Art, Addiction, and Making Movies

From Crime Reads:

Every long-running crime series, I suspect, has a central feeling that keeps readers coming back for more. For James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, now over thirty years and twenty-two novels strong, it’s hard if not impossible to put to words what that feeling is except to say there’s a soulfulness to Robicheaux’s world, a strand of deep emotion that seems to act as the connective tissue between characters from all walks of life, the Louisiana terrain, and whatever new murder investigation is haunting Dave’s nights this go around. In Burke’s latest, New Iberia Blues, that investigation involves bodies set in religious poses washing up on the Louisiana shore, and on a crowd of brash and occasionally brilliant Hollywood types scouting the area for a new production taking advantage of the state’s booming film industry. Although really, that’s just the start of it. This being a Robicheaux novel, there’s also the cast of usual allies, eccentrics, and rogues, all swirling around the old detective Dave, who carefully guards his sobriety, his integrity, and those few loved ones he still has close by. The result is among Burke’s finest, most poignant novels. I took the opportunity of its release to ask Burke a few questions about his distrust of Hollywood, his deep respect for movies as an art form, and which of the many characters passing through Dave’s world have a special hold on Burke’s own imagination.

Dwyer Murphy: The film industry, and in particular the industry’s growing presence in Louisiana, plays a central role in the new book. Is that a dynamic you’ve been looking to explore or just a piece of serendipity that worked for this particular story?

James Lee Burke: I’m fascinated with film and the film industry and always have been. If there is a secular American cathedral, it’s Hollywood. We elect actors to public office, including the presidency, and simultaneously denigrate Hollywood. Before I get on the bus I’m determined to get my novel House of the Rising Sun on the screen.

. . . .

Movie-making and religion seem to take on a kind of equivalence here, at least for certain characters, like Desmond Cormier, the local kid made good as a  Hollywood director. Do you see any connections between the two practices? 

Yes, movie-making as well as all other forms of art represent the one area of the human experience in which we truly share the work of God, namely, the act of creation. It’s like dipping your hand into infinity. Every artist knows this, and he also knows that the gift comes from outside himself and the gift is there to make the world a better place.

. . . .

In New Iberia Blues, Dave gets a new partner, Bailey Ribbons, a former middle school teacher who’s relatively new to the detective ranks. With a long-running series and a sometimes prickly protagonist like Dave, do you worry about introducing a new partner? Any concerns over upsetting Dave’s world, or is that the point?

The young detective with whom Dave is working is based on the character Clementine Carter in John Ford’s famous film about the passing of the American frontier. For Dave the young detective, Bailey Ribbons, is a symbol of a past world that seems to be disappearing.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

3 thoughts on “Art, Addiction, and Making Movies”

  1. I do like the James Lee Burke series, but I haven’t been willing to keep up with them because they’re just so egregiously expensive that my impulse buys are thwarted.

    Most of them are Kindle-priced at $12-$16. I can’t think about replacing my paperbacks of the first several (from when they first came out) and catching up with the whole series on ebook when you’re talking about a minimum of $250. What on earth do the trad publishers think they’re doing?

    They prefer no-sales for their quality authors?

    • “What on earth do the trad publishers think they’re doing?”

      Now you’re assuming they ‘think’ before acting? 😉

      “They prefer no-sales for their quality authors?”

      Yes, if it can slow ebook sales – or at least help give the appearance that ebook sales are slowing …

    • A combination of the above reasoning and their belief that they can get you to pay for the convenience of an ebook.

      There are a lot of reasons why Baen is one of the only publishers I’ll buy directly from, and that is one of them.

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