My friend Drew, who’s lived and tended bar in the Big Easy for years, acquiesced as much the other night over a couple beers at Markey’s in the Bywater. He wasn’t throwing shade. When French settlers first cleared this boggy crescent of land pinched inside a fortuitous hairpin of the Mississippi River in the early 18th century, it provided safe harbor for fast-talking fabulists gifted in the art of fudging for financial and social gain.  “Early New Orleans was a place of reinvented identities, a crossroads of improvisation,” writes Lawrence N. Powell in The Accidental City. “People came there to make themselves anew.” Disgraced Old World aristocrats expunged from their family wills set up around the fast-growing port, adopting new names and flattering faux ancestries. Bourgeois hucksters mixed with blue-collar colonists, freed slaves, Amerindians and a motley international class of gamblers, smugglers and pirates, starting the slow simmer of African, Caribbean, French, Spanish and indigenous additives that is the New Orleanian identity. Gloriously unburdened by facts, this citizenry set the tone for America’s most folkloric city, a place where documented history and dubious myth...