James Lee Burke, Feast Day of Fools
When it comes to literate and violent motifs in a major detective series James Lee Burke has few peers. For more than two decades the Dave Robicheaux detective series has blossomed and each of the recent novels have been lauded by the critics. Burke is a major force in American crime. This is Jim Burke’s second Hackberry Holland novel set in Texas. It contains an appreciation by colleague and professor in Literature James W Hall, who considers the narrator Hackberry Holland and the transition from the bayou to the open-spaces of the borderland.
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Following early attempts at literary fiction and a thriller issued by a university press James Lee Burke found a niche with the Dave Robicheaux detective novel Neon Rain (1987). It was this breakthrough that quickly earned him an Edgar for best mystery with Black Cherry Blues, his third novel in the series. This book, like the others in the series is about a deep feeling for the South, human dignity and redemption. What Burke brings to the genre is an emotional engagement; listen to this: “. . . I had found the edge. The place where you unstrap all your fastenings to the earth, to what you are what you have been, where you flame out on the edge of the spheres, and the sun and moon become eclipsed and the world below is as dead and remote and without interest as if it were glazed with ice. ” This is the second Hackberry Holland novel following the highly acclaimed Rain Gods.
Plotline from the author website: Sheriff Hackberry Holland patrols a small Southwest Texas border town with a deep and abiding respect for the citizens in his care. Still mourning the loss of his cherished wife, and locked in a perilous almost-romance with his Deputy Pam Tibbs, a woman many decades his junior, Hackberry feeds off of the deeds of evil men to keep his own demons at bay.
When alcoholic ex-boxer Danny Boy Lorca witnesses a man tortured to death in the desert and reports it, Hack’s investigation to the home of Anton Ling, a regal, mysterious Chinese woman whom the locals refer to as La Magdalena and who is known for sheltering illegals. Ling denies having seen the victims or perpetrators, but there is something in her steely demeanor and aristocratic beauty that compels Hackberry to return to her home again and again as the investigation unfolds. Could it be that the Sheriff is so taken in by this creature who reminds him of his deceased wife, that he would ignore the possibility that she is just as dangerous as the men she harbors?
The danger in the desert increases tenfold with the return of serial murderer Preacher Jack Collins, (whom The New York Times called “one of Burke’s most inspired villains”). Presumed dead at the close of Rain Gods, Preacher Jack has re-emerged with a calm, single-minded zeal for killing which is more terrifying than the muzzle flash of his signature machine gun. But this time he and Sheriff Holland share a common enemy.
Praised by Joyce Carol Oates for “the luminosity of his writerly voice” James Lee Burke returns with his most allegorical novel to date, illuminating vital issues of our time—immigration, energy, religious freedom—with the rich atmosphere and devastatingly flawed, authentic characters that readers have come to celebrate during the five decades of his brilliant career.
James Lee Burke has become the foremost American crime writer of his time. Although an entertainer Burke’s Robicheaux series (now extending to eighteen dense novels) marks out an outstanding achievement in creating a much followed flawed character with real depth and in extending the crime genre into areas of wider social concern. Recent novels such as The Tin Roof Blowdown and Swan Peak received superb notices and it is no surprise that Feast Day of Fools (2011) further cemented Burke’s place as one of America’s foremost novelists of the present. The Scorpion Press edition comprised 75 numbered and signed copies and a further and 16 lettered for presentation purposes. It was enhanced by the presence of James W Hall, who wrote the appreciation; he considers the narrator Hackberry Holland and the transition from the bayou to the open-spaces of the borderland. The book on offer is the signed & numbered.