Saturday, December 30, 2017

James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke's new novel is Robicheaux. From his Q&A with Tampa Bay Times Book Editor Colette Bancroft:

Although readers shouldn’t confuse fictional characters with their authors, you do have a character in Robicheaux who is a novelist. Levon Broussard’s last name is one he shares with some of your ancestors and with Aaron Broussard, the main character of The Jealous Kind. Levon even has a book he considers his best work that has the same title as your historical novel White Doves at Morning. How is he related to Aaron, and to you?

(Laughs.) I kind of wove that in there. He’s Aaron’s cousin.

All of these characters live somewhere in my unconscious. I’d like to lay claim to their virtues, but more often their defects are what I share.

Levon is an antithetically mixed person. He’s a foil to Jimmy Nightingale. They have the same background, the same education, ancestral roots, successful families, the connections to the Confederate Army. But Jimmy Nightingale is not conflicted about that. He exploits it; he exploits racism and fear.

Levon Broussard is torn between his admiration for his ancestors and revulsion. He takes great pride in the flag that hangs in his office, a flag from Shiloh. My own great-uncle was there. Forty percent of his regiment was wounded or killed in the first 15 minutes. There’s blood on that flag that Broussard keeps in an airtight display.

He can’t reconcile the courage, the incredible amount of physical bravery of those acts with the terrible heritage of slavery, and worse with the treatment of people of color during Reconstruction and the days of the White League. The White League was founded right in this area (of Louisiana), and it was worse than the Klan.

As Aaron Broussard comes to understand about their family in The Jealous Kind, never in human history have so many brave men made such sacrifices for such an iniquitous cause.

Was the book’s politician Jimmy Nightingale, with his rabble-rousing speeches and slick dishonesty, ripped from the headlines?

As William Butler Yeats wrote, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." He caught modern times perfectly with that couplet.

Jimmy Nightingale is a...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue