Friday, October 26, 2012


Just finished Creole Belle. James Lee Burke, one of my favorite writers and responsible for nearly twenty volumes in the Dave Robicheaux series, still commands a wonderful array of descriptive language and usually tells a good story and people who love his characters probably don’t quibble about his prose, but he seems to be aging in style and power somewhat, now unable to avoid repetition both from previous volumes and even within these pages. In fact, I think it is time to wrap up the series, perhaps. There was a part of me that kept saying that he simply doesn’t have that much more to explore, even if new characters are added. And OMG, the “ands” rush by like a heard of deer in front of a firestorm (in one sentence I counted six). I suspect the publisher, knowing any new Burke would have good built-in sales, forgoed assigning an editor to his best-selling producer, and no one apparently calls Burke to account. Sometimes the infractions are minor, such as having two characters include “over the hurdles” just pages apart to more egregious problems of retelling information the reader should be able to retain on their own. Sometimes characters, not directly connected and at varied points, bring up the same historical events or remembrances (door gunner who couldn’t wait to get back to a free-fire zone). He is consistent with his former novels in the series (and outside as well) in his toilet and scatalogical references (someone always seems to be killed or beaten in a bathroom and something---often repeatedly--will be referenced going up a rear or spit in someone’s mouth or an item will be needed to be removed from a mouth). His dialogue is almost always angry: hardly ever can two characters, no matter when in the book, have a peaceful or genuine conversation, as they seem to be bitter and distrustful and dishonest and hateful and (wait, I’m sounding too much like JLB). And they all talk the same. Burke simply is unable to give characters unique tone (with the exception of some of the minor characters with local color). Still, I liked the story. I actually thought a favored character might be headed for his demise, but no. I am thinking about not reading any more of his books, but I would be willing to bet I’ll be first in line when another comes out.

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