Mar 21, 2024 - Things to Do

Michael Allen Zell releases New Orleans-based crime novel

Michael Allen Zell poses for a photo while sitting on a bench in a swampy area.

Michael Allen Zell is a New Orleans-based author. Photo: Camille Morgan Barnett

Michael Allen Zell's got a new book out, and launch events start tonight.

Who dat: The New Orleans writer and publisher explores the city as a setting for crime fiction.

We caught up with Zell ahead of his new book's release, and we're sharing the edited Q&A here.

His new book is: "The Last Shadow," which weaves together a story of three people across three New Orleans neighborhoods in Leonidas, City Park and Versailles.

  • The plot stemmed from something Zell read almost three decades ago about a gang crackdown in New York's Chinatown.
  • "It's thought that some of the Vietnamese gang fled to the [New Orleans East], and I thought, 'What if one of those people was a crime boss?'"
  • "A lot of this is playing 'what if?' then you wind it all up and see what happens."

But writing about New Orleans as a non-native can come with pitfalls.

  • Zell moved here just before Hurricane Katrina.
  • "I didn't even deign to think I could write about New Orleans as a subject and setting until I'd been here at least a decade."
  • "When I visit a place, I'd usually read crime fiction because I love it, but also because the sense of place is stronger in crime fiction. … I wanted [my] books to have the same thing."

His perfect day in New Orleans: "My goal is to walk Elysian from UNO at the Lakefront all the way down to the river one Sunday morning.

  • "That would make me very happy."

His favorite book store: "I get a kick out of browsing the French Quarter used stores."

Where he's going to celebrate something big: "If I'm in Jefferson Parish, Yakuza House, because they have that big new location."

  • "if it's in New Orleans, Fritai, Charly Pierre's Haitian restaurant."

Something New Orleans is missing: "We're the most and least American city, so when elements of the core of New Orleans come here and open up, that augments it."

  • Like Pierre's restaurant, we didn't have a Haitian restaurant, but New Orleans' Haitian roots are so deep, it's crazy that it didn't exist before."
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