It's the sweltering summer of '95 and poor souls all over the country are dying from the record-breaking hot spell. Most of the public remains indoors, close to their TV sets, fascinated by the news event of the decade, the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Down South in stifling New Orleans, a literary celebrity lies dead of a mysterious rattlesnake bite in his penthouse hotel suite, while Margo Fortier, the Bourbon Street stripper-turned-society columnist deals with the heat by stretching out under a ceiling fan covered by a wet towel. Margo's husband Julian invites her to escape the heat and join him at a mystery writers' conference aboard the (blessedly air-conditioned) cruise ship Julep Queen. While sailing down the Mississippi, the Fortiers become acquainted with the arcane world of crime fiction publishing and the characters who populate it. Margo fends off the advances of the lecherous and conniving publisher, Harvey Gould, who soon afterward is found murdered in his cabin. And the fatal weapon appears to be another poisonous snake. Some suspects on hand are a reclusive literary star of the fifties who remains in his stateroom, naked, 24 hours a day, a former jewel thief who had bought his noble title, a plump cozy writer in search of romance, a degenerate author of gruesome best-sellers and his leather-clad dominatrix, and woebegone midlist authors who have plenty of reason to hate Harvey Gould. Other passengers include a priest traveling incognito with a handsome companion, a portly Elvis impersonator who sings the King's repertoire in Yiddish and a "pre-published" English professor who stalks the corridors waylaying all and sundry to read his tattered thousand-page manuscript.
Used availability for Tony Fennelly's Don't Blame the Snake
April 2001 : USA Hardback
November 2000 : USA Paperback
October 2010 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition