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Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans

3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  600 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
A charismatic young soldier meets a tragic end in this moving and mesmerizing account of the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and no-safety-net America

Zackery Bowen was thrust into two of America's largest recent debacles. He was one of the first soldiers to encounter the fledgling insurgency in Iraq. After years of military service he returned to New Orleans to tend bar an
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published September 1st 2009)
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I just finished reading this book & agree with Doug that this is short stories; (1) the story of the 527 MP Co. in Iraq & Afghanistan (2) Mr. Brown's experiences living in post-Katrina New Orleans, which I have no interest in. Mr. Brown is also very obvious with his sympathies to Zack Bowen. He attempts to justify why Zack killed then dismembered Addie.

Quite honestly, I was appalled that while Mr. Brown was humanizing Zack Bowen he painted a picture that other murderers in post-Katrina N
May 25, 2010 Carla rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
The author finally admits, when the book is almost complete, that he is sympathetic to the murderer. He stops shy of this admission, actually, writing that his wife felt he was, to the point of being angry with him. This book is an apology for the murderer, and the author forgot that the murder was not a quick act of passion, but rather a planned, gruesome saga that involved living with the corpse for over two weeks, and setting up a horrid tableau in order to scar those who followed the instruc ...more
I wrote a long, quite possibly fabulous review of Shake the Devil Off and then accidentally deleted it. Basically what I wanted to say was that it was quite clear that Ethan Brown's sympathies were with Zachary Bowen, who strangled and dismembered girlfriend Addie Hall in 2006. We read of numerous interviews with Zack's family, friends, co-workers, and military colleagues but do not hear from anyone who knew Addie outside of the few years she spent in the French Quarter. Brown even travels out o ...more
Sep 05, 2009 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have a lot of thoughts about this book and I don't know how to even begin to put them into words.
This book is so much more than I thought it was going to be. I bought it because I spend a lot of time in New Orleans and was familiar with The murder/suicide of Addie and Zach. I had even met Addie once when she was bartending at the Spotted Cat. I thought it was going to be another grisly "true crime" recap of the horrific details of the murder. I was not expecting to read such a thought provoki
Aug 05, 2009 Katrina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adult's Interested in New Orleans
Shelves: adult, non-fiction
I found parts of this book interesting and I did finish it, so that says something but overall, this book was underwhelming.
However Brown tries to draw a parallel between our military's indifference to many of its veterans and the indifference that our government showed during Katrina. The parallel is easy to make because Addie Hall was murdered in New Orleans and Addie and Zack decided to ride out the hurricane and subsequent tragedy in the French Quarter rather than evacuating. But that is as
Sam Jasper
Jul 14, 2012 Sam Jasper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a New Orleanian who saw this story when it hit the news and was also acquainted with both people I read this with great trepidation. I was so glad that Mr. Brown told the story with the no sensationalism. Bowen was not a monster and Hall was not a saint. He told the story well and many of us here were glad he did.
Jul 13, 2012 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I vaguely recall reading the headlines a few years ago about this young couple.

Fast forward a few years. I see an episode on ABC of a program called Final Witness. It features the commentary of the now infamous Margaret Sanchez, suspect in the recent murder of Jaren Lockhart. Google it.

I got around to checking this book out from the library, and I couldn't put it down.

Things I liked:

-It pulled me back into the nonfiction realm. I hadn't read a NF book in awhile. Now I'm adding all sorts of tru
Doug Beatty
Mar 01, 2010 Doug Beatty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
This book is about Zachary Bown, who, on a morning in New Orleans, goes to an expensive hotel and spends the afternoon drinking. After a while he goes up to the roof of the hotel and throws himself off to his death. The police find in his pocket a suicide note that is also a confession to a murder. He has killed and dismembered his girlfriend Addie Hall, and the note leads the police to their shared apartment.

Although this is a true crime novel, it cannot focus on the police investigation or a
Jul 29, 2011 Dachokie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Half Crime Story and Half Blame Game ...

