When I did the review of The Glass Rainbow, I had never read any of the other books in the Dave Robicheaux Novels series. That wasn't a problem, James Lee Burke did an excellent job of introducing the characters, their histories and their relationships. Not an easy feat considering the number of books in the series. And that led to my first question for him...
How important do you feel it is to put history from the previous books into a new novel?
That's a good question; the challenge in writing a series is to encapsulate enough material from previous books so that the current novel stands alone — without being redundant.
I wanted to talk to you about Louisiana. It has an amazing history with some crazy characters and a lot of corruption, some of which you touch upon in the book, little tidbits here and there. Tell me about Louisiana and why it fascinates you.
Well, as Dave Robicheaux says, it's really a Caribbean nation. A piece of South America that was torn loose during a hurricane and floated northward and it affixed itself to the southern rim of the United States. But it is not like the rest of the United States — even the law, we have a Napoleonic code. It was settled by the French, people from France, and by Acadian French from Nova Scotia and by Spaniards. And it operates today, in many ways, just like a Caribbean country. When you cross the state line into Louisiana you know you're in a very different place; the music, the food, the people, the way of life is obviously quite different from even the culture in the adjoining states of Arkansas and Mississippi and Texas.
It's a special place, and at one time, it was an edenic paradise. That time is gone. The environmental stress on Louisiana is just enormous. I think Louisiana is a tragedy.
And I always say this... that if people want to see the future of the United States under a petrochemical oligarchy, the kind of guys who we saw around from 2000 to 2008, they need to visit Louisiana and ask themselves what price they're willing to pay for access to cheap gasoline.