Five great books set in New Orleans

9th November 2018

New Orleans is the latest destination in our ‘Five great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in New Orleans.

Jazz. The Big Easy. Bourbon Street. Creole cuisine. The Bayou. Katrina. The Mississippi. Mardi Gras. The French Quarter.

Founded by French colonists in 1718, New Orleans is often described as the most unique in the USA. Fusing cultures and languages, it feels like an other-worldly city in an otherwise homogenised country. Rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the federal levee system in 2005, any trip to this vibrant city is an assault of the senses and a memorable experience.

Here are five books set firmly in New Orleans that will bring The Big Easy to literary life for TripFiction readers, whether from your own armchair at home, or if you’re staying in this great city, within earshot of Preservation Hall.

The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin

New Orleans, 1919. As a dark serial killer – The Axeman – stalks the city, three individuals set out to unmask him . . .

Though every citizen of the ‘Big Easy’ thinks they know who could be behind the terrifying murders, Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot, heading up the official investigation, is struggling to find leads. But Michael has a grave secret, and if he doesn’t get himself on the right track fast, it could be exposed . . .

Former detective Luca d’Andrea has spent the last six years in Angola state penitentiary, after Michael, his protégée, blew the whistle on his corrupt behaviour. Now a newly freed man, Luca is back working with the mafia, whose need to solve the mystery of the Axeman is every bit as urgent as that of the authorities.

Meanwhile, Ida is a secretary at the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and dreaming of a better life, Ida stumbles across a clue which lures her and her musician friend, Louis Armstrong, to the case – and into terrible danger . . .

As Michael, Luca and Ida each draw closer to discovering the killer’s identity, the Axeman himself will issue a challenge to the people of New Orleans: play jazz or risk becoming the next victim. And as the case builds to its crescendo, the sky will darken and a great storm will loom over the city . . .

Inspired by a true story, THE AXEMAN’S JAZZ, set against the heady backdrop of jazz-filled, mob-ruled New Orleans, is an ambitious, gripping thriller announcing a major new talent in historical crime fiction.

Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Oondatje

Based on the life of cornet player Buddy Bolden, one of the legendary jazz pioneers of turn-of-the-twentieth-century New Orleans, Coming Through Slaughter is an extraordinary recreation of a remarkable musical life and a tragic conclusion.

Through a collage of memoirs, interviews, imaginary conversations and monologues, Ondaatje builds a picture of a man who would work by day at a barber shop and by night unleash his talent to wild audiences who had never experienced such playing. But Buddy was also playing the field with two women, and inside his head was a ticking time-bomb which he was unable to stop.

New Orleans Noir by Julie Smith

New Orleans’ tremendous literary tradition shines bright in this outstanding collection of stories from some of the best writers in American history. Julie Smith has masterfully curated this volume with stories published as early as 1843 and as recently as 2012.

A glittering constellation of writers have passed through New Orleans – including Mark Twain, Sherwood Anderson, O. Henry, even Walt Whitman, to name some of the not-so-usual suspects. Then there are the ones whose sojourns here are better known, the ones on whom we pride ourselves: Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Ellen Gilchrist, James Lee Burke.

The Lost German Slave Girl by John Bailey

It is a spring morning in New Orleans, 1843. In the Spanish Quarter, on a street lined with flophouses and gambling dens, Madame Carl recognizes a face from her past. It is the face of a German girl, Sally Miller, who disappeared twenty-five years earlier. But the young woman is property, the slave of a nearby cabaret owner. She has no memory of a “white” past. Yet her resemblance to her mother is striking, and she bears two telltale birthmarks.

In brilliant novelistic detail, award-winning historian John Bailey reconstructs the exotic sights, sounds, and smells of mid-nineteenth-century New Orleans, as well as the incredible twists and turns of Sally Miller’s celebrated and sensational case. Did Miller, as her relatives sought to prove, arrive from Germany under perilous circumstances as an indentured servant or was she, as her master claimed, part African, and a slave for life?

A tour de force of investigative history that reads like a suspense novel, The Lost German Slave Girl is a fascinating exploration of slavery and its laws, a brilliant reconstruction of mid-nineteenth-century New Orleans, and a riveting courtroom drama. It is also an unforgettable portrait of a young woman in pursuit of freedom.

Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza

This book is a loving tribute, rich with detail, to the city, passionate on many fronts about why New Orleans is such an important city: whether the way of life, the music, with chapters each on food, music, the Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras — all the things locals and tourists love alike.

If you love the city, you cannot but like this book!

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Which titles would you add to this list? Any you would like to add to our database? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments box below, and you can buy any of these books through TripFiction by clicking on the link on any book page.

Other posts in our ‘Five great books set in…’ series:

Five great books set in Naples

Five great books set in Dublin

Five great books set in Dubai

Five great books set in Portugal

Five great books set in San Francisco

Five great books set in Edinburgh

Five great books set in Guernsey

Five great books set in Mexico

Five great books set in Alpine countries

Five great books set in Korea

Five great books set in Tunisia

Five great books set in Sweden

Five great books set in Croatia

Five great books set in Pompeii

Five great books set in Sicily

And our ‘Ten great books set in…’ series includes:

Ten great books set in Paris

Ten great books set in New York

Ten great books set in London

Ten great books set in Rome

Ten great books set in Berlin

Ten great books set in Russia

Ten great books set in Spain

Ten great books set in Amsterdam

Ten great books set in Thailand

Ten great books set in Raj era India

Ten great books set in Japan

Do come and join team TripFiction on Social Media:

Twitter (@TripFiction), Facebook (@TripFiction.Literarywanderlust), YouTube (TripFiction #Literarywanderlust), Instagram (@TripFiction) and Pinterest (@TripFiction)

Subscribe to future blog posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Blogs