This book intrigued me primarily because I distinctly remember the initial news story that first drew national attention to Zack Bowen and Addie Hall: Two young adults who weathered the wrath of Hurricane Katrina and found a way to find happiness together amid the devastation. While the story was meant to be a "feel-good" story, I distinctly recall the accompanying pictures telling a different story ... battered survivors finding a way to keep the N'awlin
First of all, I am not sure how to rate this book. I liked it and read it very quickly but I am not sure I really liked it. Wish I could give 3.5 stars. I knew nothing about this book, never heard of it. Just happened to walk past it in the library and it caught my eye. I was hooked by the book jacket alone. I think the book is really 3 books in one. There is the Zach Bowen story-his life and military experience. 2) Zach's story in New Orleans as an Army vet trying to survive before and after Hu ...more
Andrea Galbusieri
Ethan Brown's unabashedly apologetic account of Zack's story doesn't sit right with me, nor do his less than subtle hints that Zack's PTSD somehow drove him to commit this heinous crime, especially since he can't come up with anything that would hint at traumatic events during his tours in Kosovo and Iraq. It's almost offensive to anyone suffering from PTSD how Mr. Brown, in a lengthy description of the condition, tries to find a connection. For Heaven's sake, the guy married a stripper when he ...more
Aug 27, 2009 Mary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Eh, Bowen falls victim to the Jon Krakauer tendency of inserting oneself into the narrative. While he does manage to bring some humanity to the players in this gruesome crime, he also does a lot of heavy lifting and extrapolating to try and turn it into a narrative of how one person's tragedy illustrates the failure of the federal government. While PTSD and lack of support for Iraq vets played a major role in this murder, you get the sense after all the background about Zack Bowen (and major cri ...more
Colleen Mooney
Good journalistic rendition of what all transpired leading up to this horrific event in a battered city that those who weathered it can truly appreciate. The author did a lot of background into the characters and while I was expecting more of their story, the last third of the book morphed into government bashing and how awful we treat our troops. While I am in total agreement that health care, especially mental health care for people returning from wars is woefully inadequate I think it was bel ...more
Oct 17, 2009 Gina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I don't want realism, I want magic."---Blanche DuBois
A Streetcar Named Desire
Thomas Lanier Williams III of Columbus, Mississippi
Tennessee Williams

Eris, Goddess of Discord and Strife

"nothing is funnier than unhappiness"---Samuel Beckett

"narcissistic wound" - transitioning from the military to a low-level civilian job

US Marines: FIDO "F it and drive on"
Oct 06, 2009 Florence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a description of New Orleans before and after Katrina and life in the military in Iraq as much as it was about the infamous murder where Zack strangled and dismembered his girlfriend, Addie. The author evokes sympathy for both the victim and her killer.
ej cullen
A myriad cast of derelicts, all of whose self-created woes and tribulations are by the author blamed on Iraq and hurricanes. Sorry.
Mar 08, 2017 Millie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
excellent writing but, ultimately, he couldn't decide what story he wanted to tell.
Mar 05, 2017 Adamdaigle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ethan Brown did an outstanding job of peeling back the layers on Zack and Addie by just some dogged source work.

I couldn't give it five stars because I felt like I kept waiting for the book to end.
Trudy Bryant
Feb 26, 2017 Trudy Bryant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What got me to buy this book was that I saw Paranormal Lockdown and the investigators where investigating Zack and Addie's apartment on Rampart. I live in Louisiana and was here for Katrina so I vaugley remember this story. After seeing the investigation I knew there HAD to be more to this story. I was write. There was WAY more to Zack than what the news painted him to be. Also, there was a lot more to Addie. If I could change anything ahout this book it would be the last half of it. Towards the ...more
Neil White
This was a case of an author's axe-grinding getting in the way of what could have been a quite interesting true crime exploration. While I would contest that the particular axe in question most definitely does need to be ground (grinded?), this isn't perhaps the most effective way.

The book at its core involves a grisly murder/suicide in post-Katrina New Orleans that became something of a media sensation, attracting the attention and mild obsession of the author.

