Chefs John Rickey and Gary "G-man" Stubbs have been best friends since they were 9, a couple since they were 16, and proprietors of their own restaurant, Liquor, for a few years now. They grew up in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, a cross between a country village and a Third World slum, far below the Garden District and the French Quarter and the other parts of the city known to tourists. Most of the houses are old, small, and in disrepair; the streets are prone to sudden flooding; the air smell of frying sausage and the nearby Industrial Canal. Rickey and G-man have Ninth Ward street smarts and the hoarse, full-throated downtown accent: 'Ax ya momma can we have some'a dem cookies she bought?'" Now they live on Marengo Street in Uptown New Orleans, not far from where Ignatius Reilly lived with his mother in John Kennedy Toole's A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, a novel to which LIQUOR owes a vast debt of inspiration.
Rickey, who briefly attended the prestigious CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Hyde Park, New York, but was expelled for fighting with another student, is tightly wound, driven, and occasionally hysterical. G-man, who is easygoing and loyal to a fault, is the youngest child in a large, traditional Catholic family. Elmer Stubbs and Mary Rose Bonano Stubbs have six children: Mary Louise, Little Elmer, Carl, Henry, Rosalie, and Gary. While most of my focus so far has been on Rickey and G-man, other members of the Stubbs family have been and will continue to be the subjects of various stories. I'm not foolhardy enough to compare myself to J.D. Salinger, but I've long been intrigued by his series of stories about the Glass family. The Stubbs kids are neither as smart nor as insufferable as the Glasses, but I hope my affection for them is as evident in my stories as Salinger's is in his.
"The Devil of Delery Street," published in McSWEENEY'S ENCHANTED CHAMBER OF ASTONISHING STORIES. A story about the Stubbs children, particularly the oldest, Mary Louise (known as Melly), encountering a poltergeist in 1974 New Orleans.
THE VALUE OF X. This novel chronicles the beginning of Rickey and Gary's relationship, their interest in cooking, Rickey's days at the CIA, and how Gary became G-man.
"The Working Slob's Prayer (Being a Night in the History of the Peychaud Grill)," published in OUTSIDERS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF MISFITS (forthcoming from Roc/NAL, October 2005). A look at the restaurant where Rickey and G-man really began to get their chops.
LIQUOR. Ten years after the events of THE VALUE OF X, Rickey and G-man have spent a decade working in New Orleans kitchens and are determined to open their own restaurant based on what they believe to be a brilliant idea: a menu based entirely on liquor. This novel follows their travails through the bitchy, competitive, sometimes incestuous New Orleans restaurant world as they attempt it.
"Bayou de la Mère," first published in QUEER FEAR 2. Reprinted in my collection THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. A year after the restaurant opens, this story finds Rickey and G-man on their first-ever vacation, a trip to the Louisiana bayou country. As I wrote about a large Catholic family and their gay son who'd left the Church many years ago, I began to think about how deeply childhood religion can scar a person, and to wonder whether anything valuable can be salvaged from those scars.
"A Season in Heck," first published in my collection THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. This novella is primarily about Paul Parsons, a young cook who works at Liquor the summer after it opens. Gay but still closeted, Paul isn't sure whether to be intimidated by or attracted to Rickey and G-man.
"The Feast of St. Rosalie," first published as a single-story chapbook by Subterranean Press. Revisits G-man's sister Rosalie (who appeared briefly in THE VALUE OF X) as she attends a Catholic festival unique to the New Orleans area, the Procession of St. Rosalie .
PRIME. This novel picks up a couple of years after LIQUOR. The restaurant is a success, and after benefactor Lenny Duveteaux gets in trouble with the law, Rickey accepts a plum consulting job at a Dallas restaurant. Shady goings-on ensue in this tale of New Orleans politics, conflicting restaurant scenes, and ghosts from the past.
"The Heart of New Orleans," first published in City Slab #1. Reprinted in my collection THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. The first definite meeting of Dr. Brite and the Stubbs family, as the Doc performs a strange postmortem on the drowned 5-year-old son of G-man's brother Henry Stubbs. Rickey can be glimpsed briefly at the little boy's funeral.