James Lee Burke makes his seventh appearance on the show this week. We discuss his new novel, THE GLASS RAINBOW, published by Simon and Schuster.
This is the 18th novel in the Dave Robicheaux series. Mr. Burke published the first Robicheaux novel, THE NEON RAIN, in 1987. I remember reading THE NEON RAIN in two sittings.
There was something about Burke's writing that transcended the mystery genre. In that first book Dave adopts an orphan who is rescued from a helicopter accident, her name is Alafair.
Alafair has been an important character in the series. Burke's use of Alafair in THE GLASS RANIBOW shows the complex and loving bond between a father and his daughter. Their relationship has matured in the book, and Alafair plays a major role in the plot of the story. Mr. Burke's real life daughter Alafair has become a successful mystery writer as well, and during the interview Mr. Burke discusses their relationship.
THE GLASS RAINBOW also plumbs the depths of the relationship between Clete Purcell and Robicheaux. Clete is up to his normal tricks and vices in the novel, but Mr. Burke brilliantly begins to introduce mortality into their friendship and he shows the acceptance that true friends show each other as they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. The last two pages of the novel brought me to tears. This is Mr. Burke's most powerful novel since PEGASUS DESCENDING and TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN.
Mr. Burke and I were fifteen minutes into the interview when the subject of the exploitation of his beloved Louisiana by the oil companies came up. As an interviewer you live for the moment when an author opens his mind and heart to you and trusts you with what he is about to say. Mr. Burke and I have had several of these moments over the years, particularly after Hurricane Katrina. James Lee Burke knows the oil business; he has worked on oil rigs and has had friends and family that were and are oil men.
I put my tongue between my incisors and wrote, "SHUT UP", on my note pad when Burke started discussing the BP Oil Explosion. I allowed him to give full vent to his knowledge and outrage of what is going on in the Gulf Coast. Please take the time to listen to what Mr. Burke has to say. It is powerful, and it is the truth.
He loves his native state and our country enough to tell us the truth about how the oil companies operate. I am honored that he chose our show to express his feelings about the explosion (vs. a spill).
James Lee Burke is an important American writer. To classify him as a crime writer is to sell him short. I've said it before and I'll say it again, he is the Dostoevsky of our generation. The depth of his characters, the lushness of his prose, and his command of language make his stories a privilege to read.
Read THE GLASS RAINBOW. And then read the rest of the series. Burke is quite simply the best!