Published Sept. 13 by Scribner, Ethan Brown’s investigation of the unsolved murders of eight prostitutes in Jennings, La. between 2005 and 2009 has generated denials, an editorial and more. Republican Louisiana Congressman Charles Boustany was quick to refute the book’s allegations that he was a client of three of the murdered prostitutes (and one other), calling Brown a “tabloid writer.” For a Sept. 15 article, the New Orleans Advocate also got a statement from the publisher:
“While we do not comment on our editorial process, Scribner is confident that Ethan Brown’s Murder in the Bayou is a responsibly reported account by an experienced journalist,” Brian Belfiglio, vice president and director of publicity at Scribner / Simon & Schuster Inc., wrote in an email.
That same first week of publication, Lafayette newspaper The Daily Advertiser, owned by Gannett, questioned Brown’s anonymous sourcing. In an editorial titled “Murder and the Death of Standards,” it zeroed in on those allegations about Boustany laid out in the last of the book’s 13 chapters:
It seems cruel and wrong that a person can build a reputation over the course of a lifetime, then have it publicly assailed by people who never show their own faces.
Only a single, identifiable person suggests Boustany was ever at the Boudreaux Inn—and that was for a campaign event. Suzette Bouley Istre, a manager, recollected Boustany visited once for a political meeting, fielded political questions and continued on to his next campaign stop. A Boustany spokesman said he had no record of that event.
Per an interview with the author published Friday in the New Orleans Advocate, Brown started his journalism career in New York in the 1990s as an editorial assistant at Details, has written several other books and took a professional break recently from reporting. Referring to some earlier 2010 New York Times coverage of the Jeff Davis 8 and a 1997 Dateline report about questionable Jefferson Davis Parish police activity, he is weary:
“I’m hoping there’ll be some measure of justice for people out there that comes out of this,” he said. “If it goes back into the ether, like everything else has out there, I’ll be sad. Because so much of this case—whether it’s literally dumping women’s bodies in the garbage or working to erase things from history, has been about erasure.”
Brown will visit the Barnes & Noble in Lafayette Oct. 8 to speak about his book and sign copies.
Jacket cover courtesy: Scribner