Heading to New Orleans to attend Bouchercon? Leave your Midwestern sensibilities at home and prepare yourself for America's most remarkable city.
New Orleans is a rich gumbo of cultures, food, sounds, music, history and life. It is the Crescent City, the City that Care Forgot, the Big Easy. It gave birth to Jazz, Louis Armstong and Dr. John. It is a place where piano players are called Professor, and the greatest of all was Professor Longhair.
New Orleans is where there really is a Streetcar named Desire. It was home to Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, who both lived for a time in the historic Monteleone Hotel. William Faulkner began his career writing character sketches for various New Orleans newspapers in the 1920s, and there is a small bookstore on Pirate’s Alley that bears his name and is worth a visit.
New Orleans literary heritage includes characters as diverse as Walker Percy's Moviegoer and James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux. It was home for Kate Chopin and her Awakening, and John Kennedy Toole, whose personal story is as compelling and more tragic than his unforgettable character Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces. And of course, only New Orleans could have given birth to the Vampire Lestat, dark hero of the Vampire Chronicles created by Anne Rice, that forever changed the vampire legend.
I first fell under the spell of New Orleans in 1987. I've been back more than thirty times, attending conferences, Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras, researching -- and just enjoying the city. I've gotten there by car, on my motorcycle, by plane and by riding the famed CIty of New Orleans train.
I've ridden the St. Charles Streetcar, walked Bourbon Street at 4 a.m., danced with the prettiest girl in New Orleans, watched a lunar eclipse from the Moon Walk (named for a former mayor, not the earth’s satellite), thrown beads, eaten crawfish, drank from to-go cups, and walked through the Quarter watching the City wake up on an early Sunday morning. With my son, I worked on houses and served food to victims in the wake of Katrina. And I've written about this city that I've grown to love.