Medical examiner and writer. East Baton Rouge Parish, LA, coroner, 1993-2003; Louisiana state medical examiner, 2003—; previously worked as both a small-town doctor and an emergency room physician in Baton Rouge, LA.
Coroner's Journal: Stalking Death in Louisiana, foreword by Patricia Cornwell, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2006.
Louis Cataldie is a medical doctor and a writer. He spent approximately a decade working as the coroner for East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana, and from there went on to become the state medical examiner for Louisiana. He is perhaps best known outside the state as the man in charge during the horrific events of September 2005, when Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans and the adjacent areas and decimated both the city and its population. Cataldie found himself in the unenviable position of reporting the number of people who had died due to the hurricane. At the time, he was fairly recently appointed, and he was countering popular opinions and speculation that thousands upon thousands of Louisiana residents must have died as a result of the flooding from the storm. In reality, his first official announcement pertaining to the number of deaths capped the total at 128 individuals, a number so far below what was supposed to be the case that there was a danger of the media and the other local political appointees crying false. Cataldie's calm and reassuring manner when dealing with the press and the public went a long way toward preventing any backlash, as he came across as a trustworthy and honest individual, lending credence to the figures that he reported. Not only did he serve as a spokesman during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but he spent many months on duty overseeing the operations at the morgue, working toward identifying all of the bodies.
Cataldie has written a chronicle of his experiences as coroner, called Coroner's Journal: Stalking Death in Louisiana. He talks about various cases that he handled, a number of them high-profile ones, and provides readers with a clear picture of what a coroner does on a daily basis. Due to the timing of the book, he only addresses the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina briefly, in the prologue, but several critics noted that his role in those events have in all likelihood garnered him readers. One contributor for Publishers Weekly commented that "flat writing and the occasional platitude … detract from what could have been an interesting professional memoir." However, a reviewer for the Forensic Examiner opined that "Cataldie writes with a human touch," and dubbed his work "one of the most revealing, emotionally candid, and compassionate glimpses into the world of forensic science ever published." In an interview with Louise Dobson for Psychology Today, Cataldie noted of all of his cases: "They don't go away; you can't un-experience them."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Cataldie, Louis, Coroner's Journal: Stalking Death in Louisiana, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2006.
Booklist, March 15, 2006, David Pitt, review of Coroner's Journal: Stalking Death in Louisiana, p. 13.
Forensic Examiner, June 22, 2007, review of Coroner's Journal, p. 79.
Psychology Today, July 1, 2006, "Doctor Death: For a Coroner, Murder Is No Mystery," p. 34.
Publishers Weekly, January 30, 2006, review of Coroner's Journal, p. 54.
DHH Web site,http://www.dhh.state.la.us/ (December 1, 2005), author profile.
Penguin Group Web site,http://us.penguingroup.com/ (June 18, 2008), author profile.