Out For Queer Blood: The Murder of Fernando Rios and the Failure of New Orleans Justice.
Clayton Delery. Exposit, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-4766-6884-0. 220 pages.
A year and a half ago I received in my inbox what at first glance appeared to be a spam email. Upon closer inspection the subject line said Rios murder / Ambush article. I opened the message and was astonished at what I read.
The email was from Sean Farrell, who was writing to inform me that he had recently learned his father was involved in a murder trial in New Orleans in 1959. He found an article I had written years earlier in Ambush about the murder via an internet search. He wanted to reach out and learn more.
I responded and put him in touch with Clayton Delery, a fellow writer who was, at the time, writing a book on the murder. Delery traveled to North Carolina and met with Farrell and has included the interview in his new book, Out For Queer Blood.
In 1958, Fernando Rios was brutally murdered in the French Quarter simply for being gay. The vicious hate-crime was committed by three Tulane undergraduates, one of whom was Sean Farrell’s father. The killers turned themselves in and were tried for murder. When the jury announced its verdict of “Not Guilty,” the courtroom erupted in applause. Such was the “climate of hostility” toward gay folk in New Orleans in the late 1950s.
Out For Queer Blood is a new book that explores not only Rios’ murder but also the homophobic attitudes of New Orleans at the time. The book also includes a valuable history of hatecrimes and the “gay panic defense.”
The murder of Fernando Rios was a seminal moment in gay New Orleans history that has largely been forgotten. Thankfully, because of Delery’s meticulous research and accessible writing style, that has begun to change.
Clayton Delery will read from and sign copies of his new book, Out for Queer Blood: The Murder of Fernando Rios and the Failure of New Orleans Justice on Thursday, November 16, at 7:00pm at Café Lafitte in Exile.
Clayton Delery, a retired teacher from the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, previously published The Up Stairs Lounge Arson, which was named Book of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities in 2015. Delery serves on the Board of Directors of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana and is currently working on a book about gay conversion / reparative therapy. He lives in New Orleans.