Wednesday, March 20, 2013

glass rainbow

I just finished The Glass Rainbow, by James Lee Burke, or I think I did. I'm pretty sure I read another by Burke a few years ago, but it must have been before I began writing these things down. its why I have this crazy thing Burke is a well spoken, southern gentleman, and his prose at first seems a little purple when he describes the falling leaves from the live oaks, and the bayou water lapping the knees of the gum trees, and... well, you get the idea; But I little further on I began to see how Burke is juxtaposing these lovely scene changes with the horror and fervor of the narrative.

Burke's characters are high-strung, hard working, hard playing, serious, obsessive, or even crazed. ALL of them seem to be damaged in some way, and when they come together... Well, it seems as though Burke just has to sit back and describe what happens when they do.

I've never been to Louisiana (or Mississippi) where this story takes place, so I can't tell you if my impressions are correct, but I think Burke does a great job of setting his story. Whether its a small roadside sno'ball shop, a river- or bayou-side, or a suburban backyard speak-easy, I had a real sense for what its like, right down to the weather, the lighting, and the feel of the air. He makes that purple prose work for him.

This grew from a crime drama into a mystery, and ended up back at crime drama, because all the answers did fall out by the end. Part way through, the main protagonist (Dave Robicheaux a deputy sheriff in New Iberia, Louisiana) agrees with me, or at least does a little foreshadowing thinking he may never unravel this mystery.

Dave Robicheaux is recurring character for Burke, and a quick look-see on the internet bears this out. There is a pile of them, and another one out just recently. Two of these stories have been made into movies, the most recent stars Tommy Lee Jones. I guess this character has some traction.

I would enjoy another of these. I'll have to keep my eye out.

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