Desire Street

A True Story of Death and Deliverance in New Orleans

Jed Horne

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A searing anatomy of a New Orleans murder trial and a system of justice gone wrong.

In a New Orleans supermarket parking lot in the fall of 1984 ,two disparate lives become inextricably bound for the next fourteen years. The first, the life of Delores Dye, a white housewife and grandmother. The second, a young black man with a gun in hand. Moments following their maybe not so chance encounter, Mrs. Dye lay dead on the sunbaked macadam, and the killer had made off with her purse, her groceries, and her car. Four days later, following a tip, authorities arrested a known drug dealer and father of five named Curtis Kyles. Kyles would then be tried for Mrs. Dye's murder an unprecedented five times, though he maintained his innocence throughout each trial. Convicted and sentenced to death in his second trial, he would spend fourteen years on death row. After a fifth jury was unable to reach a verdict, New Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr., finally conceded defeat and dropped the murder charge.

But the case slowly yielded a deeper drama: The crime turned out to have been the side effect of an intricately plotted act of revenge. That police and prosecutors may have been complicit in the vengeance that framed Kyles cuts to the heart of a system of justice for Southern blacks in the era since lynch mobs were shamed into obsolescence. A compellingly written legal drama that has at its heart passionate intrigue and justice gone awry. Desire Street is a 2006 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Fact Crime.


Read an Excerpt

Desire Street
PART ONEONEThis much is certain and always was. That on a Thursday afternoon in late September 1984, a housewife named Delores Dye--Dee to her husband and friends--ran afoul of a thief as she loaded a shopping cart of groceries into her car out front of a New Orleans supermarket.The skies are hazy in the hot afternoon, and the parking lot of the Schwegmann Bros. Giant Supermarket is perhaps a third full. The general hubbub of passing traffic, the stream of cars and vans and delivery trucks and light pickups is deepened by the throb of heavy equipment: a pipe crew laying a gas line


Praise for Desire Street

"Desire Street is more than an important and resonant tale of race and crime--it is a page-turner, with a complex and magnetic criminal at its heart. It isn't easy to put this book down." -- Daniel Bergner, author of In The Land of Magic Soldiers

"This is a breath-taking true crime story that is at once the portrait of a complex city, a finely drawn gallery of memorable characters, and a passionate inquiry into the ever-thorny ambiguities of race. It's destined to become a New Orleans classic and to provoke a wide-ranging discussion about some of our most deeply held platitudes." --Andrei Codrescu, author of The Devil Never Sleeps

"Only in New Orleans could a true story like this read so much like a novel or have such an amazing cast of colorful characters. Jed Horne has produced a fascinating tale about a man accused of a murder that is more complex than it seems and a system that almost railroaded him into the electric chair. Anyone who cares about race and the justice system must read it." --Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"Behind its devil-may-care front for tourists, New Orleans is troubled by a long history of corrupt law enforcement and neighborhoods afflicted with crime. Jed Horne knows this bizarre city, and he has delved into its darkest corners for this compelling story of murder, betrayal, false witness and official connivance." --Curtis Wilkie, author of Dixie

"Desire Street is the most authentic look at the code of the streets and the 'ever-astonishing folkways of the underclass,' in Jed Horne's characterization, that I've ever read. Curtis Kyles's story as told by Horne is an amazing chronicle of one man's journey from "poverty's machismo culture" to death row and back, and an extraordinary report of his legal struggle, but it is so much more than that: it is a detailed picture of the ways in which black men prey upon each other, of the cops' complicity because of their determination to protect their
fs20snitches, and the prosecutors who must win their cases even at the cost of justice. As a highly readable legal drama and story of desire and revenge, this book will grab you from the first page; more important, through Horne's accurate depiction of the tormented lives of Southern blacks, we begin to understand their fear, rage and desperation. From understanding comes hope for change." --Christine Wiltz, author of The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld

"Jed Horne forces you to look into the dark heart of justice in America and defies you to look away. Desire Street is a tour de force of the storyteller's art--a profoundly insightful book deserving of the highest praise." --Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

"What Jed Horne does in this book is show you a right and wrong that runs beside guilt and innocence like the New Orleans streetcar runs beside heavy traffic. In a state and an area where the lines of the law have blurred into wrongdoing for two centuries, Horne takes a modern-day case and shows what can happen when a rush to convict overrides the protections of the system. Grippingly written, it leaves you with a shaken sense of a system we need to believe in." --Rick Bragg, author of All Over But the Shoutin'

"Desire Street is an absorbing story of the life-and-death legal battle that follows a murder. Told from different perspectives, it becomes a window into the horrific flesh-and-blood workings of the criminal justice system, where prejudice, politics, and professional ambitions--more than anything else--shape what passes for justice today. Unfortunately, the nightmarish world Horne reveals isn’t unique to New Orleans, nor to Louisiana." --Wilbert Rideau, editor of The Angolite, the inmate publication of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Jed Horne

  • Jed Horne is city editor of The Times-Picayune (New Orleans). This is his first book.





    Available Formats and Book Details

    Desire Street

    A True Story of Death and Deliverance in New Orleans

    Jed Horne

    Edgar Allen Poe Award Nominee
    • e-Book