Severed: A Novel
by VL Towler
Publication Date: Dec 15, 2015
List Price: $17.99
Format: Paperback, 358 pages
Imprint: Inimitable Press
Publisher: Inimitable Press
Parent Company: Inimitable Press
Listen to an Interview of VL Towler Interviewed on Portsmouth Community Radio: WSCA 106.1 FM, Hosted by Kathy Pohlman Somssich and Larry Drake
VL Towler’s Severed, a novel, touches upon the issue of who controls the depiction of black culture, and explores to what extent we sacrifice the greatness of our history and culture for the price of fame. Towler won a Screenwriting Fellowship with the Writers Guild of America East Foundation, and sued a filmmaker for copyright infringement for his [similar] Academy-award-nominated original screenplay, but lost. Towler’s not done talking about it. Although the novel’s setting is in Louisiana, it is partially inspired by events in Portsmouth, NH, where the coffins of Africans were unearthed during a municipal dig, resulting in one of the only contemporary American memorials to our African ancestors.
Dismembered fingers. Lives cut short. A local investigation will upset the tranquility of a small Louisiana town. Dr. Lula Logan has been asked by her former boyfriend, a detective with whom she had just broken up, to investigate the appearance of severed fingers left at police department headquarters. Then another dismembered finger surfaces at the home of a local producer/writer and his business partner. The writer has been AWOL, and no one knows where he is. As the investigation of the mysterious fingers deepens, we will learn that many people affiliated with the missing writer’s production company, including his wife, have a stake in his disappearance. Notes, emails, and flower deliveries with written threats arrive, received by different individuals who want their involvement in the intrigue to remain undetected.
Set in a contemporary rural pocket of Northwestern Louisiana, [fictional] Nakadee is a university town with a population under 15,000. The citizens of Nakadee, whose ancestors have lived there for several hundred years, while trapped in its relative remoteness, are thankful for its quiet refuge. They purposefully wish to live life in the slow lane. The town is a mix of Creole, Cajun, Black and European inhabitants. Nakadee is a sleepy hollow (near Cane River country), and is likely to grow in leaps and bounds given an anticipated natural gas pipeline construction project which will change its moribund economy.
Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Lula Logan is reluctantly drawn into the forensic investigation concerning a severed finger left at the Nakadee Police Department by her ex-boyfriend, a police detective. She goes through the process of her forensic tasks in her lab: taking measurements of the amputated fingers, boiling the human tissue [a corpse is found in the woods with a gash in its head], and studying the striae of the bones to identify the type of injuries sustained by the victim. She must also try to identify the weapon or object that might have been used to kill the victim. Dr. Lula works closely with her colleagues, Aggie Sheaf, a Medical Examiner and “Tom-Tom,” a Forensic Entomologist, both of whom become involved in the investigation.
The Entomologist’s information helps uncover the mystery of the warring species of blowfly and black soldier fly maggots that cover the corpse found in the woods. The maggots hold the key to unlocking the mystery of which individual(s) among the small town’s citizenry could be the killer(s). We will learn about the role that flies play in the process of decomposition, their relevance to poultry farm rendering stations used for animal carcass disposal, and which flies are attracted to which type of once-living remains.
Two members of the House of Representatives, Congressmen Matt Killian, who represents a powerful Hollywood constituency, and an up-and-coming Congressman, Ambrose Girabeaux, a black Republican, are trying to negotiate their votes concerning upcoming Markup legislation involving the Intellectual Property Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, which Killian chairs. The congressmen are fighting over the entertainment industry which has sought Matt Killian’s assurances that he will protect its interests. At the Markup, the two legislators will debate the practices of the industry.
The investigation will also reveal that power comes in all manifestations, sex being one of the most flagrant in the entertainment industry. Powerful men and women who are straight, gay, and pedophiles figure prominently in the playground of the entertainment gods, and they can also filter into the lives of people in rural outposts like Nakadee, too, as hungry and naïve innocents crave to become a part of Hollywood.