20 greatest works of fiction about New Orleans

16 of 21

6. Interview with the Vampire

Let’s face it: New Orleans is a pretty spooky city. Maybe the people who live there and are invested in the cultural life of their city might roll their eyes, but it’s hard to deny. Maybe it’s the three centuries of history, the vast range of people who have lived in the city or the distinct religious and cultural groups in the city that build this impression. Of course, it could be that it’s more now of a cultural trope than all of those combined. Or it’s just a marketing ploy that’s too good to pass up.

Probably, the eeriness of New Orleans is the result of all of the above, and then some. It’s certainly reflected in the work of many creatives, including author Anne Rice. Born in New Orleans, Rice has spent a significant amount of her time in the city, though she currently lives elsewhere in Louisiana. Creatively speaking, much of her work is firmly rooted in the spooky, Gothic, romantic world of New Orleans’ night side.

Perhaps none of her work is more suited to New Orleans than her first novel, 1976’s Interview with the Vampire. In the frame story, a 200-year-old vampire named Louis relates his long life story to an unnamed reporter.

Louis’ story begins on an indigo plantation just south of New Orleans. He is in despair after the death of his brother, to the point where Louis wants to die himself. That makes it all the easier for Lestat the vampire, who shows up looking for a companion. Life as a vampire gets pretty lonely, apparently, and Lestat really wants a friend.

Friends and children

Actually, it’s not clear whether Lestat wants a friend or a “friend.” At one point, the pair effectively adopts a young girl, who is herself turned when Louis feeds off of her. She’s dying from the plague, so it’s less morally repugnant than initially suspected. They name her Claudia.

Louis, Lestat, and Claudia (who, horrifically enough, grows to have an adult brain inside a forever childish body) travel around Europe for a while. They encounter other vampires, including a group who have set up a rather cheesy theater troupe. Tragedy strikes — this is Gothic horror, after all — and Louis eventually ends back up in New Orleans. Even when he’s away from the city, however, the gothic spirit of the town follows him through his long un-life.