If you're interested in reading about Marie Laveau, there are three books to choose from. I recommend reading all three, but if you don't have the time, I've compared them in this article to help you choose.
This was the easiest and most interesting read. Ward paints a vivid and fascinating picture of New Orleans and voodoo. It was the first book I read about Marie, and it inspired me to write my novel.
Despite its creativity, the book was not well received by scholars. Ward hardly cites any of her sources. She describes people being in places they've never been and feeling ways we have no idea whether or not they felt. Martha Ward should have written a historical fiction instead of a biography.
TO SUM UP: If you're a scholar, you can skip this book. It doesn't present any information that isn't in other works, and Ward takes too many creative liberties. If you just want to be entertained while learning about a fantastic woman, I'd recommend this.
There are so many lies about Marie Laveau, it's hard to know what's real and what's not. Carolyn Long knows this probably better than anyone. She is an archivist and she searched through records to verify every fact she presents with primary sources. She explains where every rumor originated. Of all the people I've read and interviewed, she's the only one I trust completely.
While this was my favorite of the three biographies, it's not meant for entertainment. Since it's a string of facts, one might find her work a little dry. Also, since she doesn't include anything that isn't a hard fact, it left me with a lot of questions. For instance, she never explains why Marie might have been famous in the first place.
TO SUM UP: This is probably the most accurate of the three books, and it was my favorite. Without theories and what-ifs, however, the research is incomplete. If you're serious about studying this topic, I feel reading Fandrich's book in conjunction with Long's is essential.
Good luck finding a copy of this. It's a dense college thesis and if it isn't in your university's library, it'll cost you $130. Next year, it will be available as an ebook, thank goodness.
While Long's book presents the facts, Fandrich delivers the context. She gets into African culture, the voodoo religion, and the status of free women of color in New Orleans to help you understand who Marie might have been. It's thorough, and it provides the imagination Long's book is lacking.
However, it's clear Fandrich has her own vendetta. She wants to write about powerful female leadership so badly that she puts her own spin on things, and like Ward, she gives Marie Laveau character traits she might never have had. She even gave character traits to the Second Marie Laveau when there's little evidence she even existed. However, nothing she writes is "wrong," just debatable.
TO SUM UP: It's a difficult read and it's more interpretation than fact, but most of the information about Marie Laveau has to be interpreted. Even though I'd argue with many of her points, this is the most comprehensive of the three biographies.
I didn't bother including Robert Tallant's book. His work is bigoted, racist, and inaccurate. He actually made up a few interviews! Experts place a lot of blame on him for the negative stereotype given to voodoo.
Interestingly, Tallant died a sudden and mysterious death. Coincidence?