The Axeman

The Axeman

by Ray Celestin


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"Ray Celestin skillfully depicts the desperate revels of that idiosyncratic city and its bizarre legends in his first novel, THE AXEMAN." — The New York Times Sunday Book Review (Marilyn Stasio, Crime Columnist)

The Axeman stalks the streets of New Orleans...

In a town filled with gangsters, voodoo, and jazz trumpets sounding from the dance halls, a sense of intoxicating mystery often beckons from the back alleys. But when a serial killer roams the sultry nights, even the corrupt cops can't see the clues. That is, until a letter from the Axeman himself is published in the newspaper, proclaiming that any home playing jazz music will be spared in his next attack.

Such brass invites a chase, and not just from the cryptic detective running the show. The New Orleans of 1919 is a place like no other, where the corruption runs deep and the bourbon rolls smooth, and control of this city is a prize only a fool would give up. Based on a true story, The Axeman brings to life the vibrant, volatile New Orleans of the Jazz Age, filled with as much desperate ambition as utter fear.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492609162
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 397,488
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Ray Celestin lives in London. He studied Asian art and languages at university and is a script writer for film and TV, as well as publishing several short stories. The Axeman's Jazz is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt


New Orleans, May 1919

John Riley stumbled into the offices of the New Orleans Times—Picayune an hour and a half after he was supposed to have started work. He sat at his desk, took a long, slow breath, and raised his eyes to peer about the room. Even in his befuddled state he could see his colleagues stealing glances at him, and he wondered exactly how unkempt he must look. He had been out the night before, at his usual spot on Elysian Fields Avenue, and he raised a hand to his face to make sure he wasn't still perspiring. When his fingers rubbed against a stubble at least two days old, he felt a pang of regret for not having sought out a mirror before his arrival.

He looked at his desk, and his gaze landed on his typewriter. Its black metal frame, its crescent of type bars, its levers and keys all made the thing seem daunting somehow, cold and hard and otherworldly, and he realized he wasn't in a fit enough state to start writing just yet. He'd need a few coffees, a packet of cigarettes, and maybe a lunchtime brandy before he was ready to tackle anything requiring a fully functioning brain, so he decided to kill what was left of the morning with something that approximated work. He rose and stumbled over to the in tray where the letters to the editor were kept. He grabbed as many as he could, cradling them against his chest, and returned to his seat.

There was the usual correspondence from irate residents, people with complaints, know-it-alls, and those who used the letters page as a forum for arguing with one another. He selected a few of the longer diatribes to print, as they filled up the page more easily, then he sifted through the letters from people who claimed to have seen the Axeman. Since the killings had started a few months ago, the office had been inundated with letters from concerned residents who swore they had seen him on his way to some murder or other. Riley sighed and wondered why these people sent these things to the newspaper and not the police department. He lit a cigarette and picked up the last letter in the pile. It was an unusual-looking envelope, rice-paper thin, with no sender details, and the newspaper's address was written on it in a spidery scrawl of badly splattered, rust-colored liquid he hoped was ink. He took a drag on his cigarette and opened it with a fingernail.

Hell, May 6th, 1919

Esteemed Mortal:

They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman.

When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know whom they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody ax, besmeared with blood and brains of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.

If you wish you may tell the police to be careful not to rile me. Of course, I am a reasonable spirit. I take no offense at the way they have conducted their investigations in the past. In fact, they have been so utterly stupid as to not only amuse me, but His Satanic Majesty, Francis Josef, etc. But tell them to beware. Let them not try to discover what I am, for it were better that they were never born than to incur the wrath of the Axeman. I don't think there is any need of such a warning, for I feel sure the police will always dodge me, as they have in the past. They are wise and know how to keep away from all harm.

Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as a most horrible murderer, which I am, but I could be much worse if I wanted to. If I wished, I could pay a visit to your city every night. At will I could slay thousands of your best citizens, for I am in close relationship with the Angel of Death.

Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a little proposition to you people. Here it is:

I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it on Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the ax.

Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and it is about time I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping that thou wilt publish this, that it may go well with thee, I have been, am, and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm of fancy.

The Axeman

Riley took a drag on his cigarette, put the letter down, and wondered if its author really was the Axeman, and if not, who the hell else would send something like that to the paper? Authentic or not, it'd be a sin not to print it. Riley grinned and rose, and his colleagues turned to look at him as he marched toward the editor's office. He didn't care to wonder if he should tell the authorities before going to press-in instances like this, it was better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. They'd print it, and the city would read it, and a chaos would descend, and New Orleans might well spiral into the greatest night it had ever seen.

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The Axeman 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
While this was not as creepy as I thought, it was still a pretty good read. There were several things going on by several different groups of people. It wasn't hard to keep track of and it was interesting that there were two scenarios that led to the same conclusion. I loved that it was set in the city of New Orleans and since I had read the "Empire of Sin" I knew all about Storyville and was aware of all that political business (which, by the way, is a good book). Anyways, back to this book. I found it very interesting, a little slow in some places and somewhat creepy in others. The characters were likable and the story was believable. I have nothing negative to say about this book. I would like to thank Sourcebooks and Net Galley for allowing me to read and review this e-galley free in exchange for an honest review.