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finished Running the Books and more Burke

Well it turns out that Running the Books gets a resounding endorsement. Author Avi Steinberg started a touch slow, but he grabbed me hard in the end. As our protagonist, Steinberg develops as a character and as a human being as the book unfolds, making some real personal discoveries. It’s a very human story, poignant and forgiving and realistically ambivalent in its eventual conclusions (or lack thereof) about the nature of prisons and criminals. I really enjoyed it.

(If you can’t tell in the image at left, his face is made up of lots of date stamps. Like due date stamps. It’s rather an interesting and clever piece of librarian-art if you care.)

I’m now well into another James Lee Burke, The Tin Roof Blowdown, that my mother gave me quite a while ago. That’s the Dave Robicheaux novel set in New Orleans and New Iberia in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and boy, you want to talk about something stark and visceral… putting aside for a moment the beauty that is a Dave Robicheaux novel, the realistic descriptions of Katrina’s destruction are gut-wrenching. The death and suffering, the necessary decisions about who lives, who dies, who a person chooses to save, the morals and ethics involved, the widespread racism, the political neglect, and the gritty reality of the blood and guts and sewage… it’s very real, and those moral dilemmas are evoked expertly. (I expect nothing less of Burke.) This one is grabbing me a lot harder than Cadillac Jukebox did recently. I really like the character of Alafair, Dave’s adopted daughter, too. (Burke has an adopted daughter named Alafair, who like her fictional namesake is also a writer; one wonders where fact meets fiction.) The chasing of the bad guys by Dave and and perennially self-destructive Clete Purcel is as finely wrought as ever, but for me, what’s special about this book is the rawness and realism of Katrina’s destruction. Whew.

I am, as usual, swamped in fine reading material, and don’t think Burke will take me too long, so stay tuned for one of the three books I recently named as coming next! 😉

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