RARA-AVIS: Re: James Lee Burke

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Wed, 14 Jul 1999 09:21:24 -0400

Jerry wrote:
>Clete Purcell is a great character, and mayhem is okay when
>appropriate to the story. Nevertheless, I'm prejudiced against cowboy
>sidekicks who shoot up everything and thus relieve the sleuth of having to
>actually solve a case.

But I find Dave and Clete's relationship is far more complicated than that. Whereas Hawk and Pike and Bubba and Ranger and whoever else are more or less shadowy enigmas who seem to be manipulated or at least pointed in general directions by the detectives, and who generally tidy up loose ends, Clete is out there, warts and all, bouncing around loose, barely controllable by Dave or anyone else, often making things worse. The only other comparable sidekick I can think of is probably Easy Rawlin's Mouse, another psychological mess.

I agree with Mario. Hidden under all the loving, moody, evocative description of the misty morning bayous and ice-cold Dr. Peppers sweating in the sun lies tight little Gold Medals trying to get out. But I wonder if Burke is really any more pretentious than, say, Chandler or Macdonald, or is just allowed to get away with overwriting, in a way they weren't able to? The difference might be that publishers seem to want bigger and bigger books now. Thirty or forty years ago, most of Burke's overblown descriptions would have been edited out, or pared down.

Just a thought.

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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