About the Author: Charles Williams worked as an urban planner in Louisiana and Virginia before obtaining his MBA in Finance from The Wharton School. Thereafter, he financed commercial real estate in a dozen states over a 25-year period, including many controversial projects like the one at the center of Aftermath. A native of Louisiana, he lived in New Orleans for ten years and currently resides in Baton Rouge.
Corruption and Intrigue in Post-Katrina New Orleans
by Charles Williams
Corruption and Intrigue in Post-Katrina New Orleans
by Charles Williams
Published Sep 14, 2018
Genre: FICTION / General
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, greed and corruption plague New Orleans…
In this novel that begins eighteen months after Hurricane Katrina, corruption, racism, and the greed of organized crime plague an ambitious real estate development in a devastated minority neighborhood known as Bacauptown. The conflicting agendas of three resolute men clash as their paths intersect in this development.
Clint Johnson, Louisiana native and successful Baltimore banker, is beset by financial and marital problems from the stress of a severely autistic daughter. He commits a reckless act, putting both his personal and professional life in jeopardy. His path to redemption leads him into the vortex of the flawed development.
Joseph Pacello, an avaricious and racist developer who's become one of the wealthiest men in New Orleans, suffered severe losses from the hurricane. He borrowed from the mob to keep his business afloat and must close the financing for the development to pay the loan back. As the wizard behind the deal, he orchestrates bribes, bogus contracts, and political contributions to achieve his goals.
Reverend Clarence Washington, the charismatic black minister who conceived the Bacauptown project, must contend with the racism of Joe Pacello and the white community and fend off the greed of the black mayor and others who want only to enrich themselves at the expense of the neighborhood and people his God-given vision will help.
All three men lust after a beautiful Creole woman who has returned to New Orleans on a mission.
Aftermath is the engrossing tale of these three men—surrounded by a cast of vivid characters—whose paths become entangled in a complex and hazardous series of events from which only one man can emerge a winner.
January 22, 2007--New Orleans, Louisiana
The Reverend Clarence Washington, senior pastor for nearly forty years at Gethsemane Baptist Church, shifted his three-hundred pound frame in the swivel chair and tossed the stack of unpaid bills into a wire basket on his desk. Behind on just about everything, he thought.That hurricane sure did a number on us. He could pay only the smaller bills and would have to continue to beg and wheedle for time on the bigger ones. But he was determined to keep the note on his wife's Mercedes current. They would both have to continue taking just half of the salaries they'd received before the hurricane sent much of his congregation to live in places like Baton Rouge and Houston.
He stood and stared out the second-floor window just as he had, amazed and distressed, on that last weekend of August, 2005, when Katrina's precisely aimed blow flooded all the low-lying areas of the City. He had prayed continuously then and God had finally answered his fervent prayers, but only after the waters had stayed for weeks wreaking destruction throughout his beleaguered neighborhood, Bacauptown. In many ways the seemingly interminable aftermath of the storm was proving worse than the hurricane itself. When would things start to get better?
Often in more recent months, he had gained strength and taken pleasure from imagining the block across the street with a beautiful new building filled with apartments and businesses that would bring renewed life in place of the devastation. Just gazing out the window would bring him hope and, yes, feelings of civic pride that New Orleans' revival could begin right there with the plan he had conceived. But not today. Today he felt only discouragement and could detect only the sad reality left behind by Katrina--the blocks of weed-grown lots, the stench from the remains of the two-story pile of discarded refrigerators, the shotgun houses and small cottages dislodged from their foundations that had been in poor condition even before the hurricane. All this poverty and rot and desperation just a few blocks from St. Charles Avenue. It's not right . . .never has been.
Clarence turned his gaze to the bookshelf by the window, full of autographed photos from mayors and other Louisiana politicians over several decades. The one from the current mayor, received not long before the hurricane, was signed with the words, "To Clarence. Blessed are the peacemakers! Mayor Hypolite Juneau." The mayor, a long-time friend and sometimes political ally, had given it to him at the opening of a now-vacant recreation center that was designed to keep the neighborhood youth off the streets. He could see the neglected center and its basketball courts in the distance, its windows broken and its crumbled parking lot now edged by five-foot willow trees.
The phone rang. Mrs. Walker, the church secretary for almost as many years as he'd been pastor, transferred a call from the accounts receivable department of the utility company.
"Hello, this is Pastor Washington. To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?"
Gethsemane Baptist Church was one of the largest black churches in New Orleans, and it did not take the reverend long to get another extension of his due date.
"Sir, I assure you we are doing everything we can to get our bills caught up. All of our money in recent months went to the massive repairs we needed downstairs. I must ask for a little more time." There was a short pause as Clarence listened to the caller's tepid response. Undaunted, he said, "Bless you for this consideration, and may you have a glorious day."
Clarence then called out his door. "Mrs. Walker, will you kindly get the mayor on the phone for me?"
Clarence did not like being dependent on white people. Growing up poor and black in the Ninth Ward, he'd had few interactions with white people, and most of those were with teachers and police officers when he was in trouble. And right now his whole future and the future of his church and neighborhood felt as though they were dependent on the actions of a white man the mayor had forced him to partner with on the big neighborhood renewal project that had been his idea. This man--the great Joe Pacello, Clarence thought derisively--had made a lot of money masking himself as a community do-gooder. If he's such a do-gooder, how come he made so much money while my community and the rest of black New Orleans stayed poor?
Clarence had learned in many past circumstances that the white minority in the city was still dominant in business and finance, and he promised himself, as he had many times, that someday he'd do a deal when no white man was sitting at the table. But for now he had no choice but to work with Pacello. After all, what Baptist minister knew enough to pull together a $24 million housing project?
Pacello. The man lived in an Uptown mansion on St. Charles Avenue, but the name called up bad images from fifty years back when the downriver parishes where Pacello grew up had been havens for some of the most stubborn racists in America. And he'd heard bad things about this man, including that he was known to use the N word.That word's only okay when we use it among ourselves.
"I have the mayor on line one," Mrs. Walker said.