By Peter H. Green
Terms of Interment, Fiction, by Marcel Toussaint, in collaboration with Cyrus Pars, NACG Press, 2011, Trade paperback, 273 pages.
Albert Wilson, a semiretired lawyer from a proud family, finds his existence in the family manse in St. Louis’s stately Portland Place threatened by the collapse of his poor investments and his overspending on a debauched playboy lifestyle. In desperate straits he calls in his younger brother Edward, an intern doctor, from Jefferson City, to explain his plight. Shocked that he has depleted all his assets and learning that Albert has a half million dollar life insurance policy, Edward tells his brother he must fake his own death and promises to show him how. In a hilarious series of misadventures, Albert makes his way from hospital to funeral home to cemetery, with surprising results.
This classic caper, reminiscent of Jimmy Breslin’s 1970 classic The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, and many others of its comic ilk, could only have been conceived and carried off–with some technical counseling from his collaborator Cyrus Pars–by Moroccan-born, award-winning poet, playwright and novelist Marcel Toussaint, whose Gallic irony and humor, along with an easy familiarity with St. Louis society, seems perfect for spinning the tale. A French-cultured dancing master who spent many years schooling the scions of St. Louis’s Central West End upper crust in the finer points of deportment and the social graces, he recounts the fast moving drama with just the right respect for and alarm at the foibles of the rich and famous. The plot, with its improbable yet comically plausible premise, races from from one adventure to the next through many unexpected twists as the brothers outwit a greedy, pompous funeral director, a necrophiliac grave robber with a bizarre fetish and two real mobsters who set out to unburden them of their supposed treasures. In its surprising dénouement, Toussaint’s characters must learn the classic lesson that crime doesn’t pay—or does it?—to the great relish of those familiar with St. Louis in a much happier golden era, and those previously unfamiliar with our town, but craving an enjoyable laugh-out-loud adventure. More about this clever caper at www.NACGpress.com.
Marcel Toussaint, recently named National Gold Medalist by the Veteran’s Creative Arts Festival, was born Emil Saint Pellicer, in Rabat, Morocco, where his father worked for the French government, the youngest of three surviving children born to the late Raymond and Maia Gracia Saint Pellicer. His father was French and his mother was Spanish. He was a radio personality, professional dancer, fencing master and “duke of deportment” for St. Louis society matrons and their children in the 1960s and ’70s. He is a poet, author and lyricist of plays, novels and several volumes of poetry, including his autobiographical Poetry of A Lifetime. Toussaint has two children from a previous marriage and lives in Wildwood with a golden Lab puppy named Madison. A member of St. Louis Writers Guild, he recently read his article in St. Louis Reflections, an anthology celebrating the 90-year history of Guild, at their holiday Book Fair at Kirkwood Train Station. Read more.