Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Morning for Flamingos

From singles 2

"You're one all-together, copacetic motherfucker, Robicheaux."

Book 4.

I'm enjoying reading these in order because I appreciate the continuity between stories. I feel like I'm living with Dave. As "Morning" opens Dave is working for the sheriff's department again. He is in debt from the legal fees incurred in "Black Cherry Blues". The reader doesn't need to know what has transpired in any prior novel, however. The stories stand alone nicely. When some past event is referred to, Burke provides a couple of lines of necessary background. Sometimes it feels repetitive (to me on this journey)- yes, Dave is an alcoholic. Sometimes, it amuses me. Each time he re-introduces Clete, for example, he has to review Clete's list of past bad behavior- and as the books in the series progress, this list becomes longer. Kevin will tell you- I love Clete.

'Wouldn't that be something, me and you working together again? You remember when we blew up Julio Sagura's shit in the back of his Caddy?'

I looked out at the sunlight under the colonnade.

'Hey, I don't feel bad about smoking a pimp and drug dealer,' he said. 'I think it's a mainline perk of the business. There's nothing like the smell of cordite to clear up your sinuses.'

'You almost go us killed.'

'Who's perfect? But let's be serious a minute, mon.'

In this novel Dave's gone undercover to assist the DEA in a sting. He's playing himself- a cop with a checkered past who's out of law enforcement and is looking to enter into the drug business. The target is the top dog in New Orleans - Tony Cardo.

In stories like "The Sopranos" or "Underbelly" - we are presented with a somewhat sympathetic picture of some really bad people. Burke does this with Tony Cardo. But it isn't just the reader/watcher who is moved - so is Dave. And, that's the rub.

I went inside the confessional. The priest slid back the small wooden door behind the screen, and I could see the gray outline of his head. His voice was that of an elderly man, and I also discovered that he was hard of hearing. I tried to explain to him the nature of my problem, but he only became more confused.

'I'm an undercover police officer, Father. My work requires that I betray some people. These are bad people, I suppose, or what they do is bad, but I don't feel good about it.'

'I don't understand.'

'I'm lying to people. I pretend to be something I'm not. I feel I'm making an enormous deception out of my life.'

'Because you want to arrest these people?'

'I'm a drunk. I belong to AA. Honesty is supposed to be everything in our program.'

'You're drunk? Now?'

I tried again.

'I've become romantically involved with a woman. She's an old friend from my hometown. I hurt her many years ago. I think I'm going to hurt her again.'

He was quiet. Had had a cold and he sniffed into a handkerchief.

'I don't understand what you're telling me,' he said.

'I was shot last summer, Father. I almost died. As a result I developed great fears about myself. To overcome them I became involved in an undercover sting. Now I think maybe other people might have to pay the price for my problem - the woman from my hometown, a man with a cripple child, a young woman I was with today, one I feel an attraction to when I shouldn't.'

His head was bent forward. His handkerchief was crumpled in his hand.

'Can you just tell me the number of the commandments you've broken and the number of times?' he asked. 'That's all we really need to do right now.'

Add in a super bad hit man, a falsely accused young black man, an evil New Orleans detective (who I knew from "Neon Rain" - I feel so "in the know"), Dave's first true love, Bootsie, and Clete. So, we've got true evil as true evil. A "good guy" who is bad and a "bad guy" who is also good. Clete who's done some really bad things but in this book is 100% and Dave who is confused.

An excellent, excellent read. Great characters, page turning action. Ideas about life and love that make me pause to reflect and in another person - see myself. Finally, Burke ends with one of those pictures of South Louisiana that has me ready to pack my bag and move to yet another hot and humid clime.

It's still winter, but we treat winter in South Louisiana as a transitory accident. Even when the skies are black with ducks, the oak and cypress limbs along the bayou teeming with robins, the eye focuses on the tightly wrapped pink buds inside the dark green leaves of the camellia bush, the azaleas and the flaming hibiscus that have bloomed right through the season. South Louisiana is a party, and I've grown old enough to put away vain and foolish concerns about mortality, and to stop imposing the false features of calendars and clocks upon my life, or, for that matter, upon eternity.

P.S. This book is also published by The Orion Publishing Group, London. And, therefore, I was prepared (though confused) when Dave went to Bootsie's and found:
I had to ring it twice before she answered, a tower in her hand, her neck spotted with water

I spoke with a librarian when I returned "Black Cherry Blues". She was not surprised that there were a lot of typos in the book. She sees it "all the time. There are no editors anymore." WTF???!!! What is she reading?? Please, let me know if this is common in your reading. I am obviously not a really big reader- but I read enough (my opinion, of course) and I have not had this experience before. I think it has to vary by publisher and I wonder if it might vary by country. I left the library asking if I could donate a new copy of "Black Cherry Blues" - to which I was informed that they would all have those typos. Do I look like an idiot??? I was going to buy a copy from a different publisher.

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