotic and brutally violent, at times extreme. Once I picked up a book of hers called Exquisite Corpse at B&N, assuming I would love it as usual, and although I enjoyed it, it was so extreme I gave it away through BookMooch as soon as I was done. Something about gay psychopathic cannibals kind of turned my stomach, I suppose. Another book in her horror oeuvre I love (and have a copy) is called Drawing Blood, and is a haunted house story based around the surviving son of a renowned comic artist who slaughters his family and kills himself in this house. Excellent stuff. What's interesting is how the characters and settings in Lost Souls and Drawing Blood overlap; both are set mostly in Missing Mile, North Carolina, and feature some of the same (mostly likable) characters. I recommend both!

    I also love the Liquor series. There are actually three books: Liquor, Prime, and Soul Kitchen. I'd recommend reading them in that order. They're hilarious and full of kitchen-related skulduggery. I know you're a Tony Bourdain fan, so you might be interested to know he's one of the sources Brite acknowledges in the writing of Liquor. Brite's kitchens obviously reflect his influence (especially in regards to language, general misbehavior, etc.). I hope you enjoy the series; you'll get hooked on the characters and the seediness of it all!

    Geesh. Sorry for the full-blown book review of a comment. I guess I'm kind of a fan. :)

  8. Iliana, isn't that the truth! The name is unforgettable. And thanks for the heads up about HPB! Now I don't know if I want to go to the one around the corner or the huuuuge one on NW Hwy. Decisions, decisions!

    Jen, thank you SOOO much for your full blown review of Poppy Z. Brite! lol I got a lot of good info from your post, and I can't wait to give her a try. Oh, and thanks for letting me know about Prime, too. I had no idea about that one. And you know how much I love Tony, so I'm extra tickled that he's acknowledged. Woot!

  9. Oooh can't wait to read your review on this. I've always wanted to pick up Poppy Z. Brite but never got around to it for whatever reason. The other comments likening her to Anthony Bourdain certainly shoot her up a few notches on my "To Read" queue.

  10. As one of the people who mentioned Liquor on Shelfari, I can say without reservation that Liquor is a rockin' good time! (This is Suze. Hehe.) I actually found your blog because I just finished reading the two novellas that go with the Liquor series, The Value of X and D*U*C*K, and wanted to see if she had any plans on doing any more writing, as she was working on a new book in the series. She sort of stopped after Katrina; I think it was very traumatic for her.

    Liquor is fun and funny; there's just the right balance of drama, humor, and happy endings to make it a light but fun read. Drop me a note on Shelfari if you read it!


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