"Summer seems an unlikely season for an elegy, but NO Quarter, by Robert Asprin (DarkStar, $15.95), serves as a final tribute to the sci-fi/fantasy/mystery novelist who passed away May 22, 2008, leaving his book in the expert hands of co-writers Eric Del Carlo and Teresa Patterson.
And what a bang-up farewell he's given us! Set in the French Quarter of pre-Katrina New Orleans, this memory-haunted mystery follows the troubled life of Sunshine, a murdered waitress, and the friends devastated by her death. Bone, Sunshine's ex-husband, is so grieved that he bails from his table-waiting job to find her killer. Set almost entirely in French Quarter barrooms (except for the occasional brawl on Bourbon Street) the book introduces us to a splendid panoply of characters known only by their nicknames. Besides the pool-playing, movie- obsessed Bone, we meet Maestro, a fencing expert with a dangerous past (rumored to be based on Asprin himself); Rose, a tarot reader and voodoo practitioner; Jugger, a dim but huge ex-con; as well as Dunk, Bear, Werewolf, Firecracker, and Boogie Joe. Such is the strength of Asprin's writing that he makes us care about every single one of these troubled souls, right down to the feral street kids who would knife anyone just to break up the boredom of their day.
Fascinating though these folks are, the true star of the novel is the French Quarter itself: historical, romantic, and dangerous. Asprin's sensuous descriptions bring the neighborhood alive with scents of hot asphalt, stale beer, sugared beignets, and bloated corpses. Temperance types might want to forgo its booze-soaked pages, but the only shortcoming in this love song to a cursed and blessed city is that (unlike New Orleans itself) it finally ends." --Betty Webb, Mystery Scene Magazine, 2010 Summer issue, #115 --Mystery Scene Magazine
"Del Carlo and Asprin clearly understand the bar scene. And they definitely get the neighborhood. Theirs is not a vision of wrought-iron balconies scented with jasmine. This late-night Quarter has its stomping boots on." --Diana Pinckley, New Orleans Times-Pickayune, Sunday, April 11, 2010 --New Orleans Times-Pickayune
"Okay, so when I received this book from the friendly folks at DarkStar Books, I wasn't sure what to expect. I certainly didn't think it was going to be a crazy whirl-wind tale of murder and intrigue in New Orleans. ... when Sunshine is knifed with an ice pick in a dark alley, Maestro and Bone set out to find the killer. This leads them on a wild adventure in which they discover a lot about themselves, about each other and they find just how low the underside of the French Quarter really hangs ... so, I say, go ahead and check out NO Quarter. I think you'll enjoy it."--Julia Scott-Douglas, Book News and Reviews --Book News and Reviews
From the Publisher
A note from Tom Knowles, editor of DarkStar Books to the fans of Robert Asprin:
NO Quarter isn't exactly Bob Asprin's last book--there are others forthcoming from outlines and partials--but it is the last book he completed, wrote through from beginning to end. It's also unique, for two reasons:
First, Bob's friends and those fans who got to meet him at conventions and filks will easily recognize his only somewhat fictionalized self portrait in the character of the mysterious, pool-playing fencing master and wise man/wise guy known as Maestro. Bob often put his personal philosophy into the mouths of his lead character, but for NO Quarter and Maestro, he anted up a bit of his soul.
Second, NO Quarter is a suspense/dark fantasy novel that is a crossover/spin-off from a fantasy series--something that has not, to this editor's knowledge, ever been accomplished before by any author. Although the fantasy and horror elements (voodoo, tarot readings and precognition, ghosts) are less in evidence, it is set in the same milieu as Bob's Dragons Luck and Dragons Wild novels. Fans of that series will already be familiar with NO Quarter's two protagonists, Maestro and Bone, as well as other denizens of NO Quarter's dangerous, haunted, and clannish French Quarter, from their minor roles in the strange life of Griffen McCandles, the Dragon gambler.
NO Quarter is remarkable in other ways as well.
Bob planned this novel with Eric Del Carlo after they met and became friends in the French Quarter. They alternated chapters, Bob writing Maestro's viewpoint, Eric writing Bone's. What shines through both writers' prose is a love for the old French Quarter that existed before Katrina smashed in to alter it forever--a love that neither excuses nor attempts to conceal that city-within-a-city's dangers and disappointments.
Maestro's chapters are classic Asprin, this because Maestro is the classic Asprin hero ... just written a bit darker, more reminiscent of his Thieves World than his Myth Adventures. The inimitable Asprin humor is there throughout, along with the tension between student and mentor, and the journey of self-discovery that both of them take during the course of a friendship. Bone's chapters, written in Eric's distinctive voice, offer an acerbic contrast that works to complement and highlight Asprin's characterization of Maestro. The two characters, as did the two writers, work well together and push each other in new directions.
When Bill Fawcett offered the book to DarkStar, Bob and Eric had brought it to a third-draft level. Because both authors had other commitments, Bob had suggested that long-time friend and author Teresa Patterson, who was familiar with the French Quarter and its culture, give the book its final polish to smooth out its rough spots. We signed the contract ... and then, not long after, Robert Asprin--my friend and a friend to just about everyone who met him--closed his eyes for the last time.
Despite that sad occurance, we pushed the project on to completion. Eric and Teresa's edits and refinements resulted in a novel that I believe is a fitting tribute to our friend, Bob Asprin. DarkStar published it in a quality trade paperback edition in November 2009.
Because the major chain stores are deadly serious about categories and placement, you'll likely find NO Quarter in the mystery section instead of the SF/F section beside Bob's other books--but make no mistake, it's an Asprin book, and in this editor's opinion, one of his finest works.
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