James Lee Burke and process…


Some writing just gets me and this man’s writing… just… yeah… I have no words. I’m talking about his Billy Bob Holland novels set in Montana, not the Dave Robicheaux novels set in New Orleans (I don’t know why – everybody else seems to rave about these). I could describe these books as Western/Crime… but that’s sort of like saying that The Old Man and the Sea is about deep sea fishing.

What I didn’t know about JLB was that after publishing his first 3 novels (standalone works well before he got into the 2 series mentioned above), his next novel, The Lost Get Back Boogie, was rejected 111 times over 9 years.*

“It was during this period I had to relearn the lesson I had learned at 20…: you write it a day at a time and let God be the measure of its worth; you let the score take care of itself; and most important, you never lose faith in your vision.” (1)

He also succinctly describes why it’s difficult to treat writing like a check-in/check-out job:

“I write all the time. You can’t compute it in terms of hours. You can’t compartmentalize it. It’s something you live inside of all the time. It’s a continuum.” (2)

Here he is talking about his book of short stories Jesus Out to Sea – evocative pieces about New Orleans, music and boxing – and all of it just beautiful, beautiful writing.



*The postscript to this is that The Lost Get Back Boogie ended up being nominated for a Pulitzer. How ’bout them apples?

(1)NY Times article by JLB on 2/12/2002 – http://www.jamesleeburke.com/content/4

(2)Interview with R. Reese Fuller for The Times of Acadiana, 5/6/2002: http://www.reesefuller.com/content/man-behind-dave-robicheaux