I first arrived New Orleans many years ago in the heady final days of Mardi Gras. I’d always lived in large cities filled with revelers, but I’d never walked along streets that literally reeked of beer. The whole bare breast/bead throwing/masked craziness of the place made my eyeballs pop. My first sight of crawdads had the same effect. They were so… big! I’m sure I made several people’s eyeballs pop as well, since I kept falling asleep everywhere—on the grassy banks of the Mississippi, in the trolley, on the white tablecloth in a smart restaurant… It later turned out I had advanced Lyme disease, but I bet they just assumed I was even drunker than everyone else!
Once Mardi Gras was over, a friend and I drove out of the city and around the nearby bayou. What an enchanted and amazing place. The past hovers everywhere like fog. I couldn’t get over the oft-repeated sight of a new, modern house built right beside the remains of the family’s ramshackle old house. They’d just left it there, like a ghost in the garden.
The culture of the area springs from its unique mix of people. Cajun and Creole cooking, Jazz music, Zydeco and—of course—Mardi Gras don’t exist in the same form anywhere else. You can tell when you’re talking on the phone to someone in Manhattan because there will be a siren wailing somewhere in the background. My mother lived in New Orleans for several months last year while I was writing this book and several conversations were interrupted by a sudden thundering of noise: “Wait just a minute, there’s another parade going by!” When Hurricane Katrina happened it almost looked like this magical place might disappear off the map, but happily New Orleans has proved it’s not going anywhere, and the good times are still rolling. I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating this unique and special place in my book.
Have you been to New Orleans or have you always wanted to go? Do you have any favorite books set there? One person who leaves a comment will win a signed copy of The Heir’s Scandalous Affair.