I rate James Lee Burke one of the top two writers on this planet we call home. [I don’t know who the other one is cuz I haven’t run across that writer yet!] I haven’t said as much in the past, but I’ve maintained that thought for a number of years, and Burke reinforces that judgment with each new book of his that I read (I should say ‘devour’).
It doesn’t make any never mind whether he’s describing a grisly murder scene, or the agony tearing apart the murderer, or the mundane vision, sound and smell of the falling rain. He gets right to the root of the scene, then gives the reader a verbal photograph, which is what a good writer should always strive to do. When he describes the sight of a water spout, along with the smell of Bayou Teche, you see it and smell it. You feel it. You’re a part of it! Burke has such a way with words, if he were an assassin he could slip a knife in you and your first notice would be when you fell over dead.
Burke isn’t a summer day at the beach writer. He’s to be taken seriously, which requires more than vacuous inattention. There’s no better reward than one you’ve worked for, and the pleasure and reward one gets from reading Burke is worth every calorie burned in the process, since it’s given back a hundredfold.
But a word of warning. If you’re new to reading James Lee Burke, plan on being in it for the long haul. After enjoying Creole Belle, rest assured that you won’t sleep well until you’ve rounded up and read his thirty other novels at least once. Edgar Awards don’t come cheap and Burke has two under his belt, so you can be certain you’re reading the cream of the crop. If you should decide you like Burke’s characters of Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcel, go back and start with The Lost Get Back Boogie, the beginning.