Boyce Upholt is a freelance writer based in New Orleans. His work has appeared in the New Republic, the Believer, and the Atlantic, and he received the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Investigative Reporting. He last wrote for the magazine about mythic Mississippi River outlaw Perry Martin.
A Louisiana tribe’s long fight against the American tide—feature reportage from the Fall 2019 issue.Today, the island has a spare and haphazard beauty. Almost every day, fishermen stand in clusters along the island road, casting their nets into the ever-widening water. Where the island begins, the road curves left; here, it’s dense with trees before these give way, gradually, and the sky grows wider. On the right side of the road, to the west, runs the bayou, lined with wood-plank bridges that lead to the homes. To the east there is an oil canal, its size becoming apparent as the forest thins.
A Points South essay from the Summer 2019 issue
Much of what they’d tell me next was legend—tall tales, rumors, exaggerations. Perry Martin adopted an orphan girl he found on the riverside, raised her up as his own, paid her way through college. He killed nine people, or eleven, or a dozen. One of his alleged victims was his own stepson: the younger man had rocked a boat they shared too violently, which angered Martin. Apparently, despite his life along the river, this outlaw did not know how to swim.