When looking for what I classify as consummate writers of crime fiction John Lescroart and James Lee Burke are always on my list to check (with Michael Connelly) for their latest when I trawl through a bookstore.
They are writers who always give pleasure and reward you for waiting for their latest. That reward is doubled when, while waiting, you begin to re-read their novels again – from the very beginning of their series.
While I love British crime thrillers and mysteries just as much as I do American ones, there is no doubting that these two authors are American – so well do they evoke a ‘feel’ for the particularity of American society and cultural idiom – and uniquely American contexts and locales.
As a fan of top fiction crime books, I have regularly read John Lescroart’s novels over the years and am pleased to report that from the first to the last he has maintained a very high standard of writing – maintaining characters who are believable and fallible, yet people we can relate to as fellow human beings – if not identify with their particular jobs and challenges.
I find his creation of Dismas Hardy a protagonist worth pursuing as the author constantly (from book to book) keeps him real and growing – just like we do – through the ups and downs of daily life.
John Lescroart’s creation of Dismas Hardy lines up equally with Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder and Burke’s Dave Robicheaux.
I haven’t read his Hunt Club with new protagonist “Wyatt Hunt” yet – but I cannot imagine it not having the same adherence to consistently good plotting and fascinating characterisations.
James Lee Burke is a writer of quietly exquisite prose – an almost an elegiac writing style – that breathes atmosphere from the very page and is so evocative of the place (the Louisiana bayous) you can feel it even if you haven’t been there.
Up there with Harry Bosch and Matt Scudder, Burke’s Dave Robicheaux is a protagonist worth reading every book for. And, almost on an equal par, is his other ‘hero’ Billy Bob Holland (Cimarron Rose; In the Moon of the Red Ponies).
As befits the South, his books are at once pensive, finely balanced and paced as he relates tales that acknowledge the flaws in people and the way in which they still can come through – even in the face of human violence – to person, place or ideals.
As with Lescroart and in many other great mystery novels, Burke manages to hook you into the lives of his characters so that you are as keen to follow their lives as well as the unfolding stories themselves.
His books are the very best fiction books for the discerning book worm who loves this genre.
Although not the subject of this little article, I might mention Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder. With the Scudder novels Block is at his mordant best and the books are also thoughtful, richly textured and peopled by unforgettable characters who are among Block’s most enduring creations: such as Scudder’s wife Elaine, streetwise sidekick TJ; old buddy, Mick Ballou, the murderous and hard-drinking Irish mobster with a deeply philosophical streak.
As with Lescroart and Burke, Block joins the likes of Michael Connelly and Robert Crais in giving us consistently good reads from book to book.
No pulp fiction hacks; so contrived plotting, formulaic writing and predictable denouements are not a part of the repertoire for these authors. Enjoy them!