First Lines . . . A Look at James Lee Burke

After listening to The Tin Roof Blowdown on audio CD by James Lee Burke, I am more impressed than ever with Burke’s writing.  His writing has fascinated me for some years now. Since first lines in writing a novel are so important, I decided to take a look at the first lines of some of the Dave Robicheaux novels:

In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead “The sky had gone black at sunset, and the storm had churned inland from the Gulf and drenched New Iberia and littered East Main with leaves and tree branches from the long canopy of oaks that covered the street from the old brick post office to the drawbridge over Bayou Teche at the edge of town.”

Jolie Blon’s Bounce “Growing up during the 1940s in New Iberia, down on the Gulf Coast, I never doubted how the world worked.”

A Stained White Radiance “I had known the Sonnier family all my life.”

Black Cherry Blues ” Her hair is curly and gold on the pillow, her skin white in the heat lightning that trembles beyond the pecan trees outside the bedroom window.”

Heaven’s Prisoners “I was just off Southwest Pass, between Pecan and Marsh islands, with the green whitecapping water of the Gulf Stream to the south and the long, flat expanse of the Louisiana coastline behind me–which is really not a coastline at all but instead of huge wetlands area of sawgrass, dead cypress strung with wisps of moss, and a maze of canals and bayous that are choked with Japanese water lilies whose purple flowers audibly pop in the morning and whose root systems can wind around your propeller shaft like cable wire.”

Dixie City Jam “Not many people believe this, but in the early months of 1942, Nazi submarines used to lie in wait at the mouth of the Mississippi for the tankers that sailed without naval escort from the oil refineries at Baton Rouge into the Gulf of Mexico.”

*Though there are several other novels I could have used, I think these are representative of Burke’s style. Writing in the first person, he is a master of narration with wonderful diction and insights into the human condition. I would like to know your thoughts on Burke, so drop me an email with Burke in the “reply” window.