FRiction FRiday | Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction | James Lee Burke

As promised, we completed the First Five of the Top Ten Favorite Characters recently in the mystery-thriller-sense fiction category … the Second Five Favorites thereafter … and then began the favorite fiction, which is a potpourri of great characters that, for all kinds of reasons, didn’t make the Top Ten Favorite Characters. More on the way ….

[All names in Bold Italic … BLACK for authors, titles in GREEN, characters in ORANGE … except URL references in RED. No affiliate links.]

James Lee Burke Rules!

We spoke last week about how agonizing it is to be a fan of James Lee Burke. More so if you’re a fan of the Dave Robicheaux series (Top Ten Favorite Character) which also features his cohort, Clete Purcell. Since July, 2010, I’d been savoring The Glass Rainbow, #18 in this series, but I finally read it last week.

I probably need to confess that Dave Robicheaux is my favorite character. It’s been 23 years since Neon Rainbow, and Dave has gone through several incarnations from a New Orleans detective to a Deputy Sheriff in New Iberia parish. He’s been drunk, recovered, killed people, almost got killed and put away any number of miscreants. He’s now on wife #3, I think, which is but one more epidermis to be peeled from this complex character.

What movie franchise characters are out there?

As I was finishing The Glass Rainbow, one of the things I checked out are the movies that have been made in this series, believing that there is a rich franchise here that could become a movie or TV series. It also got me thinking about how many franchise characters exist in the movies anyway. James Bond comes to mind, and Jason Bourne (he of the Robert Ludlum series, one of the godfathers of this genre) … but I couldn’t bring to mind any others in this category. Did I miss someone?

I don’t know how I originally missed the Robicheaux movies, but Heaven’s Prisoners, starring Alec Baldwin, and In the Electric Mist (the book is In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead from 1993), with Tommy Lee Jones are the two Robicheaux movies that have been made. I saw In the Electric Mist on Netflix last weekend, and I’ll check out Heaven’s Prisoners, as well, although Alec Baldwin seems miscast in that role.

Tommy Lee Jones as Dave Robicheaux?

I thought Tommy Lee Jones was a great choice for the aging Robicheaux. I was disappointed at first, but he grew on me as the movie progressed. I can see why the movie didn’t do well at the box office, though. As I was watching, and wondering again why a franchise couldn’t be built around the 18 books in the Robicheaux series, I realized how hard it is to translate the extensive internal dialogue in this series to the movie screen. (I was pretty excited, though, to see that how I imagined Dave’s house on the river was remarkably close to the movie’s depiction.) Clete Purcell wasn’t in the movie … not in Heaven’s Prisoners, either … so that was a bummer.

Putting Robicheaux series on the movie screen … not very easy

There’s probably too much indirection and rich nuance in the books to capture it on the screen. The scenery was very close to my imagination, as I’ve said, but the cryptic conversation nuggets that Dave drops like bread crumbs, and the assorted characters whose numbers grow over time in every book, are hard to follow in the movie … or maybe any Robicheax movie. Maybe that’s why no more have been made … and with the dismal box office results, no surprise I guess.

One more thing as we move one. There are only two writers who have won 2 Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writer’s of America. I mentioned John Hart in an earlier post, but James Lee Burke is the only other one (Black Cherry Blues, 1990, and Cimarron Rose, 1998). Too many great ones haven’t won any so that’s something we need to explore. In 2009, James Lee also received the MWA’s Grand Master Award.

Now Reading …

I decided to tackle Ken Follett’s latest WWI novel, Fall of Giants. It’s a big one but he is such a great storyteller. I’m not very far but it’s terrific. What an ability to take everyday, ordinary citizens and spin a great yarn!

Just arrived …. and arriving on the bookshelf

  • Finally after 10 years, Dead or Alive appears, the #13 novel from Tom Clancy featuring Jack Ryan.
  • Dead Zero, the 17th book in the Bob Lee Swagger series from Stephen Hunter.
  • Brad MeltzerThe Inner Circle … coming this month.
  • Jack Higgins with our favorite Sean Dillon character in his 19th book … Judas Gate.
  • Three Stations with Arkady Renko, the Moscow detective from Martin Cruz Smith.

So much more to say … so little time …. What are you reading? Who do you like?

See ya next week!

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