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Graveyard Dust (Benjamin January) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Mar 2001


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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam USA; Reissue edition (1 Mar 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553575287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553575286
  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 3 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,788,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Hambly's first Star Wars novel was the New York Times bestselling Children of the Jedi. Her other novels range from high fantasies to historical mysteries to vampire tales. She holds both a master's degree in medieval history and a black belt in Shotokan karate. A multiple Nebula Award nominee, she has also been president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She lives in Los Angeles.

Product Description

From the Author

A letter from the author
Since my college days (back in the late Mesozoic Era) I've wanted to do a mystery set in the antebellum South with a free black protagonist. Historical mysteries are mostly comedies of manners--investigations of the ins and outs of the society in which they take place--and the artificiality of that milieu fascinated me. I deliberately steered clear of the Civil War and the era immediately preceding it because a) a lot of other people have done it better than I could and b) because the issues, and the people, were very different even a generation earlier. It mokes it harder to research--very little is done about that changeover generation between Jeffersonian and Jacksonian America--but the more I study, the more fascinating stuff I find. It's a goldmine for a writer.

One of the things I enjoy most about the Benjamin January series is the continuing cast of characters. Family and friends are a major subtheme of the books: you need your family. You need your friends. After Benjamin s wife dies he returns to New Orleans, a city in which he will automatically become a non-person and will be in periodic danger of enslavement, because his family is there and in his grief and his pain he cannot survive without them. This is not only an emotional truth in all times and places, but very typical of the society about which I'm writing. To the antebellum New Orleans Creoles, both white and black, family was everything.

I must say I love writing Ben's mother. She's an absolutely horrible woman, snobbish and greedy and self-centered, but she's a wonderful mechanism to advance plots by giving the reader whole reams of Information in the form of spiteful gossip. In fact I love writing about most of those people--Ben's sisters, and his worthless white pal Hannibal, and Lieutenant Shaw. I'll occasionally use historical characters in the books, like Madame Lalaurie or John Davis, the man who owned the Orleans Ballroom, and I try to get those people as accurately as I can, from what I can learn of them. There was no lack of fascinating people running around New Orleans in that era. About some of them. like the voodoo queen Marie Laveau, it's almost impossible to find "hard" information--only rumors and traditions and tales that have been colored by the prejudice or political correctness of the tellers.

I try, too, to portray what the city must have been like, what people must have been like. New Orleans fascinates me because there were literally four separate social systems--white Creoles, white Americans, mixed-race free colored, and black slaves--living in the same few square miles of territory and none of them dealing with the others unless absolutely necessary. The concept of solidarity between the free colored and the blacks was almost unheard-of: the free colored, for the most part, identified with the white Creoles, the people who had power and money. January is an interesting character to me precisely because he was raised with a French Creole outlook, because he has the outlook of an educated European. He's very much a man between two worlds, on outsider among his own people.

For most of my life I've been a student of history, although I've had a fairly long career as a writer of sword-and-sorcery fantasy before I began writing historical mysteries. My degree is in Medieval History, something I've seldom used in any of my writing: basically what I learned was how to research, and how to set up a non-industrial society. From the time I was five I knew that I wanted to write, and I've tried to do at least a little of the things I write about: hand-to-hand combat, riding a horse, loading black powder weapons. dancing, wearing a corset. My love of history was one of the things that drew me to New Orleans for the first time, though I fell in love with the city--and with my husband, whom I met there--and ended up living in New Orleans half-time for nearly three years.

I feel like I have so much more to learn.

About myself I will just say that I was born In California, raised here, and currently live in Los Angeles with my husband, two dogs, two cats, and two lizards. Like Benjamin, I treasure my family and my friends. In the course of getting my degree in Medieval History I spent a year at the University of Bordeaux in the early seventies, and in connection with writing a couple of historical vampire thrillers I've traveled through Europe learning that there are no back-alleys in the old part of Vienna (oops, I guess I'll have to re-write that back-alley scene) and that the sunlight in Istanbul is not like light anywhere else that I've seen.

My husband, who is a science fiction writer, and I go back to New Orleans a few, times a year. Even in the eighteenth century it was remarked on that once someone had lived there, the city would draw them back.

I hope to go on writing about that town for a very long time. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Aug 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have been reading Barbara Hambly's science fiction for years. When I saw that she had written a series of books based on a free man of color, as an African American I was skeptical of what her view would be. I have been pleasantly surprised. I could not put Fever Season down and anxiously waited for Graveyard Dust.
Both books are meals which should be slowly savored, with new tastes and smells to entice the palate on every page. I think the characterizations are on the money, with Benjamin's mother an excellent case in point. I like Rose Vitrac the best, but I have known Dominique's and the rest of the crowd in my life, as well as Olympe's and Benjamin's. I think Olympe's character could be better developed but I'm sure this is something the author will work on.
I suggest readers sit back and read slowly. The reward is great.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 May 1999
Format: Hardcover
In 1834 New Orleans, just prior to his death, Isaak Jumon apparently accuses his spouse Celie of poisoning him. At least that is the conclusion of the local law enforcement officials. Besides arresting Celie, the police apprehend Benjamin January's sister Olympe as an accomplice for selling the poison.
Benjamin, a free man of color, knows his sibling would never do such an act, though she practices good voodoo. He also realizes that his sister has no chance of a fair trial by her peers because New Orleans is a city deeply divided along racial lines. Benjamin begins his own inquiries into the murder of Isaak even after someone tries to warn him off by sprinkling GRAVEYARD DUST in his bed. When it comes to Olympe, nothing will stand in Benjamin's way of trying to free her.
GRAVEYARD DUST, the third novel in Barbara Hambly's superb historical mystery series, is an excellent who-done-it that will bring further accolades to this talented writer. The excellent story line is extremely complex as it meanders to its conclusion. The characters are warm and represent various aspects of early nineteenth century New Orleans. This facet of the novel alone makes GRAVEYARD DUST a winner. The atmosphere of 1834 New Orleans makes this one of the top historical who-done-its of the year.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Jun 1999
Format: Hardcover
The third in the series following A Free Man of Color and Fever Season, Graveyard Dust continues the story of Benjamin January in 1834 New Orleans. January's sister, a voodoo priestess, is charged with murder in the death of a young man whose body has yet to be found. Purportedly, she provided the gris-gris used by a young wife to kill her husband. Olympe is jailed and seems unwilling to defend herself. Setting out to prove the innocence of both women, January is forewarned that his own life is in danger when he finds graveyard dust in his bed. January's investigation turns up family secrets, greed, and illicit sex. Hambly again invokes the colorful nineteenth-century New Orleans with all its humidity, mud, stench, disease, and vermin, as well as its polite society, racial divisiveness, judicial corruption, Catholicism, and voodoo. Not as engrossing as the first two in the series, Graveyard Dust, nonetheless will please Hambly's legions of fans.
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