A Violent Conscience

Essays on the Fiction of James Lee Burke

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About the Book

Mysteries and detective stories are among the most popular of books but the writers of such genre fiction suffer from a perception that their work is to be taken less seriously than so-called literary fiction. The novels of James Lee Burke, one of the most distinguished writers of crime novels, challenge that notion, as do the 12 essays in this collection.
This work examines Burke as a writer who has expanded the mystery-detective genre with an astonishing diversity of themes, imaginative language and descriptions, and unforgettable characters. He seems unbounded by limitations of genre.
An interview with Burke is included.

About the Author(s)

Leonard Engel, a professor of English at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, is the editor of several essay collections and the author of numerous articles.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Leonard Engel
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 224
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4723-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5558-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Introduction
LEONARD ENGEL      1

1. The Struggles of Southern Identity in White Doves at Morning
BRAD KLYPCHAK      25
2. “I Took No Joy in It”: Southern Violence and Folk Justice in the Robicheaux Novels
PATRICIA GAITELY      42
3. Soldiering On: Dave Robicheaux and Vietnam
DONALD ANDERSON      52
4. “Jesus Out to Sea”: Burke’s Homage to Those Left Behind in the War Zone
BARBARA ZIMMERMAN BOGUE      62
5. Ghosts, Demons, or the DTs? The Supernatural in the Robicheaux Series
LINDA J. HOLLAND-TOLL      72
6. Believe Not Every Spirit: Strange Shadows in the Novels
BRETT WESTBROOK      97
7. Water, Water Everywhere: Elemental Poetics and Politics in The Tin Roof Blowdown
JOSIANE PELTIER      112
8. The Entangled Web: Heaven’s Prisoners in Manichean Prisons
SAM COALE      129
9. The Past Is the Past: Refusing to Age Gracefully in the Robicheaux Series
THOMAS EASTERLING      138
10. The Evil That Men Do: Options for Masculinity
BRETT WESTBROOK      146
11. Cimarron Rose: Guns and Roses in the West
JOHN M. GOURLIE      161
12. Robicheaux’s Sublime Torment on Film: Phil Joanou’s Heaven’s Prisoners (1996) and Bertrand Tavernier’s In the Electric Mist (2009)
DENNIS ROTHERMEL      173
Interview with James Lee Burke
LEONARD ENGEL      189

About the Contributors      205
Index      .      207

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “A fine collection of essays…a fascinating interview with Burke”—Western American Literature
  • “Burke still doesn’t get as much mainstream attention as he deserves. Engel’s collection goes a long way toward removing this vacuum and brings careful analysis and thoughtful insight into the work of a writer respected and admired by many”—Southwestern American Literature