Originally published in the United States in the 1980s, the Blackwater saga will have waited until 2022 to be entitled to its French translation. But the wait will have been rewarded, with the 6 volumes published by the independent publishing house Monsieur Toussaint Louverture.
An exciting plot, books of great beauty: Blackwater is not only a UFO in the current literary landscape but also (and above all) a work that you must have in your library!
Michael McDowell, the author who inspired Stephen King
In France, the name of Michael McDowell remains relatively unknown to the general public. However, it is to him that we owe the script for Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and he also participated in the writing of The Nightmare Before Christmas by Mr. Jack (even if the collaboration between the two men stopped before term).
Screenwriter for the small and the big screen, Michael McDowell was also a writer of great talent. “The best paperback author in the United States” says a certain Stephen King. The two men also worked together for the adaptation of the novel Skin on Bones and Stephen King himself says he was inspired by McDowell for the writing and publication of his masterpiece. The green Line.
Thereby, if we were able to be moved by the adventures of Paul Edgecombe, Percy Wetmore and John Caffey (“like coffee, except that it’s not written the same way”) in the 1990s, it is because we was able to meet Elinor Dammert and the Caskey family a few years earlier. Finally, American readers were able, because the Blackwater saga, published between January and June 1983, had never before been translated into French.
If the genre of the serial novel seemed to have fallen into disuse, the Monsieur Toussaint-Louverture editions wanted to prove that this format could appeal to French readers today. Like a TV series of which we could discover a new episode every week, Blackwater was entitled to the publication of its 6 volumes every 15 days, between April 7 and June 15, 2022 : Flood, La Digue, La Maison, La Guerre, La Fortune, Pluie. The opportunity to immerse yourself in an epic reading of around 1500 pages (a little more than the complete lord of the rings)…
Why should you delve into the Blackwater saga?
We grant you (especially if you’re not a big reader): embarking on a 1500-page reading can be scary… But Blackwater is so addictive that you won’t feel them go by!
Because the 6 volumes are exciting
A Dallas-style family saga (thankfully less cartoonish!), Blackwater begins in 1919, in the semi-fictional town of Perdido. Semi-fictitious because if this town in Alabama does exist, it has no “never possessed the population, geography or buildings described”, according to the author’s note. And as the title of the first volume, La Crue, indicates, it is with devastating floods that Michael McDowell sets the scene and introduces his characters.
The Caskey family is one of the wealthiest in Perdido, led by matriarch Mary-Love and her son Oscar. While the clan is busy coping with the famous flood, a mysterious character appears: Elinor Dammert. Who is she ? Where is she from ? Many gray areas remain. However, this one will manage to make a place for itself, not only in Perdido, but also within the Caskey clan. Attractive, the young woman also seems to be endowed with supernatural powers, potentially linked to the river.
Obviously, Michael McDowell will take the time to get into the intimacy of each character, but also to make them evolve (the story ends at the end of the 1950s), to allow the reader to completely unravel the plot. Violent deaths follow family quarrels, births follow marriages, and one quickly takes a liking to these different characters.
In addition to the portrait of South America at the beginning of the 20th century and the supernatural dimension, Blackwater also manages to evoke societal themes such as the place of women, racism… We would almost have the impression of attending an encounter between the world of Little House on the Prairie and that of Twin Peaks.
Because these books are works of art
The story is rich and fascinating, but what also contributes to the success of the Blackwater saga this year is its look. Because Monsieur Toussaint Louverture has made all of these 6 volumes into authentic works of art.
Of course, it is often said that you “don’t judge a book by its cover”. But in this case, the ramage has nothing to envy to the plumage with the drawings of Pedro Oyarbide. The publisher specifies that these six covers were designed “with the idea of giving them an aspect which, while remaining in time, would manage to escape it”. An old-fashioned, almost baroque charm emanates from it and do not fail to come back to it after reading the book to grasp all the details.
To give life to this artistic work and “a bit fantastical”the covers have been hot-foiled twice and embossed, “so that their shapes and shadows capture the light and mark the spirits”.
If they irremediably catch the eye in bookstores, the 6 volumes of Blackwater will then mark your minds for many other reasons. Proving that the serial novel still has a bright future ahead of it, Michael McDowell’s horrific-melancholy saga will remain as one of the most significant literary works of the year.