J L Burke, House of the Rising Sun


James Lee Burke brava novel of American history, here published as a limited collectors edition of 55 copies with a special tribute by daughter and crime writer Alafair Burke tribute.

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James Lee Burke’s latest novel House of the Rising Sun has been issued in handsome binding by the Scorpion Press with an appreciation by Alafair Burke and limited to 55 numbered copies.  New York Times bestseller James Lee Burke returns with his latest masterpiece, the story of a father and son separated by war and circumstance—and whose encounter with the legendary Holy Grail will change their lives forever.

From its opening scene in revolutionary Mexico to the Battle of the Marne in 1918, and on to the bordellos and saloons of San Antonio during the reign of the Hole in the Wall Gang, House of the Rising Sun is an epic tale of love, loss, betrayal, vengeance, and retribution that follows Texas Ranger Hackberry Holland on his journey to reunite with his estranged son, Ishmael, a captain in the United States Army.

After a violent encounter that leaves four Mexican soldiers dead, Hackberry escapes the country in possession of a stolen artifact, earning the ire of a bloodthirsty Austrian arms dealer who then places Hack’s son Ishmael squarely in the cross hairs of a plot to recapture his prize, believed to be the mythic cup of Christ.

Along the way, we meet three extraordinary women: Ruby Dansen, the Danish immigrant who is Ishmael’s mother and Hackberry’s one true love; Beatrice DeMolay, a brothel madam descended from the crusader knight who brought the shroud of Turin back from the Holy Land; and Maggie Bassett, one-time lover of the Sundance Kid, whose wiles rival those of Lady Macbeth. In her own way, each woman will aid Hackberry in his quest to reconcile with Ishmael, to vanquish their enemies, and to return the Grail to its rightful place.

House of the Rising Sun is James Lee Burke’s finest novel to date, and a thrilling entry into the Holland family saga that continued most recently with Wayfaring Stranger, which The New York Times Book Review described as “saturated with the romance of the past while mournfully attuned to the unholy menace of the present.”

Alafair Burke, a successful crime writer and daughter of the author allowed us to publish her speech given in honour of her father being honoured at the Grand Master Awards in 2009. The speech is four pages in length and gives unique insights in the acclaimed writers’ development. Here is an extract:

Readers who have read even a few James Lee Burke stories will recognize his vision on the page. It is a vision of honourable but flawed men challenged by an arbitrary and sometimes cruel fate. It is a vision of a specific but somehow transcendent era and region, a dying way of life in the south that tells a broader story about a decent but imperfect country savaged by mega-corporations, polluters, and a callous government. His vision was clear even in his début novel, whose themes provoked a comparison from the Times to the works of Hemingway, Sartre, and Camus, where “man is doomed by no fatal flaw of character but by the simple fact of being born.”

And perhaps no stories tapped into his vision more aggressively than those that emerged from Katrina and its aftermath. When levees failed and the images of dark faces pleading for help on rooftops became salient reminders of an inept and indifferent political administration and broken government, many of us might have paused before allowing those stories to penetrate our fiction. But my father, not stopping to worry about the hate mail that would follow, embraced the role of narrative documentarian. “New Orleans was a poem, man,” a character recalls in his story, Jesus Out to Sea, “a song in your heart that never died. I only got one regret. Nobody ever bothered to explain why nobody ever came for us.” Tin Roof Blowdown was not just the next book in the Robicheaux series, but a tribute to a beautiful and forsaken city, “killed three times, and not just by the forces of nature.”

The content and tone of my father’s post-Katrina work are unsurprising given his view of the writing process. He believes that his talent was not earned but was given to him for a specific purpose. He believes that the characters about whom he writes are not created by him, but live within the unconscious, waiting for their discovery. He does not outline and rarely sees beyond the next two scenes as he writes. He wrote about post-Katrina Louisiana because he was meant to”.


Scorpion Press special edition of James Lee Burke's House of the Rising Sun.

Scorpion Press special edition of James Lee Burke’s House of the Rising Sun.


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