Welcome to the blog! Today I have Suzanne Johnson talking about the villain in her new book Elysian Fields.
The first book that ever scared me was Stephen King’s IT. I was probably too young to be reading that particular novel, and the idea of something so evil it could change into whatever you feared most was terrifying. And seriously—did anyone read that book and not fear clowns?
Now I find myself writing my own brand of monsters, both paranormal and human. Or, in the case of the Axeman of New Orleans, both.
I knew that in my book Elysian Fields, I wanted to bring back a historical villain from New Orleans’ rich past. This member of the Historical Undead—which in my world are famous humans granted immortality by the magic of human memory—was going to be controlled by a wizard necromancer and out to kill my heroine, so he had to be Big, Bad, and Ugly.
New Orleans has been the per-capita murder capital off and on for hundreds of years, so there were plenty of baddies from which to choose. But I finally settled on the Axeman.
In 1918 and 1919, this never-identified killer committed attack after attack throughout New Orleans, usually hacking up his victims with an ax in the middle of the night as they slept, then leaving the ax at the scene. He wasn’t discriminatory—he attacked men, women, even children. He attacked in the French Quarter, and he attacked across the river on what today is called the Westbank.
That isn’t even the creepy part. After more than a year of attacks and deaths with no solid leads on who he was, the Axeman got cocky in March 1919 and wrote a taunting letter to the daily Times-Picayune, which ran it on the front page. The handwritten note, which claimed to be written from hell, was addressed to “Esteemed Mortal.” It claimed that “I am not a human being, but a spirit and demon from the hottest hell” and the efforts of the police “have been so utterly stupid as to not only amuse me, but His Satanic Majesty.” Then, he promised to kill again, at 12:15 a.m. on a particular date—unless a home was playing jazz music.
Jazz played all over New Orleans that night. And the Axeman didn’t attack. Well, until a few days later.
Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up! So I had great fun resurrecting the Axeman once again and bringing him to modern New Orleans to chase after my poor wizard heroine DJ.
A creaking sound overhead stopped me cold. It was the squeaky floorboard in my upstairs sitting room, which lay at the top of the stairs.
I relaxed my shoulders and took a deep breath to slow down my heart rate, which had begun to jackrabbit in erratic spurts. I was being paranoid. I lived in a house that had been built in 1879. It settled. It creaked. When the wind blew hard, it moaned. I was just jumpy.
The floor overhead creaked again, followed by a thump and the re-acceleration of my heart rate. Holy crap. That was not the sound of a house settling.
I slipped out of my silly red heels, grabbed my clutch bag, and tiptoed toward the back door. I’d drive my rental car to the Gator and hang out. Chicken? Yes, but better fearful and breathing than brave and dead.
I picked up the broken elven staff from the kitchen counter and, pausing on the back stoop, pulled my cell phone out of my bag and punched Alex’s speed dial. Voice mail. I tried Ken next, while walking gingerly across the gravel parking lot. He answered on the first ring.
“It’s DJ,” I whispered. “Somebody’s in my house.” And now, walking heavily down my stairs. I ran toward the car.
“Where are you?” Ken asked.
“Trying to get to the car.” I fumbled the keys and dropped them in the gravel.
“Drive to my place now—stay on the phone with me until you get here.”
Finally, I had the key at the lock. “Okay, I’m getting—”
Something jerked my head backward, throwing me off balance. Almost suspended by a fist in my hair, I looked up into the horrific face of the Axeman. I think he was smiling, but since burned flesh hung off his blackened face in gobbets, it was hard to tell. He looked mad, as in both angry and insane….
Now, here’s the scariest part of all…he’s being controlled by a wizard. Which means that while the Axeman might be a villain, there’s an even bigger villain pulling the strings. And he’s probably not a clown.
What’s the baddest villain you’ve encountered in your reading journey—human or otherwise? Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
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Cindy here again!
Thanks for being here, Suzanne. I love a good villain. And yours sounds very creepy.
Don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a gift card.
Until next time…