Saturday, May 25, 2013

Friendswood author Harold Raley at Friendswood Public Library: June 17

Meet the author of Louisiana Rogue, Harold Raley, on Monday, June 17 at  7pm. A native of the Deep South, Harold Raley spends much time observing people in all levels of society. His thorough command of English, French, and Spanish greatly helps him understand and write about the people he moves among. He has traveled widely in the Americas and Europe and studied the literature, history, and philosophy of France, Spain, the United States, and England.  A published author of a dozen books, Dr. Raley also has academic credentials and has taught for universities in Texas, Alabama, and Oklahoma.  He and his wife Vicky live in Friendswood, Texas.

Harold Raley's novel tells a delightful story of a rogue every bit as charming as Tom Jones. I can see Louisiana Rogue as a first-rate movie with a leading actor --someone like Johnny Depp-- who can play the full range of human feelings from the outrageous and bizarre to the touchingly tender and especially to the wildly humorous. 
 --Carroll Wilson, writer and editor


Below is an excerpt from Harold Raley’s wonderful novel Louisiana Rogue published by Lamar University Press:

Part I: Touching on Peter’s early years; his parents and family, companions, education and circumstances; the curious tale of Alain DuClos (Sixfingers) and his odd demise; his mother’s story; how he avenged himself on brother Henri and escaped the slavers

         Perhaps none, or few, of my misfortunes about to unfold in this tale would have happened had I not betrayed my brother Henri to the slavers. Yes, you heard me aright, dear reader; I delivered my brother into their hands for the lucre of a few coins, thereby setting in motion a series of events and their consequences beyond any capability on my part to foresee them.  But I will repeat to the end that if the blame was mine, the fault was his, or so I felt at the time without any sensible sting of remorse.  You may judge the affair differently but I hope fairly.  At least have the patience to hear how the matter was circumstanced against me before you issue a condemnation.
     The only likeness ever I saw of my father Joseph Prosper, or Prospère, as it was written in our French tongue, was a framed artist’s sketch my mother kept hidden in a drawer by her bed. With cosmetics or crayons she had completed as faithfully as she could the approximation of his features. Whether in truth he was or not my father, God alone knows of a certainty, but with this public claim my mother inscribed and baptized me in St. Martinville parish as Pierre Prospère, adding as a second name Tourmoulin in memory of a relative, her father, if her account can be believed.
     Picture then, if you will, a gaunt, long-necked Frenchman sunk into weeds too large for his lean frame; fierce blue eyes; untrimmed, blond hair---and by the look of it all but virgin to comb and brush---descending to his shoulders; a high forehead; bristly yellowish eyebrows; large, wafery ears set at a low, wide angle to his head; ruddy, freckled skin too fair for browning in the New Orleans climate; an uncommonly large nose hooked over a thin-lipped mouth etched by exuberant red mustachios; and a wispy, reddish pointed goatee that completed  a long, narrow face.  With these features you will have a true image.
     I was long incuriously ignorant about his origins and whereabouts, for before I reached the age of memory and sensibility, he fled New Orleans for the Spanish territory of Coahuila-Texas, clutching a bag of purloined funds, lashing a lathered stallion, and---so it was rumored---taunting pursuing constables.
     No description could be more unlike my youthful recollections of Mother’s appearance.  She was soft of feature and form, saffron in complexion, and the apex of her fair glory was her waist-long hair that undulated in lustrous and luscious ebony over her smooth arms and shoulders. Her dark eyes sparkled as her high merriment and extravagant charms earned her entry into the passions and purses of old New Orleans.  Her voice was melodious with the accents and words of the languages we all spoke and commingled with casual fluency: French, Spanish, and Old Quarter English.
     Though beyond the meridian of her life at the time of this telling, yet she retained charms sufficient in their effect to rouse the patrons to whistling, thunderous applause when she played the harp and sang French and Spanish songs. At times in a more ebullient spirit she danced Spanish boleros and fandangos and French contra dances and waltzes with selected partners in Père LaChaise’s venerable cabaret or, later, in Madame Sonnier’s more raucous Sojourner Inn and Tavern. She had a passion for the minuet learned in her years in St. Martinville but for want of accomplished partners and stately locale seldom danced it in New Orleans.
     On fair afternoons as she customarily issued forth into the streets of the Vieux Carrè men halted to view her passing, hats doffed and hearts secretly or openly offered to her feminine splendor. As she glided by staring male onlookers, serene in her seductive beauty, skirts and petticoats a-rustle in short, form-hugging and puffless cirsaca and matching casaquin, many an angry lady berated husband or companion for his helpless bewitchment. Outwardly indifferent to their silent or spoken provocations, which she accepted as the natural homage men pay great beauty, yet she seemed to enter into a tacit complicity with each gentleman by leaving him with the singular impression of having been favored by a fleeting smile, a subtle hand signal, or an inviting tilt of her head.  As a poet of the English tongue has sung:
          Grace was in all her steps, heav’n in her eye,
          In every gesture dignity and love.

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