The Talent of Tallant

Author Robert Tallant’s legacy.

Robert Tallant was born in New Orleans on April 20, 1909, and became one of Louisiana’s best-known authors. He was a public school student, graduating from Warren Easton High School in 1926. He was hired as an editor on the WPA Writer’s Project in Louisiana in the ’30s and ’40s, largely thanks to his long-time friendship with writer Lyle Saxton. His first book, Gumbo Ya-Ya, a collection of Louisiana folklore published in ’45, was written with Saxton and author Edward Dryer as part of the Writer’s Project and quickly became a classic.

Between 1947 and ’58, he wrote eight novels, six non-fiction books and three books for children. His novels, including the “Mrs. Candy” trilogy, were set locally and contained a level of social satire; his children’s books were all based on local history (Jean Lafitte, Evangeline and the Louisiana Purchase). But Tallant became most well known for his non-fiction works.

Mardi Gras gives the inside look at New Orleans’ Carnival, detailing its delicious and sometimes scandalous history; Ready to Hang presents the stories of seven famous New Orleans murders; and The Romantic New Orleanians details the heart and soul of both New Orleans and the people who call it home. He also wrote about Marie Laveau in both The Voodoo Queen and Voodoo in New Orleans.

A collection of his papers, including manuscripts, personal correspondence, photographs, research materials, interview transcripts and sketches, are housed in the Louisiana Division of the New Orleans Public Library. Many of his photographs are available online at the library’s website, and show Tallant’s obvious love for New Orleans, as well as his ability to enjoy its charms to the fullest. He died on April 1, 1957.

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