As the setting for more than 20 James Lee Burke novels, it’s no surprise New Iberia has become a tourism destination for fans of the author. His Dave Robicheaux series landed Burke on the New York Times best seller list, and in turn, those books put New Iberia on the literary map.
"We’ve had tourists come from all over the world to eat here because of Dave Robicheaux eating here," says Catherine Huckaby, owner of Victor’s Cafeteria on historic Main Street in New Iberia.
A New Iberia sheriff’s deputy, the fictional Dave Robicheaux takes James Lee Burke’s readers to many Iberia Parish hot spots, like Victor’s.
"Dave eats here, and one of his favorite foods is our red beans and rice. And James Lee Burke has eaten here many many times," adds Huckaby.
"He just describes this area so vividly. Tourists tell us it’s like turning the pages of his books when you walk down Main Street. My husband likes to say you can hear it smell it taste it feel it," says Lorraine Kingston, the owner of New Iberia book store, Books Along the Teche.
After reading the novels many Burke fans can’t resist visiting the places and meeting the people that inspire his tales.
"I love the way he describes the historic district. I like the way he talks about the food and the people. The people, you can almost hear them. You can hear them speaking," says Kingston.
"I was outside hanging a sign and a couple came and immediately I heard they had an accent from Australia. I said, ‘What brings you here?’ They said, ‘James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux!’ They come from England. They come from all over the world to eat here and visit New Iberia," says Huckaby.
Much of the parish has picked up on the popularity of the character, dedicating small spots and even creating trails to follow Robicheaux’s adventures.
"We actually have a map of his books. this was done by my husband about 15-16 years ago with Jim collaborating, talking about places that inspired him to write about in the books, so it’s a walking tour map and we call it ‘Dave’s Domain," says Kingston, who’s husband co-owns Books Along the Teche.
The different trails will take you from Avery Island to the Burke house in New Iberia’s historic district, to Burke’s own favorite bookstore, Books along the Teche. It’s mentioned in the novels, and the author remains close friends with the store’s owners, who now honor him at a literary festival each spring.