20 greatest works of fiction about New Orleans

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Night Watchman, Tony Dunbar (Cover image via booksBnimble Mysteries)

17. Crooked Man

Of course, not all fiction that takes place in New Orleans has to be a giant downer. Consider all of the people that have lived in the city over its three centuries of history. Think of the vast possibilities represented by their stories, personalities, and the sometimes random acts that shape both their lives and the course of the city itself. Surely some of those adventures have been farcical, even funny.

If you’re feeling the urge for something darkly humorous, then it’s time to check out Crooked Man, by Tony Dunbar. This 2013 novel is the first in the Tubby Dubonnet mystery series, which follows the title character as he attempts to live the good life as a lawyer and fishing enthusiast.

As much as Dubonnet wants to be a simple man, he nevertheless gets wrapped up in some exceedingly strange mysteries set in and around New Orleans. It’s great for plot purposes if not exactly Dubonnet’s ease of mind.

In Crooked Man, the actual murder doesn’t occur until nearly halfway through the novel. By that point, we are thoroughly immersed in Dubonnet’s world, which includes a few offbeat clients and more beer and off-track betting than is strictly necessary. The murder of a bar owner and the question of what to do with cash only further complicates Dubonnet’s life.

While there are plenty of downbeat noir tropes here, Dunbar wraps it all up in wry understatement. The plot is also convoluted, but amusingly so. And while the characters are hardly shining beacons of morality, they are so engaging that you won’t really care one way or the other.