James Lee Burke: A Great American Crime Writer

Burke's Life...

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James Lee BurkePhoto of a killer.  Hurricane KatrinaOn New IberiaBayou Teche.  Fictional home and business place of Dave Robicheaux
James Lee Burke
James Lee Burke
Photo of a killer.  Hurricane Katrina
Photo of a killer. Hurricane Katrina
On New Iberia
On New Iberia
Bayou Teche.  Fictional home and business place of Dave Robicheaux
Bayou Teche. Fictional home and business place of Dave Robicheaux

New Orleans: Great pickings for a crime writer

.Not much pleasure in reviewing books, so this scribe rarely attempts the task...and if it's boring writing it, it surely must be worse reading it. It's not going to happen herein; the idea of this humble article is to put the spotlight of critical aclaim on an American Author whom many say is the best in his - and perhaps any - writing field in the United States today.

As some readers may know, this recorder is a great fan of US crime and detective fiction. In an earlier article, attention was drawn to the most effective heroes - the protagonists - starring in some fiction series. They included Jack Reacher, Lee Child's super hero, a sort of cross between superman and Jesus Christ, a six-foot-six powerhouse who can climb any villain in a single bound, and...you get the picture.

Then deadly, silent, Joe Pike and wisecracking sidekick Elvis Cole, the two stalwart PI detectives in Robert Crais' novels.

And Michael Connelley's phlegmatic Harry Bosch, perhaps one of the most believable lawman because of his fragility as well as nouse. Bosch is brave and determined but rarely fights or uses his guns.

Then the pair who appear in many of the publications by James Lee Burke. One is police detective lieutenant Dave Robicheaux, often aided and abetted by the gargatuan, obese Cletus (Clete) Purcell, a figure resembling a cross between Pancho Villa and Shrek!

Neither of these two would probably win in a make-believe one-on-one contest with, say, Jack Reacher, or Joe Pike, but their efforts are much more true to life and carried along by the wonderful prose/poetry from Burke.

The background in most of Burke's books is Louisiana from New Orleans to New Iberia, where Robicheaux has his boat and bait business - a constant that pays his way during the times he gets chucked out of the police force for his methods, as Clete says, of "Taking it to them under a black flag," or "Spitting in the lion's mouth," where legally arresting a bad dude is trumped by the more radical approach of Clete drowning them in a toilet bowl, or blowing them away with Robicheaux's .45!

The sad, all too real, constant through the series is Robicheaux's alcoholism and his efforts to stay clean in AA, while Clete downs the beer and shots and becomes more Shrek-like by the minute.

Their adventures are legion and colorful, full of the place names, history and the people with the vital characteristics of the Cajuns, or the southern blacks. From the Mafia - to the old landed families turned criminals - Robicheaux and Purcell, "The Bobbsy Twins from Homicide," act out convoluted scenes trying to bring them to civil - or rough - justice. They are often beaten up, drugged, kidnapped, stabbed and shot and have more scar tissue than a Humpback Whale - a beast Clete resembles.

This writer has read Burke's books again and again - and again. In fact, these days this couple of hundred book collection of thrillers holds this escapist in thrall without needing an influx of new blood. Do many on Hubpages also do this? Burke's prose, in particular, is so in depth and filled with images, the books seem new each visit...Let us know in comments.

As Burke writes, Southern Louisiana, along with Montana he visits (he actually lives in both ), come to life: the people and their ancestors, the creole music and food, the 19th. Century and Colonial architecture and the names and dialogue, in a way which will fascinate any lover of this genre - or any genre in fact.

So this is more a review of the author than his books. They are all good; try to buy one that features Robicheaux and Purcell. You might well begin with "The Tin Roof Blowdown," where the two detectives (Purcell is private) are enmeshed in a great fiction novel that also brings the suffering during Hurricane Katrina to life in the most revealing and saddening way. For me, living in the UK and not getting the detailed news of this murderous flood, the mainly factual account had me mesmerized, and Katrina must rate as one of the world's most terrifying disasters.

But I'll let this great novel bring these grim days in US history to life again. James Lee Burke is the distinguished author of some 30 top rated books, of which Robicheaux and Purcell feature in 20. He has won award after award and, in his early 70's, is still turning out great prose. His fictional daughter, Alafair (also his daughter of the same name in real life, a writer now herself) figures in most of his books, as do three wives and several girl friends.

So, reader, "This is Mr James Lee Burke," he is a writer you should know and will surely remember.

To see a list of Burke's books or read more about the author, below is his official website

www.jamesleeburke.com

More by this Author


Comments 11 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 20 months ago from Deep South, USA

James Lee Burke is one of my favorite authors, and I've read most of his books. Thanks for this excellent review of him as a writer. I agree with your opinion of his work. I, too, return to his books and reread them with as much enjoyment as I had the first time around.

Voted Up+++ and shared (because every writer should read James Lee Burke's books)

Jaye


diogenes profile image

diogenes 20 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Many thanks for this encouraging comment and let's spread the word! Not, I suppose, that he really needs it!

Bob


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 20 months ago from Rural Arizona

Bob, surprisingly this is one author I have not read. Lee Childs is one of my favorites but for some reason I had not tried any books by James Lee Burke. They do have all of his books on Amazon Kindle, but they are a little on the spendy side. I just checked my local library and they don't have a single one of his books anywhere in town.

I appreciate you tipping us off on this and will read one of his books very soon. If you like him, he must be a great author.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 20 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks Opey, I would think they are being read at the library, but of course, he began the series way back in about 1988, but the most recent are in the last three years so he's nowhere near out of print. The Tin Roof Blowdown must rate as one of his best but the standard is always high. I'll pay for the books if you don't fall in love immediately!

Bob goodnight from here


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 20 months ago from Rural Arizona

Bob, I appreciate the kind offer but not necessary. My library does have his books. The "Not Available" meant there is a long waiting list, not that they don't have them. I ordered Tin Roof Blowdown from Amazon and should have it next week.

Thanks again for the heads up on a good author.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 20 months ago from Rural Arizona

Bob - I was able to download one of his books from the library. Your right, he is one of the best authors I have ever read.

Mike


diogenes profile image

diogenes 20 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Great Mike: Which book did you chose?

Bob


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 20 months ago from Rural Arizona

Bob - There was only one book that I could get. "Black Cherry Blues." The books are free to read on the internet but the library limits it to 6 people at a time reading the same book.

It has been raining all day here in Arizona so I am able to stay inside and read all day without feeling guilty about all the chores than need doing. Thanks again for steering us to this series of books.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 20 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

One of his best, I just read it again recently

Happy reading...screw the lawn! (although it's probably the cactus where you are!)

Bob


ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 12 months ago

Absolutely My Favorite author ! Uhhh.......besides you my new friend !


diogenes profile image

diogenes 12 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi again, ahorseback. Thanks for kind remarks, as you saw, I am following you now.

Bob

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