March 14th, 1919: The editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune receives a terrifying letter from the so-called "Axman". The letter states that the Axman will pass over the Crescent City on St. Joseph's Night, and that he will grant clemency to anyone listening to jazz music. Those who refuse to "jazz it up" do so at the risk of his axe.
The letter could not have arrived at a more volatile time for New Orleans: The "vice district" of Storyville was on the eve of puritanical reform, prohibition was looming, the Spanish flu was raging, veterans of the Great War were returning home traumatized, racial strife was at an all-time high, giving rise to the birth of the Mafia. All of this would set the stage for the Axman's reign of terror.
By spring of 1919, the Axman had already claimed five lives. There were reported sightings of him on a nightly basis; backdoors were found chiseled and scored, axes were reported missing or discovered lying in unfamiliar yards. The police were confounded as to both his motive and identity. As a result families armed themselves and took shifts watching over each other as they slept.
This book follows the story of an interracial couple as they traverse the orgy of jazz and the rampant hysteria of what came to be the night of the Axman.
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Surprising, dark and funny!
- John Savoy
Wild romp through hysteric post-Great War New Orleans