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book beginnings on Friday: In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead by James Lee Burke

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

I felt like taking a break in between long-ish nonfiction reads (much as I enjoy those!), and James Lee Burke looked to be the perfect choice: high-quality, easy-reading fiction, tried and true entertainment, and thought-provoking to boot. He’s one of my longtime favorites, and yet somewhat strangely, I haven’t read anywhere near all his work. I’m all out of Michael Connelly and Lee Child until they write more; but there’s plenty of Burke out there I haven’t enjoyed yet, and (thank goodness) he’s still writing, too.

So here we are with In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead (if that title doesn’t catch your eye I don’t know what will). It begins:

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. The air was cool now, laced with light rain, heavy with the fecund smell of wet humus, night-blooming jasmine, roses, and new bamboo. I was about to stop my truck at Del’s and pick up three crawfish dinners to go when a lavender Cadillac fishtailed out of a side street, caromed off a curb, bounced a hubcap up on a sidewalk, and left long serpentine lines of tire prints through the glazed pools of yellow light from the street lamps.

What a lovely passage, and what an example of what Burke can do. He’s evoked a place, given us smells and colors and the feel of the air; this descriptive first paragraph is just dripping with local flavor. And that final sentence begins the action, too: what on earth is this lavender Cadillac up to? I’ll give you a hint: our narrator is a cop, and therefore likely to get involved.

Still loving James Lee Burke. And what are you reading this weekend?

One Response

  1. […] noted recently in my book beginning, Burke is an old favorite. Between this book’s title and its colorful cover, I felt […]

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