James Lee

Why I like James Lee Burke!

TERRANCE GAVAN – DEAD DOGAN EMERITUS

You know what?

I don’t even want to hear from anyone who happens to be leading this frick-fracking bracket thing.

First: I have no idea why I envisioned that this would be a good idea.

I rushed through the process, built a motherfracking website, built a logo featuring James Joyce who I don’t even like that much. Oh sure. He wrote a lot. Oh sure. You have to read him to get your honours degree in English. But he’s dated. I mean really. He writes like it’s still 1900. Where are the cell phones? Why is the Guiness warm? Anyway.

I have found James Lee Burke and his series about Detective Dave Robicheaux.

He’s a Naw’ahlands (New Iberia Louisiana actually) murder cop who is for some reason now spending a great deal of his time flyfishing in goddam Montana with his partner in crime (in fighting crime I imagine would allude a truer contemplation of that integration) Clete Purcell. Clete is sloppy, tough and a goddam blackout drunk. Dave, the narrator and protagonist in these stories from hell and the mind of Mr. Burke, is a recovered alcoholic and that’s why I have become enamored of this series.

How many books. Has James Lee written?

Well I don’t know, but I have read (Audibled as I don’t fucking read anymore) over five and less than 10. Steve Patrick, who is in the fucking lead on this bracketology thing with Tom the Bomb and Ehinger and some other lucky pricks and doting buggerers, has read James Lee Burke and he is not enamored. He read it on a plane. And while he did like the book, it was unfortunately not enough to hook him. I understand. Stephen Orde read one of Burke’s more indulgent tomes, when the author was younger and attempting to displace Cormac McCarthy as the dusky, dusty, dank and dour demographer of Mid-America prose, where ordinary men discover an incredible vocabulary  while astride a horse or a pickup truck. Or while busting broncs.

In Cormac I find less action and more character development. And wow, can that motherfracker write a sentence or two! But Cormac only deals with one psychopath per novel. Whereas Dave and Clete, in their newest scrum-bubble mete justice to several stone cold killers, while allowing a vicious sadist and convicted murderer swing wide of the law in the last chapter. They skid on the basis of their overwrought and sudden disposition to kindness, mercy and yes, love. Some murder authors believe that a gun once hung on the wall. Must be used.

But Burke is a salvationist. He is a sap for a good Redemption Song. And I think – or I like to believe – that he makes these decisions near the end of the book.

It is easy to clean up a mess in an eye for an eyeful dispatch. But James Lee Burke often opts for further distillation through the art of deus machina. Where dead men walking often disappear stage left in scrums where lesser authors might let sleeping dogs die. A turned die not cast.

Not surprising. Recovered alcoholics are supposed to believe in redemption. A risen transmogrification is the modus operandi that dominates their own story. Because it is not supposed to matter what you have done. It is supposed to matter most… what you are doing. Where you are pointed and whether there is virtue at the end of that slow walk.

Burke, I am assuming, is an alcoholic and I find my own solace in that.

Burke is also incredibly gifted. With a vocabulary that would leave Rex Murphy stuttering in his oatmeal.

I read Burke for those insights into the alcoholic mind, but he is also as riveting as any mystery writer in setting up wide mattresses of buttressed and textured criminal profiles. Clete is the tongue in cheek Mickey Spillane private dick. Over the top.

Anyway. I find that as I slide away from my bracket, I find solace in a new installment of a James Lee Burke novel. Will Patton is the narrator. Of these Burke offerings.

And for all of you slick willy bracket leaders out there?

You know who you are.

GFYOselves!

I’ll leave you with a warning from Clete Purcell. Who has a word of warning for anyone who would like to denigrate my picks and my busted bracket.

“You know what happens to anyone who messes wit’ the Bobbsey Twins from Homicide?

“In the ground, six feet down, with the detritus and the humus and a thorny crown!”