The first third of the book is abo
Sandra Frey
Jan 30, 2017 Sandra Frey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 would be more accurate. I've known of this case for a few years and find it oddly transfixing, mainly because of the incredibly evocative setting of New Orleans as it staggered into its post-Katrina reality. NOLA brings an extra uncanniness to its gritty tales because its exterior is so overtly celebratory, yet its grittiness is denser than any most American cities can claim. Zack's military background adds another layer of evocative context, and Brown rightly draws the connections between m ...more
May 14, 2010 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up during my annual visit to New Orleans for Jazzfest. Along with great music and food the festival is a celebration of the arts which includes writings by NO authors or writings about New Orleans.That;'s where I picked up "Shake the Devil Off." Ethan Brown's true crime story is about New Orleans (and Katrina), but ambitiously branches out to include the broader issue of PTSD in Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans. It's potent stuff and there is a lesson to be learned from the sad tale ...more
Tom Schulte
Aug 04, 2016 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a true crime and Crescent City fan, there are two basics to what I like about the investigation here: named French Quarter streets and pre-Katrina locations that I can picture in my mind from being there as well as a crime that few rise above in horrendous-ness, maybe not even that chronicled in Beyond Bad. Books directly mentioned and relevant include The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and Disaster Capitalism because this is also about the Katrina, post-Katrina holdouts like ...more
May 25, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i gave this book 4 stars mostly because i found it fascinating and it's a really ambitious book which tries to tie together some pretty complicated stuff. For example:
"At every level, we're a 'you're on your own' society. It is one of the perversities of the 'you're on your own' style of governance that it applies largely to those who most need and most deserve the government to work for them: people such as Iraq vets and Katrina survivors."
He uses this horrific murder to demonstrate how the sys
Janet Morris
I became interested in the story of the murder of Addie Hall and suicide of Zack Bowen after watching the television show, Final Witness. I had a few questions after watching that program and I thought that maybe this book would answer them. While a few were answered, I found myself with more questions.

The book says that it is about the murder, but when I read it, I found that it was more about Zack, his history in the military (including fighting in Iraq), how he dealt with his past once he got
Jun 23, 2010 Alicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author makes the arguable statement that 2 most failed groups of people in the last decade are the Iraq (and all recent war) veterans and the residents of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. And Zach, the subject of this book, was both. This book isn't so much a question of "why did this horrible act of violence happen" as it is "why can't we take care of each other more?"

I enjoyed how it was like a mini lesson in both the Iraq war (which I feel very un-schooled on because I was on my missi
Jun 07, 2016 EJ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a morbid person. Ask anyone that knows me. So it's not terribly surprising that this story intrigues me, but I'm not just intrigued. I think the whole Zack and Addy tale is utterly fascinating. I first heard about it on Final Witness, the "Graveyard Love" episode, and since then have looked up every article on them, have traveled to NOLA (though to be fair that was just because I'd never been, the Zack and Addy aspect was a bonus), and now, I've read this.

It seems to be a popular opinion th
Tom Mueller
Very atypical of a "true crime" read, Brown delves into some of the causes of the psychological breakdown of Veterans afflicted by PTSD. It is not presented as an excuse for the protagonist's actions, rather as a challenge (should be demand) for the VA to acknowledge, properly diagnose and treat PTSD. As it is now, VA counselors are encouraged to mis-diagnose or mis-label Vets and active duty Military with PTSD. PTSD plays a big part in the unconscionable suicide rate of returning Vets, contribu ...more
Sep 12, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can say I knew nothing of this story until a few weeks ago while watching a segment on Dateline and they told the story of Zach & Addie. I then requested the book from the Library and couldn't put it down.

The Author Ethan Brown has done a great job in telling the background story of Zack, his marriage, trying to better himself for his family and soon to be children. The difficulties and atrocities he witnessed in Iraq and coming home a hero to only be shunned. I felt very sad for him when
Michele Brack
Jan 04, 2017 Michele Brack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
This book was a suggestion from a friend/coworker of mine who I recently learned likes stories of killers and kidnappers almost as mush as I do. Almost...

Despite the ramblings on about New Orleans and Katrina (they were not the only ones to get damage, goddamnit!!!) this book was interesting. I like that they put most of the focus on his tours of the military, sometimes with locations that coincided with those of the Marines in Generation Kill which I also enjoyed reading. PTSD is a serious thin
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