Recently I discovered Simon and Schuster Free Gallery Grab. I subscribed and now receive e-mails inviting me to download books prior to their publication, in e-Pub format. You can only hang on them for a short time, until they are actually published. It is a journey of discovery for me, as I come across books and authors I have never heard of before.
My first download has been a winner: James Lee Burke’s Feast Day of Fools which will be published soon. I’ve only got just over 30 days left before it will disappear from my computer and my e-reader but I’m racing through it. I have never ever read anything by James Lee Burke and this is quite an interesting experience. Most of you probably know all about him, after all he’s been going for years and years and is feted as one of the best crime writers, one who has been referred to as the ‘Faulkner of Fiction’.
Feast Day of Fools is a grim story, and reads as if it is a film, a western, with extremely bad people and one or two fallible heroes who play around each other in dark and deserted places, on the border between Mexico and the USA. There are gringo’s and drug dealers and sheriffs and deputy sheriffs and survivors from wars and camps with extremely bad and fraught memories. The shadows are everywhere, young girls are prostitutes and are killed or maltreated, the good women struggle to overcome and fight off ingrained prejudices. Everyone is fallible, only some more so than others. Life is a battle for survival and if you are not careful you are going to be cut up and fed to the desert as strips of flesh for wild animals to gorge on. There is the fight between good and evil and it is desperately unclear as to who will win out in the end.
The language is searing and lyrical, at times, and sparse and minimalistic at other times, you are there with Hackberry Holland, the sheriff, when he goes after the bad ones, with his once lover and deputy Pam, who is strong but also losing him, as he loses himself in his memories of his inglorious past as a young politician and then the painful memories of a prisoner of war camp south of the Manchurian border. ‘He had been emaciated, barely able to talk and control his dysentery..’, heralded as ‘the last American soldier to cross Freedom Bridge’, as he knows the untruth of this because some four hundred of them would have been left behind, ‘moved into Communist China’ and forgotten by the rest of the world. Pain is everywhere, from deep in his soul to the physical back aches he suffers.
Meanwhile, there is Jack Collins, a scary guy, and there are Mexican and white trash thugs, there is Anton Ling, a beautiful Asian woman who reminds Hackberry of his dead wife, and a Russian called Josef Sholokoff, and not to forget Krill with whom it all starts when he tortures and cuts up his victim, and they all cross the landscape of this desolate area where illegal immigrants enter the country, drugs are being pushed back and forth, and people are killed in bunches. The world is a nasty place, depressing and barely worth saving, and there are hints of 9/11, dirty politics and betrayals. Nevertheless, there is also the search for making good things that is bad, and the attempt to rid the world of some of the evil that is around, the corruption that is rife.
It is a most fascinating read and so I feel lucky to have discovered this writer. The book should be available quite soon, and once it is out there, just go and get it – James Lee Burke is definitely a writer who should be read and enjoyed for his sheer wizardry with words and his ability to evoke the atmosphere of a part of the world where good and bad come in different shades and easily run from one into the other.