Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Mystery Backlist - James Lee Burke

Tomorrow is the release date for James Lee Burke's RAIN GODS. This will be the 30th publication for Burke, the 28th novel (two books were collections of short stories). This is truly an amazing accomplishment, not so much because he's published 30 works but because the quality of those works has been consistently amazing. And that made today's backlist author choice a no-brainer, but the hard part was picking which title to highlight. RAIN GODS picks up Hackberry Holland, the character from Burke's 1971 novel, LAY DOWN MY SWORD AND SHIELD, so that might be a logical choice. I could also highlight his Pulitzer Prize nominated THE LOST GET BACK BOOGIE, which was rejected 111 times over the course of 9 years before it was published. And there are his two series: Dave Robicheaux and Billy Bob Holland. Finally, one of my favorite James Lee Burke books doesn't fit into any of those categories. WHITE DOVES AT MORNING is a historical novel. Oh choices, choices, choices! And no matter which I choose, I will not do it justice. If you haven't picked up a James Lee Burke novel before, you simply must. If there were ever a writer that I felt everyone should read at some point in their lives, this is the one. But, let me quit stalling and pick a book already.

You may be surprised that my choice to highlight is CIMARRON ROSE, the first book in the Billy Bob Holland series. This is probably the lesser known of the two series that Burke has written (with RAIN GODS I guess we need to say three series now), but this is the book that started me on my love of all things James Lee Burke. For some reason, it called out to me from the bookshelf at the library so I checked it out. I read it in record time and had to find out about the man who wrote this amazing novel. And from there I discovered Dave Robicheaux and the rest is history!

CIMARRON ROSE, as I mentioned, introduces Billy Bob Holland, a former Texas Ranger turned attorney, who finds himself defending his illegitimate son against charges of rape and murder. Meanwhile Billy Bob fights his own internal demons that stem from his family's history of violence and the fact that he accidentally shot and killed his best friend L.Q. Navarro. I'm a reader who often has trouble suspending belief, and yet I found the ghost of L.Q. Navarro to be one of my favorite characters in the book. The ghost is most definitely an element of Billy Bob that he needs to come to terms with, and that internal conflict manifested in L.Q.'s character is incredibly powerful. I wouldn't expect anything less from James Lee Burke.

CIMARRON ROSE was first published in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0786862580) in 1997 by Hyperion Books. It was published in mass market paperback by Hyperion (ISBN: 978-0786889303) in 1998.

And to Jim Burke, congratulations, sir, on book #30. Thank you for the gift of every single one of them!


Corey Wilde July 15, 2009 at 6:24 PM  

There is no praise can equal the beauty of JLB's work. That such talent can be embodied in human form never ceases to amaze me.

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