RARA-AVIS: James Lee Burke, Ghosts and Hemingway

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Tue, 13 Jul 1999 08:37:31 -0400

I've found the last few Robicheaux's read more like retreads, rather than original novels, suggesting perhaps that Burke has written himself into a corner. SUNSET LIMITED was particularly overly familar. Just how many old girlfriends can show up on Dave's doorstep, dragging a world of hurt, before Bootsie starts chasing 'em away with a shotgun?

The new series, featuring Billy Bob Holland is, as Mario pointed out, considerably tighter.

The advice from ghosts' stuff doesn't bug me, for the most part, actually, which rather surprises me. I don't see it, though, as New Age mumbo-jumbo so much as gentle prods from possibly Robicheaux's own battered, and not quite stable psyche. Did Hamlet actually see his dead father? Did Dave actually see some old Civil War soldier? Like Ally McBeal or Hamlet, Dave clearly does not have all his mental health.

But, like I said, I think Burke's sort of trapped by Robicheaux. One way out might be to tell a story focussing on Clete, who isn't burdened with always trying to do the right thing, as Dave is. I mean, Clete can usually be counted on to do the most wrong thing, in the most spectacular way, and he won't spend most of the time agonizing over it. He'd just reload his gun, mon.

As for Hemingway, it might, indeed, be interesting to discuss him, but what's really fascinating to me right now is the marketing going on now. I mean, Hemingway cologne? A line of clothing? On the cover of some cigar magazines? (He didn't even like the damn things!) What's next? Will Kevorkian name his new machine the Hemingway 2000? Will Jar Jar be replaced by Hemingway's mug on the cups at Burger King for the rest of the summer?

If there's one restless ghost I'd like to see returning to get some justice and kick some butt, it's Papa's dropping in on his money-hungry ancestors who auctioned off his name and face for a few pieces of silver.

Thanks for the pointer to the Hemingway article, Mario. I'm on my way....

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/ Now available! Our Summer Issue, focussing on Radio Private Eyes, plus new fiction by Peter Parmantie and Kathy Korty.

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