James Lee Burke, The Tin Roof Blowdown
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. Tin Roof received ecstatic reviews. This edition contains an appreciation by British critic and crime writer Phil Rickman.
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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. ”
Plotline from the James Lee Burke site: The story begins with the shooting of two would-be looters in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and then follows a motley group of characters – from street thugs to a big-time mob boss, from a junkie priest to a sadistic psychopath – as their stories converge on a cache of stolen diamonds, while the storm turns the Big Easy into a lawless wasteland of apocalyptic proportions. The nightmarish landscape created by Katrina seems the perfect setting for Burke’s almost Biblical visions of good and evil – it is as if he had to wait for this disaster to find the occasion to match his emotionally supercharged prose. You can feel the undercurrents of rage and pain beneath the narrative, making this not only his most personal and deeply felt book for some time, but quite possibly his best novel to date. This is not just a superb crime novel, it is potentially The fictional chronicle of a disaster whose human dimensions America is still struggling to process. The Tin Roof Blowdown received ecstatic reviews on both sides of the ocean.
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. British critic and crime writer Phil Rickman wrote the appreciation. The Scorpion Press edition comprised 80 numbered and signed copies and a further 16 lettered for presentation purposes.