Why Mystery Mixes Well With New Orleans
There are cities renowned for their mystique: Moscow, Paris, and New York all make the heart beat faster when they’re used as the setting for stories of intrigue. However, for me, nothing can compare to the sultry and sensual atmosphere of New Orleans. Steeped in history, mystery, and a whole lot of sin, it’s one of the most unique spots on earth. Where the old world seamlessly blends with modern day, the people, atmosphere, and culture are like no place else. It’s this fascinating fusion that makes the town such a compelling setting for any novel, including many of my own.
The darker elements of The Big Easy are pivotal to the mystery of Blackwell. Not just the legends of ghosts and voodoo, but the murky underbelly of Storyville, the corrupt past of the port town, and its uncompromising people make it an ideal location for my literary mystery.
Famous as the most haunted destination in the United States, New Orleans and its ethereal aura is woven into the fabric of the dreamy iron balconies and shuttered doorways of the city. Complaints of unintelligible voices, screams, footsteps, and unexplained knocking are common. Perhaps this is why spectral visitors are just as much a facet of life as red beans and rice on Mondays. And with the rise of haunted tours, ghosts are now big business, taking what was once an inconvenience and turning it into a cash cow. But ask any of the locals if they would be happier relieved of their supernatural visitors, every single one of them would say no. New Orleans wouldn’t be the same without its ghosts. For those who love the city, it’s reassuring to know you never have to leave it.
Unlike other cities where the topic of voodoo was spoken in hushed whispers, New Orleans readily embraced the religion. The blending of the African and Catholic customs reached its zenith along the Mississippi River. Because of voodoo’s influence in the Crescent City, words such as gris-gris, Juju, and voodoo doll were introduced into the American vocabulary. Even famous practitioners of the art became legends. Marie Laveau is still regarded by many as the queen of voodoo. Her annual St. John’s Eve ritual performed on the banks of Bayou St. John continues to this day. And even though her religion has become more commercial than practical, the essence of it adds an air of enchantment to those tightly packed Creole cottages along St. Anne Street. And some insist, on a cold day when the light is right, you can see the regal figure of Ms. Marie strolling along the cracked sidewalks of The Quarter and keeping an eye on her hometown.
The red-light district of the city, Storyville, was a hotbed of prostitution and drugs thriving on the edge of the French Quarter for twenty years until its close in 1917. Named after Sydney Story, an alderman who wrote legislation to control prostitution in the city, “The District,” as it was called, soon became an attraction for those coming to New Orleans. Any pleasure could be fulfilled in Storyville, and many of the madams associated with the larger brothels became political powerhouses in a time when women had few rights. There were many who were eaten up by the wanton existence Storyville offered, but it’s that seedy world of sex and drugs that conjures all sorts of opportunities for crime, passion, and deceit: essential components of any heart-grabbing story.
Probably the most memorable part of any trip to The Big Easy would be the numerous encounters with its Bohemian inhabitants. Their carefree character embodies all that is inviting about New Orleans. From quirky traditions to flamboyant celebrations, everything this town encompasses comes alive in its citizens. When life and death are celebrated with the same exuberance, one can’t help but be enchanted. There’s something about the people that gets under your skin. A haven for writers, poets, artists, and musicians, the creative pulse resonates throughout every cobblestone. Maybe this is why New Orleans has been the setting for so many great stories. Like a heady gumbo, it stirs the soul. Reason enough to make it one of the settings in my books.
There are many delights and a few dangers in New Orleans, but despite everything, it’s a place where the impossible can seem probable—a fitting locale for the dark and sinister tale of Blackwell. It’s a bastion where lost souls can find rest, forbidden religions can influence a culture, and people are encouraged to embrace their hedonistic compulsions. All that is extraordinary defines this fabulous city, and all who visit it are touched by magic.