Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
King Zeno

King Zeno

A Novel

Nathaniel Rich




New Orleans, 1918. The birth of jazz, the Spanish flu, an ax murderer on the loose. The lives of a traumatized cop, a conflicted Mafia matriarch, and a brilliant trumpeter converge—and the Crescent City gets the rich, dark, sweeping novel it so deserves.

From one of the most inventive writers of his generation, King Zeno is a historical crime novel and a searching inquiry into man’s dreams of immortality.

New Orleans, a century ago: a city determined to reshape its destiny and, with it, the nation’s. Downtown, a new American music is born. In Storyville, prostitution is outlawed and the police retake the streets with maximum violence. In the Ninth Ward, laborers break ground on a gigantic canal that will split the city, a work of staggering human ingenuity intended to restore New Orleans’s faded mercantile glory. The war is ending and a prosperous new age dawns. But everything is thrown into chaos by a series of murders committed by an ax-wielding maniac with a peculiar taste in music.

The ax murders scramble the fates of three people from different corners of town. Detective William Bastrop is an army veteran haunted by an act of wartime cowardice, recklessly bent on redemption. Isadore Zeno is a jazz cornetist with a dangerous side hustle. Beatrice Vizzini is the widow of a crime boss who yearns to take the family business straight. Each nurtures private dreams of worldly glory and eternal life, their ambitions carrying them into dark territories of obsession, paranoia, and madness.

In New Orleans, a city built on swamp, nothing stays buried long.


Praise for King Zeno

"[King Zeno] excels at immersing the reader in the narrative." –Publishers Weekly

Praise for Odds Against Tomorrow

“[Rich’s] prose is that of, in Saul Bellow’s words, ‘a first-class noticer’ . . . Any sentence from Rich is worth reading, any thought worth pondering.” —Teddy Wayne, The New York Times Book Review

“[Rich’s] descriptions of the vagaries of both nature and human nature are stark, fresh, and convincing, full of surprise and recognition as both good comedy and good terror must be.” —Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books

“Rich is a talent with a full head of steam, and he possesses that quality I admire most in any novelist—a mind for details that is equal parts percipient and original . . . His authorial vision is both a delight and a terror to behold.” —Maxwell George, Oxford American

“Rich enchants with vivid characters and attention to their idiosyncrasies . . . exciting and terrifying.” —Manoli Kouremetis, Time Out

“A knockout of a book by a young writer to keep your eye on.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR

Praise for The Mayor’s Tongue

“When Rich writes of his characters, their affections, their impulses and failings, he writes generously and movingly . . . Surprising friendships, small intimacies of fidelity and kindness, large gestures of joy: The Mayor's Tongue does all these so well.” —Sophie Gee, The New York Times Book Review

“An elegantly structured, brilliantly told novel, by turns terrifying, touching, and wildly funny, and always generous and magical . . . Kudos to Nathaniel Rich, who has created a brave book, a novel brimming with brio.” —Stephen King

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Nathaniel Rich

Nathaniel Rich is the author of two novels: Odds Against Tomorrow and The Mayor’s Tongue. He is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and his essays have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone, and The Daily Beast. He is also the author of a book about film noir, San Francisco Noir: The City in Film Noir from 1940 to the Present. He lives in New Orleans.

Nathaniel Rich

© Meredith Angelson